Written by Lia Hobel | Photos by Michael Butcher
As the name suggests, Fifty Leven (meaning a large amount) Wine strives to provide an extensive selection of wine that welcomes and satisfies a wide array of enthusiasts and diverse set of palates.
“With fall, there are so many different events and occasions to break out a bottle of wine and share it with your friend,” says brand founder Kindra Dionne.
Food and wine often go hand in hand, but finding the perfect pairing for each gathering is not an easy feat, especially when trying to accommodate every palate. Dionne, a multi-faceted businesswoman in Loudoun County, has an analytical eye. Although Dionne is a self-described introvert, she does her fair share of social engagements. Often she finds herself studying people’s behavior. This skill proved fruitful in launching the Fifty Leven wine label in early 2021.
“I would go to these different networking events throughout the area, and I started noticing that people were never finishing the wine that was in their glass.”
Dionne was inspired to delve deeper into her observations, and do more with underserved groups that may have a different palate and sensitivity to acid levels and tannins in traditional wine. To address the issue, she struck up a conversation with her friend Doug Fabbioli, who owns Fabbioli Cellars in Leesburg. “We started talking about it and he challenged me and said, ‘Why don’t you do something about it?’”
That single question was enough to set her on the path of seeking a solution. With no wine background, Dionne would learn the ins and outs of the industry from her mentor, Fabbioli. He taught her about the business as she continued her research of varietals and blends that would appeal to a larger demographic. The brand debuted with five offerings. There were two each of whites and reds and one port. Today, there are eight bottles with the Fifty Leven label.
“What makes our wines unique is the emphasis on the food that’s consumed,” explains Dionne, who adds that the brand prioritizes that over the popularity of the varietal in the region. “We say that we pair socially sophisticated [wines] with diverse palates.”
As such, the name, Fifty Leven, pays homage to her childhood in Richmond. The phrase symbolizes abundance, reflecting the bountiful experiences and memories of her upbringing. Moreover, it serves as a reminder of the limitless possibilities and choices found in the wine industry.
“No matter what you’re celebrating and no matter what type of food, we’ve got something in our collection,” says Dionne proudly.
One of those occasions may be brunch. Dionne felt there weren’t enough variations to accommodate ingredients such as Virginia ham, and emphasizes that in Virginia, “we smoke everything.” As a result, she created the “Eva Apple Wine,” which highlights the juiciness of gold rush apples and York apples from Winchester that flavorfully combine with honeysuckle and vanilla.
“Right now, when you have brunch, you have mimosas, you have bellinis, and you have your bloody marys. Now you have a breakfast wine, something that pairs with the smoky flavors that go along with the brunch foods,” explains Dionne.
Although the title of being “first” is a position for which people typically strive, for Dionne, an equal opportunity entrepreneur, being recognized as the “first” Black-owned wine company in Loudoun County is a title she hopes will diminish over time.
“I feel like in the year 2023, we shouldn’t have a ‘first’ anything. We should be so well integrated as a community that there’s diversity in all aspects of industry.”
Part of that integration comes in the form of business collaborations and great friendships. The Salamander Resort & Spa featured the label for wine dinners, with Dionne describing this experience as an “Oscar moment” for her. “I was so excited, I could not believe it because it was a dream of mine to have the off chance of meeting Sheila Johnson. She’s a personal, professional hero of mine.” The event sold out so quickly that they added a second night. This year, Fifty Leven also had the pleasure to join The Family Reunion’s “50 years of Hip-Hop” celebration.
Not only is Dionne the visionary behind Fifty Leven but the founder of Purpose WorX, a business and professional development consulting firm. She’s also deeply involved on boards, volunteering, and working with Loudoun Economic Development. As she continues to expand and expose the Fifty Leven wine label, she also plans to continue efforts to attract “an eager and innovative workforce to the wine industry.” She hopes to encourage more people to look at Loudoun County as “a place to establish roots but also to get engaged with roots (no pun intended), to work in the ground and work with products and services that are produced here on our soil.” ML
Published in the October 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.