Just miles away in Newberg, Tiquette Bramlett is making national wine history as the new president of Vidon Vineyard. Though there are numerous Black-owned wineries and wine labels throughout the country—including woman-owned Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein Winery and Stoney Wines in Oregon—Bramlett is the first Black woman hired to lead a non-Black-owned winery in the country. She boasts six years of experience in the Willamette Valley wine scene. She started out at Anne Amie Vineyards in Carlton, and was most recently the brand ambassador at Abbey Creek Vineyard in North Plains. She’s also a passionate advocate for diversity in the wine industry, involved in several nonprofits including founding her own called Our Legacy Harvested.
Bramlett was always curious about wine, even before she was old enough to drink. Growing up in Northern California, she and her parents would often visit local vineyards. “I wasn't old enough to drink yet, so I would be asking a lot of questions of the steward that was behind the bar and they were always really receptive to my questions and explaining the soils and the different styles and the oaks and all of that,” she says. Her father, meanwhile, is from Holland, and every summer when they visited his side of the family, the family took road trips through places like Germany or France, learning more about wine along the way.
Even though wine is one of her longtime passions, Bramlett originally planned on pursuing a career in a different passion: opera. She studied vocal performance at Chapman University and sang Carmina Burana at the Sydney Opera House when she was nineteen years old. But just months before her graduation, Bramlett was injured in a car accident. She discovered during treatment that she had thyroid cancer, which affected her ability to sing and required working with specialized vocal coaches to restore her voice.
So she pivoted to her other love: wine. During her sommelier training, Bramlett discovered that she was drawn to Willamette Valley wines—even in blind taste tests. She moved to the area in 2015 and landed a job at Anne Amie Vineyards. Last year, she worked as a brand ambassador at Abbey Creek Vineyard, where she worked with Bertony Faustin, Oregon’s first Black winemaker. During her time at Abbey Creek, Bramlett says, she adjusted her approach toward how she presented wine to her guests. “Bertony really helped me repurpose my way of thinking,” she says. “I want you to have an elevated experience. I want to meet you where you're at, and I don't want you to ever feel as though I'm talking over you.”
As president at Vidon Vineyard, which was purchased last fall by wine enthusiast couple Dru and Erin Allen with wines made by Dr. David Bellows, Bramlett aims to take guests through a variety-filled flight of wines amidst the winery’s dramatic view, ranging from chardonnay to pinot noir to tempranillo to syrah. “It's a fun game for us because we also like to figure out what you gravitate towards,” she says. “But also, if we can surprise your palate, that's an added bonus for us.”
Meanwhile, Bramlett will continue her efforts to improve diversity in the historically homogenous wine industry. She’s on the diversity and equity committee for the Willamette Valley Wineries Association, the board for the Women in Wine: Fermenting Change in Oregon event, and is the associate director at Assemblage, an annual symposium aimed at women and diverse communities in wine. Last fall, she founded her own nonprofit, Our Legacy Harvested, where she plans to help people of color get hands-on experience in the wine industry (both in production and in the tasting room), host weekly networking events for wine professionals, and connect winery owners with diverse candidates for open jobs.
“A lot of folks have wanted to get involved in the Oregon wine industry, but have felt like they're on an island because there's not a lot of folks that look like us. So, in my mind I said, 'Well, what if I can build this community [where] you have these resources, you will have people here to support you, and you can also have this chance to gain your experience in the Oregon wine industry?'” Bramlett says.
To learn more about Bramlett, watch wine journalist and founder of Black Wine Professionals Julia Coney interview her about the historic new role in an Instagram Live on Monday, May 3 at 5 p.m. PT at @juliaconey.
Vidon Vineyard, 17425 NE Hillside Dr, Newberg, vidonvineyard.com