The chances are good that you don’t know Bertony Faustin, at least not yet. But you probably should. Oregon’s first Black winemaker and vineyard owner is shaking up a scene that is notoriously older, male, and very white.
Faustin makes wine at Abbey Creek Vineyard in the Willamette Valley. He’s the product of Haitian-immigrant parents and grew up in Brooklyn. He’s a self-taught viticulturist and vintner. And he doesn’t drink alcohol.
The man’s story is so unique that he self-produced a film about it. Red, White, and Black sheds light on underrepresented individuals making big waves within the world of wine. It revolves around Faustin, André Mack of Maison Noir, Remy Drabkin of Remy Wines, Jarod Sleet of ROCO, and the late Jesus Guillén of White Rose Estate. The film presents the significant feats these folks have achieved amid the extra obstacles that come from an environment lacking genuine equity.
Stereotypes are certainly being rewritten in the food and drink realm but there’s always room for more progress. In wine, it’s clear that we’re no longer drinking Merlot in stuffy tasting rooms to the sounds of classical music. Millennials want the weird stuff celebrity sommeliers covet, which leads to more experimentation in the cellar and more options for consumers.
In wine, where there’s so much fuss about expression, diversity ought to be welcomed with the widest of arms.
But inequality remains. Simply Google your favorite winery and check out the “About Us” section. At Abbey Creek, the vibe is decidedly and refreshingly different. The atmosphere is relaxed, the wine is good, and there’s typically a big beat wafting out of the tasting room speakers.
In wine, where there’s so much fuss about expression, diversity ought to be welcomed with the widest of arms. Different perspectives lead to different flavors and overall advancement. True terroir has to reflect not only a specific place but the people who inhabit it.
While Faustin doesn’t think a whole lot has changed thus far, there is room for optimism. More and more industry types are taking on the subject, including leading writers like Jon Bonné. Faustin is now a member of the Oregon Winegrowers Association, affording an even bigger platform for potential change.
“I now have a seat at the proverbial table,” he says. “Being recognized as a pioneer has given me a voice in sharing the message of the lack of diversity and inclusion in our industry. That voice now has a megaphone.”
Abbey Creek is on the verge of releasing its newest Chardonnay (named #daddyphatsacs) and the label will welcome a new Portland location sometime this summer. Along the way, expect to hear more from the outspoken Faustin as he tries to bring a scene buried in traditionalism into the 21st century.
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