Food & Drink

Philosophy Winery Brings New Vintages to Baltimore

Meet the founders of Maryland’s first Black-owned, all-female vino operation, which sources grapes from several local vineyards.
—Photography by Tyrone Syranno Wilkens

It was over four years ago that Kimberly T. Johnson decided it was time to step out as a winemaker, but in many ways, this was the culmination of a journey that began over a decade ago.

Interested in wine for years, the Baltimore native started to volunteer with the Maryland Wineries Association. “That just fueled my curiosity,” says Johnson, pictured right, who eventually got a job at Old Westminster Winery in Carroll County, where the owners taught her the nuts and bolts of winemaking.

“[The Baker family] let me have a hand in everything and it taught me a lot.”

So in 2018, she floated the idea of starting a winery with her friend Denise Roles Matthews, who signed on to be her business partner without hesitation. Today, the pair runs Philosophy Winery, Maryland’s first Black-owned, all-female operation, with products made using grapes sourced from several Maryland vineyards.

“At the time, I worked in finance for Johns Hopkins,” says Matthews, pictured left, also a Baltimore native. “I had the experience with money, with raising capital, and wine was already a deep passion of mine.”

To get off the ground, they organized the Visionaries Club, a group of supporters who each contributed $300 to Philosophy’s founding in exchange for early access to wine releases, exclusive tastings, and the chance to be a part of Maryland wine history. It was at this time that The Wine Collective, a co-op winemaking facility, opened in Hampden.

“Wine Collective wasn’t just a gamechanger for us—it was a dream-maker!” says Johnson. “It just wouldn’t be possible for us to acquire all that equipment on our own. [It] put us in business.”

Philosophy currently offers three dry wines: a 2020 Viognier, a 2021 Rosé made with Chambourcin, and a non-vintage Bordeaux-style blend dubbed “Femme Noire.” With nearly five years now under their belts, both women are looking ahead with excitement and anticipation. A stand-alone winery, vineyard ownership, and tasting room are all goals for the next stage in Philosophy’s evolution.

“Being a Black-owned, all-female winery means the consumer will support you once, but they come back to us for the wine,” says Matthews, “and we want to have a place of our own to welcome them.” Adds Johnson, “Being African American and being women has gotten us a lot of attention, but in the end, I don’t want to be known for anything but making great wine.”

Based on the success of the award-winning Viognier and the sold-out Cabernet Franc, their future looks very bright indeed.