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    Flower Power: The Wines of Free Range Flower Winery

    By Leslie Sbrocco–

    Beauty in a bottle is what Aaliyah Nitoto has brought to life as founder of the East Bay-based Free Range Flower Winery. I discovered Aaliyah’s wines several months ago and was incredibly impressed with the uniqueness and delicacy of her creations. She is changing the “wine” world one bloom at a time.

    The history of flower wine dates back thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians used lavender flowers to craft complex libations and the history of American wines certainly includes those made from flowers. I remember as a kid growing up in Illinois and going to visit my Uncle Earl and his family in the middle of Midwest farmland. We’d often see Earl enjoying the wine he’d made from dandelion flowers and waxing poetic about how good it was. Once I got a watered-down sip and remember it as light and herbal. Uncle Earl laughed at me as my face puckered up with the bitterness of the beverage.

    These days, flower wines don’t carry the clout they once did, but everything old is new again. I consider Free Range Flower Winery on the wine world’s cutting edge.

    Recently, I had a chance to catch up with Aaliyah to learn more about her passion project.

    Leslie Sbrocco: What is your background?

    Aaliyah Nitoto: I studied biochemistry and biology at Mills College and eventually became very interested in health and nutrition. I worked as a nutrition consultant studying herbology, but always had an interest in wine and winemaking. When I learned about flower wine, suddenly it clicked that I could tie my passions together.

    Leslie Sbrocco: How did you begin this project?

    Aaliyah Nitoto: I’ve always loved lavender and all sorts of herbs, spices, and flowers. I began researching online how to make wine from things other than grapes because I was full of curiosity. I mean you can have tomato or rhubarb versions so I thought for sure I could do it. I did make it hard for myself, though, with my first—and signature wine—being the sparkling “L” Lavender wine. It’s challenging enough to make wine, but then I wanted to use a natural and sparkling process, too. It was blissful ignorance because only then I realized how difficult it was! After making small batches, I added organically grown RoseHybiscus and Marigold bottlings. I’m now experimenting with other exciting combinations including pineapple guava flower. I call it “wild crafted” wine.

    Leslie Sbrocco: What does the future hold?

    Aaliyah Nitoto: We have been working in a small shipping container based in Oakland, so space has been a big consideration as we grow. I’m thrilled to say that we are partnering with Longevity Wines ( ) and Phil Long, one of the industry leaders in California’s Livermore Valley wine business. He is not only a mentor to me but is the president of the Association of African American Vintners. (Leslie note: I’m also a huge fan of Phil Long and the Longevity Wines. Take a look at my Instagram videos for an interview I did with Phil at )


    The beautifully packaged and labeled bottles are available throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including select Total Wine & More stores. I recommend learning more at the Free Range Flower Winery website where you can order the wines, too.

    “L” Lavender Wine $23

    This lightly sparkling libation is delicate with aromas of lavender and juniper. It’s dry on the palate with a crisp finish. Sample alongside sushi or with Aaliyah’s ideal pairing: fried chicken and waffles.

    RoseHybiscus Wine $30

    This lightly hued red will have familiar flavors for those who enjoy grape-based wines such as Gamay or Pinot Noir. Its floral aromas, silky texture, and dry-styled finish pair with food options from pungent cheeses and charcuterie to Shakshouka.

    Marigold Wine $30

    Golden in color with a profile similar to a buttery Chardonnay, this unique sip sports pineapple and melon aromas with a rich texture. Think Vietnamese dishes as a perfect partner.

    Author, speaker, wine consultant, and television host Leslie Sbrocco is known for her entertaining approach to wine and food. She has won multiple Emmy Awards for her work on PBS, which includes hosting the series “Check, Please! Bay Area” and “100 Days, Drinks, Dishes & Destinations.”

    Published on November 4, 2021