How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I have been in the business for seven years now, here in the Willamette Valley! Well, it started with me saying that I was going to come up here and work a season to “learn and earn”, then head to the next place. In Spring of 2015, I started part time in the tasting room, and by the end of the summer I was brought on full - time. I instantly fell in love with every aspect of the winery. I was fortunate to grow within the same winery through positions up to Brand Ambassador. In 2020, I went to work as Brand Ambassador for Bertony Faustin at Abbey Creek Vineyard. In Spring of 2021, I became President of Vidon Vineyard and founded Our Legacy Harvested which is a nonprofit supporting the education, advancement and empowerment of the BIPOC community within the wine industry.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
I certainly have had a few of those moments, but I think the one that did it for me was when my family was at our local steakhouse, and the somm poured me a glass of wine and told me to “savor and enjoy”. That first sip transported me. A gentleman brought in a bottle of Domaine Leroy Musigny Grand Cru to celebrate, and I will be forever grateful that he was willing to share with the inquisitive girl with her family. The somm explained Pinot Noir and the significance of this wine, and I knew I needed to know more.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Besides getting to go on some amazing adventures, and drink some beautiful wines, the most rewarding part of the job has been the people I have had the pleasure of working with. Through wine I have had some impactful conversations, and made lifelong connections.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry?
Being a Black Woman in this industry, I have experienced some ignorance absolutely. Growing up my father used to have us recite “I , Too” by Langston Hughes before bed, and I carry that with me today. It instilled a strength in me for when these moments arise. I can stare at that moment with a smirk and say “they’ll see how beautiful I am and be ashamed, for I too, am America”. I will hold space for my community, and make space for more.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by advocating for diversity and inclusion?
I believe we are beginning to see it. There are impactful conversations happening in boardrooms, tasting rooms, production facilities, vineyards, classrooms, etc. where some are looking to challenge their own views, and others. It allows us to see that a workforce diverse in thought can bring fresh ideas to the table, and allows our industry to continue to evolve.
What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?
Again we are beginning to see more BIPOC in all levels of the industry, and continuing to expand and repurpose wine experiences.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Being able to hold your goal, no matter who you are, and if you have the work ethic and desire, you can work anywhere you want and continue to elevate to the next level.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
I love to spotlight or highlight BIPOC businesses. In 2020 I began a non profit called Our Legacy Harvested which is a nonprofit supporting the education, advancement and empowerment of the BIPOC community within the wine industry. Our big annual fundraiser focuses on bringing in small local BIPOC businesses along with vintners, and it is an opportunity for our community to support and connect with businesses they may not have known.
What message do you have for anyone now entering the wine profession?
YOU are one of a kind. Lay out your vision, but know that it’s ok if you have to repurpose your plans along the way. Continue to evolve and ask questions, stay focused on the craft and believe in yourself. Potential is limitless, but how do we fulfill our greatest desires and dreams? Consistency, courage, and compassion.
What other industry heroes do you admire and why?
Elaine Chukan - Brown, Julia Coney, Bertony Faustin, Thomas Houseman, and Rodolphe Louchart. They stand for diversity, inclusion, and sustainability, and also want you to live in your best self. These influencers are truth-tellers, and have shown how to carve your own path.