Oregon winemakers are no stranger to breaking barriers. Just 50 years ago, a handful of visionaries planted the first grapevines in the Willamette Valley and Southern Oregon. Today, there are more than 700 wineries and 1,000 vineyards growing 72 grape varieties statewide. The definition of winemaker is being reshaped too — with Black, LGBTQIA+ and Latinx winemakers adding diversity in the industry and inspiring new generations of wine aficionados.
So it’s only fitting that for Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15, 2020) we honor the state’s esteemed Latinx wineries who are making a splash in the viticultural world. Coinciding with Hispanic Heritage Month, Celebrating Hispanic Roots is a new virtual event raising money for the Latino Partnership Program of the Oregon Community Foundation. On Thursday, Oct. 1, Celebrating Hispanic Roots will host virtual panel discussions — featuring six Hispanic winemakers whose roots trace back to Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, and Mexico — in both English and Spanish moderated by “The Four Top” podcast host Katherine Cole and Somos Media journalist Roxy De La Torre.
“I really wanted to celebrate the diversity of our cultures and backgrounds and share our personal stories,” says event founder Ximena Orrego of Atticus Wine. “It was also very important for me to give back to our Spanish-speaking community here in Oregon.”
Hispanic Heritage Month takes place from September 15 to October 15, 2020, but you can drink a toast to Oregon’s Hispanic wine community all year long. Raise a glass to these Latinx winemakers and vineyards — ¡Salud!
Beacon Hill Winery
Gaston, Yamhill-Carlton AVA
When Carla Rodriguez left Torreón, Mexico, to pursue a finance degree in the U.S., she didn’t expect a career in wine. She entered the world of vineyard management through her husband, George Hillberry, a veteran in the Oregon wine industry — and they’ve kept busy, from managing a historic Dick Erath property to establishing plantings at their two vineyards in the Dundee Hills. In 2011, they became owners of Beacon Hill Winery & Vineyard, founded by famed winemaker Tony Soter, in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Here they pour their small-batch wines, specializing in estate-grown pinot noir and whites like albariño. The property, also a popular wedding venue, is open with extra COVID-19 safety precautions and limited capacity; wines are also available for purchase online.
Beacon Hill Winery’s Carla Rodriguez is featured in Celebrating Hispanic Roots on October 1, 2020.
Yamhill, Yamhill-Carlton AVA
It’s a family affair at Atticus Wine, where for more than 15 years the Orrego-Insley family has produced elegant small-batch wines. Winemaker Ximena Orrego and her husband/co-founder Guy Insley raised their children here — and an impressive estate vineyard, too. The Peruvian winemaker specializes in pinot noir, a fitting endeavor for the famed Yamhill-Carlton AVA in the northern Willamette Valley. Open by appointment only (which is the norm nowadays), Atticus Wine offers private seated tastings in English or Spanish. No travel necessary, their acclaimed pinots are also available for purchase online. For a sneak peek, check out this virtual wine tasting held earlier this year.
Atticus Wine’s Ximena Orrego is featured in the Celebrating Hispanic Roots virtual panels on October 1, 2020.
Dundee, Dundee Hills AVA
Soon after the Torres-McKay family found this property in 2011, they moved from Vancouver B.C. to plan a vineyard from scratch in the Dundee Hills — and we’re so glad they did. In addition to producing fine wines, Cramoisi Vineyard is also making a positive impact in the community. Co-owner Sofía Torres-McKay, who was born in Mexico City, helped found AHIVOY (Asociación Hispana de la Indistria del Vino en Oregon Y Comunidad), which provides education and professional development opportunities to Oregon’s Latinx vineyard workers. Tour the vineyard and learn about its sustainable practices with a private tasting, available by appointment only, with COVID-19 guidelines in place; or email to inquire about bottle purchases.
Cramoisi Vineyard’s Sofía Torres-McKay is featured in the Celebrating Hispanic Roots virtual panels on October 1, 2020.
Parra Wine Co.
Carlton, Willamette Valley AVA
You won’t find PARRA Wine Co. bottles in stores or restaurants yet — winemaker Sam Parra is currently selling his single-vineyard wines exclusively through his mailing list. The label first launched in 2019, a significant feat considering Parra and his wife moved from California to the Willamette Valley just three years prior. During that time he kept himself busy, working as hospitality coordinator at Cana’s Feast Winery, volunteering for ¡Salud! and Luther Community Services in McMinnville and becoming co-chair for AHIVOY. He credits his grandparents, both Mexican-American immigrants, for instilling a strong work ethic in him.
PARRA Wine Co.’s Sam Parra is featured in the Celebrating Hispanic Roots virtual panels on October 1, 2020.
Dayton, Dundee Hills AVA
Named after the Spanish word for shining light, Alumbra Cellars is owned and operated by Mexican-Americans, the first-generation children of immigrants. Winemaker Elena Rodriguez continues the viticultural traditions of her father, founder Baudelio Rodriguez Sr., who first planted a block of grapevines on this property outside of Dayton in 2005. You can find the small-batch wines at select locations from McMinnville to Portland, including Barrio at the Portland Mercado, or shop for bottles online with deals on cases. Private appointments of the sustainable vineyard also available by appointment only.
Salem, Willamette Valley AVA
It’s hard to believe that just a decade ago Cória Estates winemaker Aurora Cória, a former public health worker, started her career in winemaking. Since then her wines have earned accolades both locally and nationally — as well as two silver awards at the International Women’s Wine Competition. Cória’s parents, Mexico-born Luis and Idaho-raised Janice, planted their first grapes here in 1999; now the vineyard features 17 distinct blocks and a tasting room that overlooks the valley. The dog-friendly property is currently reservation only, with curbside bottle pickup available by appointment and shipping offered to 38 U.S. states. Find the label at numerous markets and restaurants along the Willamette Valley and the Oregon Coast.
Salem, Willamette Valley AVA
The saying goes at Cubanisimo Vineyards, “Cuban passion meets Oregon pinot noir.” The labor of love began in 1986 when Cuban-born Mauricio and Debra Collada purchased the vineyard, intending to sell grapes to large wineries. Passion got ahold of them and with the help of winemaker Rob Stuart of R. Stuart & Co. Winery, the Cubanisimo label was born in 2003. When the owners aren’t tending to their medical office (Mauricio is a practicing neurosurgeon), you may find them hosting social-distanced wine tastings and live music outdoors at the vineyard in west Salem. An assortment of wines, including exclusive library wines, are available for purchase online.
Corvallis, Willamette Valley AVA
Juan Pablo (JP) Valot was destined to pursue a career in wine. The Valcan Cellars owner and winemaker descends from a long line of wine entrepreneurs in the heart of Argentina’s wine country. Since relocating to Oregon in 2001, he’s earned the title of director of winemaking at Silvan Ridge Winery in Eugene and and Elizabeth Chambers Cellar in McMinnville and was appointed to the Oregon Wine Board. In 2012, he launched his label with wife, Doris, using grapes from vineyards in Monroe and the Rogue Valley. Most recently, the 2019 Valcan Cellars White Malbec — the first of its kind in the U.S. — earned a coveted 90-point score from Wine Enthusiast. The tasting room is open Tuesdays to Saturdays, and bottles are available for pickup or free delivery to Corvallis and Albany.
Valcan Cellars’ JP Valot is featured in the Celebrating Hispanic Roots virtual panels on October 1, 2020.
Gonzales Wine Company
A journey through South America first sparked a love for wine in Cristina Gonzales. It took her a half-decade of working in the Oregon wine industry, beginning as a harvest intern, before she launched Gonzales Wine Company in 2010. Now with 15+ years under her belt, Gonzales, the granddaughter of Mexican-American migrant workers, produces her label in Portland. Her wines — and eye-catching merchandise — can be purchased online or through the wine club. In addition to making wine, Gonzales stays busy at Portland Wine Cellar and with nonprofit work through Girls, Inc. and AHIVOY.
Gonzales Wine Company’s Cristina Gonzales is featured in the Celebrating Hispanic Roots virtual panels on October 1, 2020.
More ways to celebrate
When honoring Latinx winemakers in Oregon, we must raise a glass to the late Jesús Guillén of Guillen Family Wines and White Rose Estate. Born in Mexico, Guillén came to the U.S. with a computer engineering degree only to fall in love with Oregon winemaking. His story went quickly from picking grapes to launching his own label and starring in a documentary about minority winemakers in Oregon. The Wine Advocate ranked his 2009 vintage pinot noir a 96 — one of Oregon’s all-time highest scores. Sadly, Guillén’s life was cut short in 2018 after a brief battle with cancer.
Guillén’s legacy is honored with Asociacion Hispana en la Industria Vinicola de Oregon (AHIVOY), an organization he conceived to empower Latinx vineyard workers and help them overcome socio-economic challenges to find career paths in the wine industry. In partnership with Chemeketa Community College, AHIVOY offers professional training curriculum that includes technical wine knowledge and English-immersion programs. Yuliana Cisneros-Guillén (Guillen Family Wines), Sofia Torres (Cramoisi Vineyard), Cristina Gonzales (Gonzales Wine Company) and Sam Parra (Parra Wine Co.) are among the AHIVOY board members.
Every November, the Oregon wine industry hosts ¡Salud!, an auction and gala to raise funds for health care services for vineyard workers and their families. In 2020, the auction is going virtual with interactive activities and online bidding. COVID-19 screenings will also be included in the health care services. Bid on curated wines and local getaways and tune into a winemaker telethon — all for a great cause.