Minority winemakers few, but growing
Wine business Documentary film plans to highlight minorities in the wine industry
Winemaking has exploded as an industry in the Willamette Valley over the past several decades, solidifying the region as the pinnacle of Oregon wine country. But even as it continues to grow, in one respect the industry has lagged behind both in public perception and in actual circumstances.
People dont expect someone who looks like me, said Bertony Faustin, owner of Abbey Creek Vineyard and Winery. There is an expectation that a man, or woman, of color cant own a winery unless they made it rich somewhere else.
Faustin, who has been a winemaker since 2008, carries a distinction of being one of the few minority winemakers in the state. There are so few, Faustin said, that to say the communitys growth has stagnated would be inaccurate.
Stagnating would mean there was one to begin with, thats the first thing, Faustin said.
Taking steps toward growing the community, then, starts with informing people that there even is one. Enter Red, White and Black, a documentary film project headed up by Faustin. The project aims to highlight the stories of deeply entrenched minority wine industry figures in an effort, according to promotional materials, to share what it is like to be a person of color or LGBT in a generally white, high-brow industry.
The film, while more recently becoming a solid effort, has been in Faustins thoughts for years.
Ive been in the industry on multiple sides, and it was always in the back of my mind, he said. The 50th anniversary of wine in the Willamette Valley is this year that really pushed me over the edge to say, Lets go ahead and say something.
One of the obvious ironies in the industry equation is that there is a very large minority presence in the vineyards themselves, attributed to the many hispanic workers out in the fields. But on the front end of the industry, in the tasting rooms and in the wineries, that number dwindles.
If this film can show just one person that there are more jobs in wine than cleaning bathrooms and pruning vines, then weve done something important, Faustin said.
The film is in production, with the crew recently completing a promotional video for an upcoming Indiegogo campaign to raise money for the project. The plan is to release the film in 2016 after capturing the upcoming harvest season.
Featured wine industry figures will include Faustin, Andre Mack, Hip Chicks Do Wine, Jesus Guillen and, most locally, Jarod Sleet of Argyle Winery.
I think Jarod Sleet is going to be the real star of the video, Faustin said.
Sleet, who works in the cellar at Argyle, graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in viticulture and enology. In the future, Faustin said, Sleet hopes to start his own label and have his own line. Part of Sleets story plays into the whole concept behind the film.
When he was trying to go this direction he tried to find documentaries like ours, other faces for support, Faustin said. Obviously he couldnt find any.
When the film is completed, the producers hope it can become that sort of empowerment vehicle for minorities to get into the industry.
So as the first 50 years of wine in the region are remembered through the year, this group of winemakers are equally as focused on what the future looks like.
The next 50, thats what Im trying to work on, Faustin said.
A fundraising event for Red, White and Black will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 13 at Hip Chicks Do Wine in Portland. For more information, visit http://redwhiteandblackdocumentary.eventbrite.com.