Donae Burston is a seasoned entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience who’s developed a unique brand in the wine and spirits industry with multicultural consumers in mind. La Fête du Rosé is the first solely black-owned rosé out of St. Tropez, France. Burston’s extensive experience consists of being employed by the luxury group, LVMH, and working with brands such as Dom Perignon and Hennessy Cognac to name a few. During his time with LVMH, in 2011, Burston created the first-ever luxury champagne bar in a sports arena at American Airlines Arena during the Miami Heat’s championship run. In 2016, he became the Regional Director of the Southeast U.S, Caribbean, and Latin America regions of Armand de Brignac champagne. In a conversation with QG, Burston shares how he got his start and why creating an all-inclusive brand became his mission.
What inspired you to transition from careers in information technology and healthcare consulting to the wine and spirits industry?
Well, I was never really in love with technology or healthcare. It was one of those things that I was told would be a lucrative career also known as a “good job” after college. I was doing the job, but I was miserable. So when a friend called to ask me to assist with liquor promotions at local nightclubs, I jumped at the chance. I saw the beverage industry as the perfect hybrid of corporate America and the entertainment industry. One taste of it and I was hooked.
Can you share a bit about how your luxury champagne bar in the sports arena at the American Airlines Arena came to be?
The year 2010 was the genesis of the “Big 3″. Lebron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami and forever changed the NBA. As a result, attending a basketball game in Miami became THE social event, and the Heat was the hottest ticket in the NBA. We were approached by the team to sponsor their annual charity event, and through those conversations, I began pitching the idea of Moet becoming the official champagne of the team. Moet had recently launched Moet Ice Imperial in a beautiful white bottle, and the theme of the Miami Heat’s playoff season was “White Hot Heat.” So for me, it was a no brainer. Miami residents love champagne, and they love the Heat. Taking all of that into consideration, I pitched the idea of a champagne bar during the playoffs to celebrate at every game, and more importantly their championship run.
Can you share some of your most memorable experiences as the Regional Director of Southeast U.S, Caribbean, and Latin America regions of Armand de Brignac champagne?
One of my most memorable experiences was in 2018 when I met Jeff Bezos and shared a bottle of Yamazaki 18 with him at the annual Oscar gold party hosted by Armand de Brignac. That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and he was cool and very personable.
How does La Fête du Rose stand apart from other brands in the industry?
Our cuvée was specifically designed to be balanced and complex yet very easy to drink. We found most rosé’s out in the market were either very acidic upon first taste or very heavy, making it difficult for one to consume multiple glasses in one sitting. La Fête is a perfect balance, and our quality is top-notch. In addition, we aim to make rosé more inclusive. For so long in the U.S., rosé has been seen and marketed as a drink for white women. La Fête is the rosé for everyone: Black, white, Hispanic, and men. This is reflected in everything that we do. As our tagline goes “La Fête is a party, and everyone is invited.”
How does modern winemaking vary from older methods?
I can’t speak for the overall industry. However, for us, our winery still produces wine as they have for many decades using sustainable and traditional winemaking practices that are environmentally conscious.
What are some of the unique challenges you’ve faced when creating a brand in your trade?
The biggest challenge for me has been gatekeepers…. the distributors, retailers, and sommeliers. Many don’t see our business proposition and think we are “just another rosé.” Additionally, the wine industry overall is still very much a “white male club.” So, as a Black man launching a rosé wine brand from Provence, you can imagine the amount of doubt I face every day.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of developing your brand?
Its 100% ownership and helping to change the face of the wine and spirits industry.
What advice do you have for young, African Americans who are considering opening a business?
Do the research. Ask the questions: Is the business viable? Is there a need or opportunity? Intern or take an entry-level job at a similar business to learn all aspects of that business/industry as possible. Lastly, believe in yourself. There will be a lot of naysayers including family and friends closest to you. Stay focused and purpose-driven.
What hopes do you have for the future of your business?
To be the largest black-owned wine and spirits company in the world!
For more information on La Fête and to try a bottle, head over to their website.