JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Even in 2021, there are so many firsts in the Black community.
Less than a month ago, the first woman of color was sworn in as Vice President of the United States. And let’s face it – it may be a while before diversity is seen on every level.
With determination to break through glass ceilings, one Jacksonville native is encouraging others who look like her to accept nothing but success.
Desiree Noisette is a lawyer by trade and now the president of Mermosa, the first Black woman-owned wine brand in Florida.
“I was able to use my law degree to start my winery business,” Noisette said. “I got some education from a pioneer in the Oregon wine field.”
In 2018, she returned to Florida, where she started and tweaked her formula, and later birthed Mermosa.
While the refreshing taste was discovered through trial and error, Noisette says the drink is inspired by the boldness and strength of a woman who came seven generations before her – Celestine.
“She and her husband Philippe got married in Haiti the late 1700’s and she was a Black Haitian woman, he was a white Frenchman,” Noisette said.
The two got married and moved to Charleston, South Carolina. But, Philippe did not know his wife Celestine and their kids would have to be claimed as slaves.
“Philippe had to create a fake bill of sale to buy his wife,” Noisette said. “But he doesn't just create this bill of sale to protect them, he petitioned the state of South Carolina for their freedom.”
The state refused emancipation, so Philippe worked as a gardener and soon became famous for creating the Noisette rose. He died in 1835, with one request in his will.
“He says sell all of my stuff, give all of the money to Celestine and then sneak them out of the state, into a northern state where they can be free,” Noisette said.
Celestine didn’t support the idea because she didn’t want to leave the family business behind.
“She convinces the executer to create a legal structure that allows her and the kids to stay in Charleston, live as free people of color, and have property,” Noisette said.
Breaking barriers in the 19th century is why Celestine's spirit is infused in every sip. From crisp Meseco, to sultry Celestine Rosé, Noisette says Mermosa honors her family’s legacy while celebrating equity.
“I think it’s important for really all folks and people of color to see this as normal,” Noisette said. “Let's normalize success, have audacity. That is the key thing that will help you expect success and actually have it happen.”
Mermosa is currently sold in Florida and Texas. It’s set to hit shelves in South Carolina and Georgia later this year.