Oregon’s Willamette Valley might be best known for its Pinot Noir but few may realise how diverse its winemaking community is. Celebrating Hispanic Roots was an event aimed at setting the record straight with six Latinx winemakers from Atticus Wine, Beacon Hill Winery, Cramoisi Vineyard, Gonzales Wine, PARRA Wine and Valcan Cellars telling their stories and showing their wines, the best of which LM Archer tastes and recommends. Not only are the six speakers leaders in their own right but they are also advocates for the Latinx community, particularly for those who work on vineyards.
“It’s not often that you get to hear six bright, talented entrepreneurs speak in beautiful Spanish accents about how we can improve the wine industry… not just for growers and producers, but also for the undervalued community of Spanish speaking vineyard labourers.”
Oregon’s first annual Latin heritage celebration, ‘kicked off on October 1, 2020. Two virtual panel discussions, one in English, the other in Spanish, included winemakers Ximena Orrego of , Carla Rodríguez of , Sofia Torres–McKay of , Cristina Gonzales of , Sam Parra of and Juan Pablo “JP” Valot of
Wine writer Katherine Cole of “The Four Top” podcast kept the afternoon English-only conversation on track. Award-winning bilingual reporter Roxy De La Torre, producer and founder of Somos Media, spearheaded the Spanish-speaking discussion.
“Just hearing everyone’s voices was incredibly refreshing,” says Cole.“It’s not often that you get to hear six bright, talented entrepreneurs speak in beautiful Spanish accents about how we can improve the wine industry… not just for growers and producers, but also for the undervalued community of Spanish speaking vineyard labourers. There is so much warmth and compassion in this group of successful winemakers. I loved hearing their voices and I hope that this event grows every year.”
In addition to the panel, participants proffer special wine packages available on throughout National Hispanic Heritage Month. Proceeds from these wines help fund the nonprofit .
“I’ve been wanting to do it for a while,” says event founder Ximena Orrego of Atticus Wine. “Then this year, with the pandemic and all of its challenges, I felt it was a really good opportunity to come together, lift each other up, lift our communities, share our stories, and provide a little bit of inspiration while celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month.”
Orrego, a native Peruvian raised in Venezuela, Panama and Guatemala, also stresses the importance of giving back to Oregon’s Spanish-speaking community. “For all of us in this group, education and leadership development are really, really important to help move our communities forward. And that is one of the key things that the Latino Partnership Program from the Oregon Community Foundation supports.”
“By contributing a portion of sales to the Latino Partnership Program, these inspiring Latinx winemakers and winery owners are building a powerful and inspiring legacy,” stresses Mirna Loreli Cibrian, program officer for the Latino Partnership Program of Oregon Community Foundation. “Proceeds will help us expand our work to support and uplift Oregon Latinos, especially in this moment in time.”
“This is just a little example of what we can do, not just for our community, but also for the rest of the Willamette Valley,” concurs Mexican-born Sofia Torres–McKay, owner of Cramoisi Vineyard and Winery. “To emphasise our heritage, and the things we can do together, and that we’re inclusive and diverse.”
Empower and Inspire
In addition to her work with Celebrating Hispanic Roots, Torres McKay co-founded nonprofit , benefitting Oregon’s Hispanic vine stewards. Enrollees attend an 18-week wine program through , learning wine industry skills beyond the vineyard. “For Latino/Hispanic people who work in the vineyards, they need to have a purpose, they need to have our support,” says Torres-McKay. Purpose is very important. When you give knowledge and a purpose to someone, then their dreams come true – with hard work.”
“Part of this movement, and also part of the mission of AHIVOY, is to empower, and hopefully inspire our Latino and Hispanic community,” says winemaker and owner Cristina Gonzales of Gonzales Wine Company, the granddaughter of migrant workers. ”We’re out here – we’re selling wine, we’re making wine, all of us are in harvest right now – as individuals, men and women, but also as small business owners and entrepreneurs.”
“My grandparents’ sacrifices really paved the way for my generation,” echoes Sam Parra of PARRA Wine Co. Parra’s grandparents migrated from Jalisco, Mexico to work in the vineyards of Napa.“And now I feel it’s my duty, it truly is my responsibility to help others out here in Oregon, and that’s why I’m so dedicated to AHIVOY as well.”
According to the Oregon Wine Board, the wine industry contributes $5.61 B to Oregon’s economy. “The Oregon Wine Board is glad to spotlight such a positive initiative,” says Tom Danowski, president of the Oregon Wine Board. “The vineyard professionals, winemakers and hospitality staff members from Oregon’s Hispanic community enrich our industry and have represented its foundation for six decades.”
Ultimately, initiatives like Celebrating Hispanic Roots and AHIVOY benefit not only the Latino community, but the entire Oregon wine industry. “The wine industry is definitely growing,” says Carla Rodríguez of Beacon Hill Winery and Vineyard. “I think Hispanics have been a part of it from the beginning.”
Rodríguez hails from Coahuila, Mexico, site of the oldest winery in the Americas. “I think that the Hispanic culture has a very entrepreneurial leaning,” she says. “We come from countries where you rely on your family to move ahead, and I think that there’s something innate in that about being entrepreneurs, about charting your own destiny.”
Rodríguez runs a winery, guest accommodations, tasting room and vineyard management services, in addition to her full-time corporate job in high-tech. “So it was extra-important to me to highlight the fact that ‘Hey, we’re coming together, we’re helping grow the country, and the industry in Oregon through our small businesses, and ultimately, expand the narrative of our culture to one that shows leadership – and business ownership as well.”
More to Come
The current state of the Oregon Hispanic community still faces challenges, most notably from Covid-19 and wildfires. “Unfortunately, we saw in the Latino community a higher percentage of Covid-19, because most of the field workers and essential workers are Latino, and so they are more exposed to the virus,” says JP Valot of Valcan Cellars. A native of Mendoza, Argentina, Valot recently released the first white Malbec in America. “We’re in a bad situation now,” he says, “But we’ll get better.”
“I think out of challenges, we grow stronger,” concludes Orrego.“The support we have received from both inside and outside the wine industry completely exceeded my expectations. This has been a joy to spearhead. I have made new friends and learned new things. Hopefully there is more to come.”
Atticus Vineyards 2017 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir – $30
Light ruby robe. Perfumed nose – dried rose petals and lavender. Light body, ethereal structure, refined tannins. Red fruit – cherry, raspberry – on the attack, that fades to florals – rose petals, geraniums – on the mid-palate. Earthy, sous bois finish. Perfection.
Beacon Hill Vineyard 2019 Albariño Estate Yamhill-Carlton – $26
Pale lemon robe. Pineapple, guava, gooseberry, lime flower nose. Light body, clean, crisp acids. Citrus, lemon zest on the attack. Gooseberry, pineapple, and lime zest on the mid-palate. A soft, lingering finish, unlike some traditional hard-scrabble, saline Iberian iterations.
Beacon Hill Vineyard 2017 Pinot Noir Estate Yamhill-Carlton – $45
Clear garnet robe. Earthy cranberry, dark cherry, spice (cinnamon, clove), and blue fruit nose. Light body, solid construction. Bright acids and cherry on the attack. Dark cherry, tarragon on the mid-palate, followed by a slightly savoury, blueberry finish. Polished.
Cramoisi Vineyard 2017 Cuvée Pinot Noir Estate Grown – $70
Deep ruby robe. Aromatic evergreen (cedar), blueberry, red fruit, ‘eau de Dundee’ baking spice nose. Light body, silky tannins, sublime balance. Cherry, currant, evergreen attack, followed by raspberry and cherry notes mid-palate, and a satisfying umami finish. Graceful.
Gonzales Wine Company 2018 Contra Costa County Malbec – $28
Deep garnet robe. Capsicum, dark fruit, high-toned red fruit (currant), graphite nose.
Light body, fine acids, and soft tannins. Exquisite balance and structure. Earthy dark fruit attack opens to supple dark cherry and red plum mid-palate, with a brooding finish. Elegant.
Gonzales Wine Company 2018 The Revolutionary Red Blend – $35
50% Malbec, 50% Carignan. Dark plum robe. Light body, seamlessly balanced acids and tannins. Floral (lavender, hibiscus), black tea, and plum nose. Forest floor, dark cherry attack, followed by savoury dark plum and dark cherry mid-palate. Lingering leather, anise, and pomegranate finish. A wine of surprising finesse.
PARRA Wine Co. 2019 Tempranillo Zenith Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills – $50
Deep garnet robe. Light-to-medium body.Well-balanced acids and tannins. Baking spice (clove), white pepper, red fruit nose. Baking spice and red apple skin on the attack, followed by muted red berry and cherry mid-palate. Discrete finish.
Valcan Cellar 2019 White Malbec Rogue Valley – $22
Pale rose petal robe. White stone fruit, orchard fruit (white nectarine, apricot, pear) nose, with a green herbal (thyme) back note. Light body, firm acids. White peach, citrus (lime/lemon) on the attack, a hint of honeydew melon mid–palate, and a satisfying, savoury finish. Sui generis.
Valcan Cellars 2015 Syrah Rogue Valley– $30
Deep purple hue. Light-to-medium body. Earthy, blue plum nose that carries through on the palate from start to finish. Agreeable and food-friendly.
Celebrating Hispanic Roots Winemaker Special Selections:
Link to purchase wines:
Atticus Vineyards: Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir 2016, 2017 and 2018 vintages. All wines come from their estate vineyard. $90 per vertical 3-pack.
Beacon Hill Vineyard: 2019 Rosé of Pinot Noir, 2019 Albariño, and 2017 Beacon Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir. $95 for the 3-pack.
Cramoisi Vineyard: Cramoisi Cuvée Pinot Noir Estate Grown 2016, 2017, 2018. $150 per Trio Vertical.
Gonzales Wine Company: 2018 Contra Costa County Malbec and 2018 The Revolutionary Red Blend, named for Mexican Revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. Also included is a bound, hardcover journal featuring artwork of The Revolutionary label. The unique package is offered at $85.
PARRA Wine Co.: 2-pack of their debut 2019 Tempranillo from Zenith Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills AVA. $100 for the 2-pack.
Valcan Cellars: A unique 2019 Valcan Cellar White Malbec Rogue Valley, the first US white Malbec, and 2015 Valcan Cellars Syrah Rogue Valley $50 for the pair.
All photos in this piece @Michael_Arellano