80 is the New Amazing
Black women and their hair -- all that goes into making them who they are.
A great-grandmother at 80 and still a Creole beauty, not only was Iris Rideau the sole African American female vintner in the country, but her winery was almost entirely run by women. Rideau Vineyards, now belonging to a French Canadian man, is located in Solvang, in the Santa Ynez Valley of California. Rideau sold the winery last year for an undisclosed price. But her story is long and chapters are many.
She left New Orleans for Los Angeles at age 12, and by 17, she was married, divorced and raising a baby daughter. She attended high school at night, and worked at a sewing factory with her mother during the day. "I knew if I stayed in that factory, I'd never get out," Rideau recalls. "We made about $15 a week. I knew I'd need an education or I'd never escape."
After junior college, she got a receptionist position at an insurance agency but in the late 1950s Blacks weren't allowed to work in front-office jobs, so Rideau had to "pass" for White to keep her employment. "I couldn't put a photo of my brown-skinned daughter on my desk like the other women in the office."
In 1967, a remarried Rideau started her own insurance agency, operating out of her home in the racially diverse enclave of West Los Angeles. By 1982, she was an investment banker with her own securities firm.
But by 1997, Rideau decided to begin winding down. Initially, thinking she'd retire in Solvang, the property in front of her house became available for sale. It was 16 acres of vineyard able to yield 10,000 cases of wine a year. Rideau took another leap of faith and began a new chapter as a vintner.
Rideau's wines have been featured in Wine Enthusiast Magazine, won Best in Show in the Los Angeles International Wine Competition, and have garnered more than 30 awards for individual wines since 1997.
Rideau works out every day with a trainer, walks her dogs, and maintains a simple beauty regimen.