: Joshia Chang, Foundry 503

Oregon Welcomes New Wave of Diverse Wine Enthusiasts

Asian and Pacific Islander chefs, winemakers gather in the Willamette Valley in May for annual AAPI Food and Wine Fest.
April 11, 2024

From 1,000 feet of elevation on Bald Peak – the highest point in the Willamette Valley – Lois Cho surveys the lush Chehalem Valley landscape and can’t believe how far she and her husband Dave Cho have come.

The Chos are the first known Korean American winemakers in Oregon, having opened CHO Wines in April 2024 to a large following of mostly younger and more diverse guests – not your typical winetasting demographic. (The letters in their name are capitalized to signify the essential winemaking elements of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.)

The Chos are proud to be part of the growing movement of diverse winemakers in Oregon, in the footsteps of Abbey Creek Vineyard (Oregon’s first Black-owned winery), Remy Wines (founded by queer winemaker and McMinnville Mayor Remy Drabkin), Oregon’s Latino wineries and others.

Woman smiles holding wine glass with vineyard in background
Lois Cho, co-owner of CHO Wines. Photo by Jen Anderson

“That’s Wapato Lake,” Lois says, pointing to the patch of blue to the northwest of their tasting room patio. “There were Japanese farming communities here that grew corn, onions and wheat just before they were sent to concentration camps.”

Historically, most immigrants haven’t grown up enjoying wine tasting as a pastime. “A lot of time AAPI (Asian and Pacific Islander) folks don’t feel comfortable drinking wine because their parents didn’t drink wine – they were too busy working their butts off, or working in the fields,” Lois says. “Young people are situated where we are now, lucky enough to be able to take advantage of the sacrifices they made for us.”

Here’s how to get into the new wave of wine tasting led by AAPI pioneers in Oregon.

People looking at plates of food at table under large outdoor tent
Asian and Pacific Islander chefs, winemakers gather for annual AAPI Food and Wine Fest (Courtesy of Joshua Chang, Foundry 503)

All-Star Chef and Winemaker Lineup

Enjoying a crisp rose on a sunny patio with a panoramic view is a gateway to the world of Oregon wine. The Chos are cracking that door wide open with a second-annual two-day AAPI Food and Wine Festival, as it returns to the Willamette Valley during AAPI Heritage Month and Oregon Wine Month in May.

The theme of Oregon Wine Month 2024 is “What grows together goes together,” a nod to the agricultural bounty Oregon provides and the endless culinary pairings that brings – from fresh cheese, fruit and chocolate to seafood, pasture-raised meats and other homegrown ingredients along the dozen self-guided Oregon Food Trails that are a blueprint for any road trip.

The AAPI Food and Wine Festival, which the Chos founded, is one of many events that will be happening all month long throughout Oregon. There will be food pairings, live music, discounts and benefits supporting great causes culminating in a Memorial Day Weekend finale at tasting rooms in all corners of the state. Wherever you go, know that Oregon wines fly free on Alaska Airlines, so you can take a bottle of Oregon wine country home with you.

At the Chos’ festival, Nearly two dozen AAPI-owned restaurants, wineries and a mobile cocktail bar will be curating bites, with a special VIP opportunity to access an oyster bar by Tournant paired with sparkling wine.

The all-star lineup of Oregon restaurants include chefs from Bamboo Grove Hawaiian Grille, Jeju, Magna Kubo, Norah, Tan Tan Café, Warsugai, Aji Fish Butchery + Zilla Sake, Hapa Pizza, Kim Jong Grillin + FryBaby, Kolectivo (Magna Kusina + Sunrice), Xiao Ye and Yaowarat.

Esteemed wineries and winemakers participating include Alexana Winery, Hundred Suns Wine, Junichi Fujita, Kristof Farms, Et Filles, Evening Land, Landmass Wines, Shiba Wichern Cellars and CHO Wines.

Four people smiling at camera holding stemless wine glasses
Nearly two dozen AAPI-owned restaurants, wineries and a mobile cocktail bar will be curating bites. (Courtesy of Joshua Chang, Foundry 503)

The festival is a nonprofit created to celebrate the diverse wine and culinary scene that makes the Pacific Northwest, particularly Oregon, so unique. The mission is to uplift AAPI food and wine businesses, promote diversity, educate the public regarding unconventional food and wine pairings, and support like-minded organizations.

Check the festival website for ticket details including transportation. Shuttle service from Portland is available as an add-on, and know that 10% of ticket sales will go to beneficiaries Safe Route Immigration and APANO.

To continue the celebrations all month long, Oregon AAPI Food & Wine will host dinners in Portland throughout the month of May to highlight AAPI chefs and wineries, including a dinner at Xiao Ye with Evening Land Vineyards and at Langbaan with Alexana Winery.

People sit in tables at outdoor patio next to building and treescape
Outdoor patio at CHO Wines, photo by Jen Anderson

Sip, Nibble and Adopt a Vine

A dream a decade in the making, the modern indoor/outdoor tasting room at CHO Wines sits on 77 acres of land just north of Newberg, in the rolling farmland south of Hillsboro and about 25 miles west of Portland.

The site is home to a combination of diverse soil types including basalt and Jory in the high elevation and marine sedimentary soil in the lower elevation. So far they’ve planted 8.5 acres of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris, and also partner with 10 growers throughout the Willamette Valley and the Rocks District AVA of Milton-Freewater in Eastern Oregon for their unique wine blends.

While Dave and Lois Cho rely on their vineyard team for the field work, they run everyday operations at the winery and have designed and built the operation from the ground up – including everything from preparing the paired snacks and designing their own wine labels. Their three young children often pitch in to help.

Two people smile and hold phones up to take selfies
Sip, nimble and mingle with the Chos. (Courtesy of Joshua Chang, Foundry 503)

Here are three ways to join the community.

  • The Chos’ Founders Club is their version of a wine club combined with an adopt-a-vine program, one of 1,000 grape vines in a dedicated 1,000-foot elevation block of the estate, adjacent to the tasting room. Members’ perks include free tastings and discounts and access to special events.
  • The Chos’ “Friends With Benefits” is a guest winemaker pop-up series inviting a rotation of local winemakers who don’t have their own physical tasting room. Visitors will get to try some of Chos’ lineup as well as some of the visiting winemakers’. Some of those winemakers include Hundred Suns Wines, Arabilis Wines, Ricochet Wines, Liska Wine and Cortell Collection.
  • For those who can’t make it out to the Chehalem Valley, their monthly Sunday Best is an opportunity to try CHO Wines at a Portland restaurant, paired with that chef’s food. For instance one of their pop-ups will be at Jeju Restaurant, the whole-animal butchery and Korean wood-fired cooking addition to Han Oak by James Beard Award-nominated chef Peter Cho (no relation).

About The

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.

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