Bertony Faustin, the First Recorded Black Winemaker in Oregon, on Looking Forward
Faustin's 15-acre vineyard is located in the urban West Hills of Portland, Oregon.
When Bertony Faustin opened his Abbey Creek Vineyard tasting room in 2012, he’d regularly greet customers who’d then ask, “Who’s the winemaker?”
“When I’d say, ‘It’s me,’ they’d have this look of disbelief,” Faustin says. Faustin, who is black and hails from Brooklyn, knew he was the first recorded black winemaker in Oregon, but, he adds, he didn’t want to own it. At least, not until 2015, when Oregon was celebrating 50 years of winemaking. “All they were talking about was legacies, pedigree, the past,” says Faustin. “No one was talking about the future.”
So Faustin—with the help of his filmmaker friend Jerry Bell Jr.—decided to make a documentary about Oregon’s minority winemakers. The film, called Red, White & Black: An Oregon Wine Story, tells the stories of Faustin and several of his winemaking colleagues. Among them are Jesus Guillén, the Mexican-American winemaker at White Rose Estate who passed away in November 2018, but in just his second year as head winemaker, earned a 96 from the Wine Advocate for his “whole cluster” Pinot Noir; Jarod Sleet, now the assistant winemaker at ROCO Winery, who in the film was a cellar assistant at Argyle; Remy Drabkin of Remy Wines in McMinnville, Oregon, who worked her first crush in 1995 (at Ponzi) and is gay; and André Mack, a former sommelier at Per Se who now makes wines in Oregon under the Maison Noir label. A disparate crew, they have in common a desire to reach non–wine drinkers by making wine more accessible and less pretentious than how it is often perceived; the film vividly documents their ambitions and achievements.
Faustin himself could be called a maverick winemaker, though not because he’s a minority. His 15-acre vineyard is located in the urban West Hills of Portland, Oregon. When he decided to take over his in-laws’ vineyard in 2007, he had never had so much as a sip of wine. “I was like, worst case: I’ll make raisins!” he says, laughing. Now, after 10 years of winemaking, he’s got a sure hand. He works with six grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Albariño, and Gamay Noir. Several of these wines sell out quickly. But Faustin is not much interested in chatting about terroir or skin contact. Geeky wine talk along those lines, he says, alienates the very people he hopes to bring into the wine-drinking fold. Instead, at his tasting room, hip-hop and R & B are the backdrop, creating a mellow, comfortable atmosphere for drinking wine—one where everybody feels welcome.
Three to Try
To purchase Faustin’s wines or plan a trip to the tasting room, visit abbeycreekvineyard.com.
2017 Abbey Creek Chardonnay Best of Both ($25)
This rich Chardonnay has a honeysuckle scent and balanced acidity. A blend of oak and stainless, it can please both camps of Chardonnay drinkers.
2014 Abbey Creek Pinot Noir Cuvée ($45)
Faustin sources the fruit for this elegant Pinot from his top block of estate vines for a wine with hints of blackberries and a silky mouthfeel.
2017 Abbey Creek Gewürztraminer ($29)
Only available on tap at the Abbey Creek tasting room, this slightly effervescent Gewürztraminer is refreshingly bone-dry and reminiscent of cider.