Our harvested heritage diversifies the wine scene

Rich old white dudes have had a firm grip on wine for far too long. Today, long-awaited changes are beginning to take effect, creating an industry that better represents wine drinkers and the community as a whole.

More and more, we hear more and more black voices in wine. There are native labels and people of color taking on roles as owners and chief winemakers at high-profile labels. But it’s only part of a movement that needs more support and many more successes.

Foundry 503

Tiqeutte Bramlett is the president of Vidon Vineyard in Oregon’s famous Willamette Valley. She took on the role last spring after many years in the industry, becoming the first black woman in America to run a winery. A year before joining Vidon, in 2020, Bramlett founded Our Legacy Harvested. The organization is committed to creating a more diverse and inclusive Oregon wine scene.

Bramlett was introduced to wine by her traveling parents, who enjoyed sipping in California or abroad in France. She is also an acclaimed singer, having performed at the Sydney Opera House. Legend has it that she occasionally drank a little wine before a performance to calm her nerves.

Bramlett no longer performs in large venues, but she is reshaping a major facet of the beverage business for the better. “Sometimes it can feel isolating as a person of color in the wine industry,” she says. “Being able to foster community and connection allows a space to develop people committed to a career in the wine industry.”

Working with the wine community

The organization teams up with wine partners in the region who share the mission and create welcoming environments for all. Before the team forms, Our Legacy Harvested (OLH) evaluates the label, reviewing their policies and practices to ensure their operations reflect their commitment to diversity. This involves diversity training and what Bramlett describes as open dialogue around upcoming goals.

As everyone in wine knows, the best way to learn the craft is through a harvest. This is the high point of each year – the pivotal time when the grapes are ready and winemaking stops. OLH is showing some new faces first-hand at this exciting time of year. The program brings interns to the Willamette Valley to work at partner wineries. The four-month program imparts all manner of skills and wisdom and connects interns with industry professionals, establishing the kind of community that can lead to long-term careers.

This year will mark the first vintage for these intrepid trainees, deliciously nicknamed the Cru OLH. Six people from BIPOC will be selected and the internship is paid. Accommodation is provided, as well as mentorship, transportation, and industry coaching. It is an important first step in the evolution of the industry, the opening of new cellar doors and the modification of the landscape. Many of those who work in the harvest go on to take on the roles of winemaker, marketing manager and even cellar president. With OLH, the Willamette Valley harvest will better reflect the community and empower people who would otherwise not have a chance.

“I’m lucky to be part of a team that not only supports my personal endeavors, but recognizes that this is bigger than us,” she says. “The Vidon team has supported OLH by amplifying what the organization is all about in the tasting room and providing our guests with the opportunity to donate, sponsor or volunteer. From donations to volunteers, the community showed up for us.

What’s next for our Legacy Harvest?

It turns out great things. Bramlett says a winery is in the works, a vertically integrated winery that “educates, trains and grows BIPOC in the Willamette Valley and the wine industry beyond,” she adds.

We can’t wait to raise a glass to that.

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About Irene J. O'Donnell

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