Oregon Wine Industry Largely White-Dominated: How It’s Changing
Friday, July 17, 2015
After all, when you think of the people who run the wine industry, what sort of faces come to mind?
For one winemaker, the answer was simple: “You think of rich, white people,” says Bertony Faustin, a Black winemaker and owner of Abbey Creek Cellars.
Coming to this realization, Faustin decided it was time to tell the stories of people on the other side of the divide. His new documentary, which is currently under production and is entitled “Red, White, & Black,” will collect the stories of African American, LGBT, Latino, and other minority winemakers.
The wine industry is full of hierarchies. American wines, minority-made or otherwise, weren’t respected internationally until the 1976 Judgment of Paris in which wines from California beat French wines in a blind tasting. While much younger than California’s wine industry, the Oregon wine industry has started to build a reputation for producing elegant and beautiful wines. But on the international stage, it’s still a long way from Burgundy and Bordeaux.
To be a minority within an already marginalized winemaking region is to face an extra barrier to being a respected wine producer. For example, many Latinos in California have fought for respect as winemakers and vineyard owners as opposed to being seen as grape pickers and cellar hands.
Faustin says he first started thinking of the questions of minority status in the Oregon beverage industry before he owned his own winery, back when he worked at Sake One in Forest Grove. Being an African American man selling a traditionally Japanese product was a source of conversation for many of his customers.
“We were the largest American sake producer, and you walk in the front door and a black man is basically the face of the company.”
After moving on from the sake industry to start his own wine label, Faustin says he was having the same conversations with customers about being a minority in the wine industry as he had while working in the sake industry.
But Faustin says that “Red, White, & Black” is about more than just trying to get people to think marginal winemakers are unique.
“You don’t want people coming to your winery just because you are a minority, you want them to come because you make great wine. But you can’t hide that you’re different, and this is an important conversation to have,” said Faustin.
“When I first got started in the Oregon wine industry, I didn’t see many other faces like mine and I didn’t know who to turn to,” he continued. “Now I’m looking to the next generation.”
Although the documentary is already being filmed, Faustin and his production crew are also working on an Indiegogo campaign to help build awareness and funding for the project. Jerry Bell will direct the film, with Faustin serving as a writer and producer. Dewey Weddington, founder of Ferment Marketing, and Ocean Yap-Powell will also serve as writers.
Faustin and the production crew will hold a launch party for “Red, White, & Black” on August 13th at Hip Chicks Do Wine in Southeast Portland from 6-8 p.m. Tickets ($20 per person) will help fund the movie and will include food and wine from labels participating in the film.
Related Slideshow: Great Oregon Wineries Outside the Willamette Valley
The orchards around Milton-Freewater produce some of the best apples in the world. Over the last several decades, the Brown family has developed a reputation for producing some of the highest-quality fruit in the region. And their Blue Mountain Cider Company is renowned for its hard ciders. Andrew Brown is the second-generation winemaker (and cidermaker) leading the way. Whether it’s the classic
Bordeaux blends or single-varietal wines like Mourvèdre and Petit Verdot, Watermill’s wines are a showcase for the Milton-Freewater area.
Don Carlo Vineyard
Lori Kennedy grew up making wine with her grandfather, Carlo. An Italian immigrant in
Seattle, Carlo had grapes sent by train every year from Lodi, California. With young Lori beside him, he made wine to last the family all year long. Named in honor of Lori’s grandfather, Don Carlo wines are among the finest examples of what we’re going to get from the new Rocks AVA.
Don Carlo Vineyard
2012 Estate Chardonnay
Walla Walla Valley
Elkton is a small town (population: 194) at the north end of the Umpqua Valley. Situated between Eugene and the Oregon Coast, it’s colder and wetter than much of the Umpqua. And it’s for that reason that, in 2013, the Elkton AVA was recognized.
John Bradley planted his first grapes in 1983 but didn’t produce his own wine until 2003, when a winery refused to take delivery of a truckload of Pinot Noir. Bradley called the winemakers at River’s Edge (for whom he had managed the vineyard) and they collaborated right then to make the first Bradley Pinot Noir. Last year, John passed away unexpectedly at age 65. Today, the Bradley label is still going strong, producing wines under the leadership of his wife, Bonnie, and their two adult children, Tyler and Rachel.
2010 Pinot Noir
Winemaker Rich Cushman is a Hood River native, and after studying viticulture at UC
Davis and apprenticing in Germany, he decided that he was “a Hood River boy” and turned down job offers that would take him out of Oregon.
While in Germany, Cushman fell in love with Riesling and in 1981, he planted his first vines – still growing strong right next door to the Viento tasting room. As he says, “The vines are now getting old and gnarly but are producing wonderful quality fruit.” And that makes Viento Wines an excellent sample of what you’ll find in and around Hood River.
2011 Dry Riesling
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