Growing Diversity in Oregon Winemaking

Celebrate Oregon Wine Month in May with limited releases, tasting-room events and more fun.
April 12, 2016 (Updated April 29, 2022)

It’s not every day that you visit a tasting room that plays hip-hop, serves Brazilian hot sauces and features wines with names like “Sunshine,” “Diva” and “Big Sexy.” But Abbey Creek Winery (with advanced reservations required at the two Portland-area tasting rooms, in North Plains and downtown Portland) is different from most.

Bertony Faustin is the proprietor and winemaker here — and he’s breaking stereotypes with each bottle. Faustin is the first recorded Black winemaker in Oregon and has garnered attention around the globe for his quest to grow diversity in winemaking. A former anesthesiologist assistant, Faustin came into the wine industry in 2007 after his father died and he started reexamining his life and what he wanted to do with it. Faustin thought of the 50-acre property with 10 acres of vineyards off Northwest Germantown Road that his in-laws kept. They didn’t make wine; they just sold their fruit. The land was calling.

So Faustin and his wife, Jennifer, went all in, starting a family about the same time Faustin took winemaking classes and found a mentor. In 2008 he and his wife started producing wines with their pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay and gewurztraminer grapes and, more recently, gamay noir and albarino. Faustin is grateful to be doing the work he loves, and to be blazing a trail for others to follow. “It wasn’t about the odds of being successful in the industry, it was just my hustle,” he says. “I can, so I will.”

The wines pair with the line of De Cabron chili-pepper sauces he imports from Brazil, designed to complement and balance the spicy-sweet-smoky mouthfeel of the wine.

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Growing the Industry

Faustin is featured in Red, White and Black, the independent documentary about minority winemakers in Oregon. By sharing his and other minority winemakers’ stories through film, he hopes both to inspire and to empower others to follow in their footsteps — and shake up the image of Oregon wine for locals and visitors alike. “I want to start targeting a whole other demographic [than most Oregon wineries],” he says.

Faustin isn’t the only minority winemaker in Oregon looking to push boundaries in the industry. In fact, over the past few years a growing number of people have made moves to ensure the diversity of Oregon’s wine scene grows right alongside the industry.  

A woman holds a glass of wine in front of wine barrels
Winemaker Stephanie Pao's wines at Foris Vineyards honor the terroir of the Rogue Valley. Courtesy of Foris Vineyards

Foris Vineyards

Stephanie Pao, who is Chinese American, has been the creative force behind the wines at Foris Vineyards near Cave Junction since 2017. Her wines honor the rich terroir of the land, which sits near the Siskiyou Mountains. Prior to taking the position, Pao studied molecular biology, viticulture and enology, and gained experience in vineyards and wineries in Oregon, Washington, California and New Zealand.  

Compris Vineyard

Tiquette Bramlett, the president of Compris Vineyard, launched a scholarship program that aims to make the Oregon wine industry more diverse and inclusive. The Newberg winery is open to indoor and outdoor tastings Wednesday through Sunday by appointment only. 

Fairsing Vineyard

Since 2016, Brandy Grey has used her platform as tasting manager and events coordinator at Yamhill’s Fairsing Vineyard to share stories of the region’s agricultural history and diversity with visitors as well as fellow members of the industry. As a member of the Cherokee Shawnee Tribe, she’s an advocate for her community: meeting with local Tribe members; displaying a map in the tasting room showcasing Indigenous landmarks; and donating a portion of sales to Indigenous causes. The tasting room is open for seated tastings for paired flights of their LIVE-certified sustainable estate-grown pinot noir and chardonnay.

A couple stands beside a sign and holds wine glasses
Cuban-born Mauricio and Debra Collada welcome visitors in for tastings at Cubanisimo Vineyards in West Salem. Courtesy of Cubanisimo Vineyards

Cubanisimo Vineyards

Cuban-born Mauricio and Debra Collada bring Cuban passion to Oregon pinot noir with Cubanisimo Vineyards in West Salem. Mauricio Collada is a practicing neurosurgeon, but in 2003 he added winemaker to his resume. They offer tastings and live music and have an exclusive library of wines to experience. The duo is just one of the many Latino winemakers in Oregon.

Remy Wines

Remy Drabkin of Remy Wines in McMinnville, a lesbian winemaker, says she still gets asked if her nonexistent husband is the winemaker. Drabkin’s journey into wine began when she was 8 years old, and by the time she was 17, she was studying winemaking abroad. In 2020 she co-founded Wine Country Pride, an event that celebrates diverse voices in the wine industry while raising money for LGBTQ scholarships. 

Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein Winery

Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein has made a name for herself as Oregon’s first Black woman winemaker with her namesake winery. Each month Goldstein selects a charity to support with her line of cause-driven wines, including Black Lives Matter pinot noir and Pinot for Parkinson’s — though you’ll also want to check out the Pandemic Relief rose. The Astoria-based winery offers virtual tastings and ships bottles across the U.S. 

Meadow Estate

Dexter and Marilyn Meadows found their way to Oregon from California by way of Alabama. Looking for an adventure after retirement, they got into wine, taking over the former MarshAnne Landing Winery to put their own signature on the Umpqua Valley region with Meadows Estate Vineyard & Winery. The couple honors the land’s rich history with their syrah, cabernet franc, Cote du Umpqua and other varietals. 

Circadian Cellars

Sara Garr, an openly bisexual winemaker in Southern Oregon, got her first taste of the wine industry working in the retail space. She then began working at Barrel 42, a custom-crush facility in Medford, which helped her launch her own label, Circadian Cellars. Though she currently only sells her wines direct to consumer now, Garr announces tastings and other events on Instagram

 

About The
Author

Jen Anderson
Jen Anderson is a longtime journalist and travel writer/editor who is now Travel Oregon’s Content & Community Manager, helping to align content for visitors via social media, print and web. She’s called Oregon home for 25 years and loves finding the latest places to eat, drink and play around the state with her husband and two boys. Brewpubs, beaches and bike trails top the list.