Theodora Lee, owner and winemaker for Theopolis Vineyards in California’s Anderson Valley, said it best in a recent interview with Kathleen Willcox for Winesearcher: “There’s a movement, and it’s gathering force, and it can and I hope will affect all levels of business. We’ve seen this a bit before with the farm-to-table movement, when people suddenly became conscious of their choices, and began buying with more intentionality.”
The Association of African American Vintners (AAAV) says that less than 1% of 1% of winemakers in the U.S. are Black, however increasingly, diners are asking for wines made by winemakers of color in their favorite restaurants. Their purchasing decisions are having a positive effect on both on and off-premise wine sales, and this conscientious shopping is the very root of what a B Corp is all about. Oregon, incidentally, has more B Corp wineries than any state in the U.S. In fact, Oregon has eight and no other state in the U.S. has more than one.
B Corps are dedicated to using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems and their 2018 campaign “Vote Every Day” urged people to consider the businesses they support with their dollars. One of the campaign’s spokespeople was Amy Prosenjak, president of A to Z Wineworks, the first B Corp winery in Oregon. She said, “We are earnest believers in the power of the B Corporation movement…Now that the movement has grown, the time is right to better educate shoppers as to how their choices influence economic, environmental, and social outcomes
Oregon’s wine industry includes four Black winemakers who are owners and operators:
Stoney Wines, which debuted last summer at a tasting in Portland, is owned by social worker and winemaker Donna Stoney. She produces Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Pinot gris and Rosé in Dallas, deep in the Willamette Valley. She has a wine club with a number of tiers and a small staff devoted to operations.
Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein Winery, whose owner Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein makes wine in the coastal community of Astoria, uses grapes sourced from the Willamette Valley. An actor, writer and director, Eunice’s label is named after her grandmother. She donates to a different charity each month and uses the hashtag #purposewine. The winery makes Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Rosé and Sauvignon blanc.
Abbey Creek Vineyard, also in the lush Willamette Valley is owned and operated by Bertony Faustin. Bertony, an engaging Board Director on the Oregon Wine Board, became the first Black winemaker in the state in 2008, and makes his wine in North Plains. Bertony recognizes his contribution as critical to winemaking in Oregon, but as he says, “It’s great that I’m the first, but more important I’m not the last.”
Bertony also produced the documentary Red, White and Black which chronicles the experiences of five minority winemakers in Oregon and hopes the film works to change the perception of the American winemaker.
On his success, Bertony says if his wines didn’t work out, he would have grown raisins. He came to Oregon ready for a change, the tragedy of his father’s death was the catalyst that spurred this former anesthesia tech to build something for himself. He felt he was living too comfortably, not up to the standard of his father, Bertony Faustin Sr., a Haitian immigrant who moved his family up to Brooklyn.
André Hueston Mack is a sommelier who also runs numerous labels under Maison Noir Wines, including OPP (Other People’s Pinot), Love Drunk Rosé, Bottoms Up Riesling, Horseshoes & Handgrenades and Oregogne among others.
Mack’s fruit is sourced from all over the Pacific NW, including Southern Oregon and Red Mountain, Washington. Founded in 2007, Maison Noir wines are unique and distinctive garage wines, initially created for some of New York’s best restaurants for whom Mack was a sommelier, and are now available across the U.S.
For Black-owned restaurants in Portland, visit the site I Love Black Food for the quickest and most thorough list of restaurants to enjoy and support.
Earlier in June, Wine Enthusiast published this list of global Black-owned wineries.