Winemaker Aaliyah Nitoto has found a new home to produce her unique flower wines in Livermore Valley wine country, with the help of Phil Long of Longevity Wines.
The two wineries will share a production facility and tasting room on South Vasco Road upon the completion of an expansion and renovation project currently underway.
Longevity Wines is located in a multi-unit building and Long said he came across the opportunity to expand his facility when Nottingham Cellars -- which occupied units in the same building -- moved to Napa and only kept one of the units as a tasting room in Livermore.
Nitoto had been producing her flower wines inside of a cramped 320-square-foot shipping container in West Oakland for about 3-1/2 years before teaming up with Long to share this new approximately 4,500-square-foot space. Nitoto and Long first connected through the Association of African American Vintners, of which Long is the president.
Nitoto's lifelong love for wine coupled with her background in herbalism is what led her down the path of creating wine from flowers, an ancient tradition she said was popularized primarily by women. Her current varietals include Lavender, Marigold, Rose Petal and "RoseHybiscus."
Nitoto said that last year she produced about 1,000 gallons of wine in her shipping container and with the increased capacity the new space allows for, her goal is to at least triple that amount.
Free Range Flower Winery will also have its first tasting room in the space, which will also be shared with Longevity.
Long originally founded Longevity Wines in 2008 with his wife Debra, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2019. He told the Weekly that the couple had previously vowed to never share space with another winery, but he said in his role as a mentor in the wine industry, he started to reconsider.
"I'm pretty responsive to anybody. I've had some great mentors along the way and I'm trying to reciprocate by doing the same," Long said.
He also said that he felt Nitoto was the right fit for this opportunity.
"I don't know if I would just offer this up to anybody. I've had offers before and turned them down," Long said. "I think part of it is that (Nitoto) is fun and she's really eager to learn and understand and progress, and being in the position that I am to help, I'm more than happy to at this point."
Long also noted that he doesn't feel like they are competing with each other because he makes grape wine and Nitoto makes flower wine.
Nitoto said she is excited for this next chapter in Livermore and grateful for Long's support.
"We're in this position that we haven't been in before where somebody is not only believing in us but also putting some weight behind it," she said, adding that she and her business partner had been in talks with other wineries throughout the years who said they supported her work but were not open to sharing their facilities.
While Nitoto said that she was still in the process of settling into the space and would likely not be fully open for several weeks, Free Range Flower Winery recently participated in a soft-opening of the shared tasting room to begin introducing their wines to their new community.
According to a post on the winery's Instagram, they will be taking reservations for Saturdays and some Sundays through Dec. 18.