Light a Fire 2022: Most with the Least

Our Legacy Harvested Brings More People of Color to the Wine World

The Willamette Valley wine country nonprofit sponsors internships to expose more people to all levels of the viticulture industry.

By Julia Silverman December 29, 2022

Image: Kaitlin Brito

So many nonprofits are born from tragedy. But Tiquette Bramlett founded hers to invite joy.

As the former president of Compris Vineyard in Newberg, she was a rare Black woman running a winery, and had been noodling around for years thinking about ways to spur diversity in the relatively homogeneous industry. But the social justice uprisings of the summer of 2020 kicked her efforts into high gear. 

“With the protests happening, we said, ‘We just need there to be a moment of levity here,’” Bramlett says. The world is heavy; a glass of wine can be an intentional and welcome respite (particularly if said glass contains Oregon pinot, just saying).

The result: Our Legacy Harvested, a nonprofit whose name comes from a favorite phrase of Bramlett’s grandfather. He was the first Black general contractor in California, and she says he made it a habit to hire people who needed someone to give them a chance.

On a shoestring budget—but with enthusiastic cooperation from across the Willamette Valley’s thriving viticulture industry—the organization is sponsoring five paid interns every fall and spring, all people of color, with plans to grow that group to ten by the end of 2023. In 2022, interns spent four months immersed in every aspect of the wine business, from embedding at Adelsheim, WillaKenzie, and Abbey Creek during harvest season to attending seminars on the finances of running a wine operation—from “vine to wine,” as Bramlett says. Along the way, they get mentorship and coaching. Lodging and transportation are also provided.

“People don’t know how feasible it is for them to get into this industry,” she says. “And they don’t feel they have community in this industry. I love being able to build community, and I want us to be able to grow together.”

Denzel Green, one of the first “cru” of interns with Our Legacy Harvested, says he’s been interested in wine since first visiting the Willamette Valley in 2017. When we spoke with him in the fall, he’d been focused on processing the fruit, and how that affects the taste of the final product.

“I haven’t had a lot of time in the wine industry, but as a person of color, listening to younger white coworkers and learning about their very different paths is interesting,” he says. “I don’t know much about the other sides of the business yet, but Our Legacy Harvested has given me access to plenty of opportunity and information, and I plan to take full advantage.”

Bramlett has big plans for the future. The next group of local interns starts in May and will focus on hospitality and front-of-house operations. Next year’s harvest-season intern program will expand internationally; interns can be placed at wineries in New Zealand and France, in addition to Oregon. Ultimately, Bramlett says she’d love to see a viticulture branch campus open up in Yamhill County.

“Exposure is key,” says Kimberley Dockery, another of the 2022 interns. “We can show future generations how the wine industry is growing and that there is space for us at the table.”

Portland Monthly solicits nominations for the Light a Fire awards, our annual nonprofit honors, every summer and makes selections with the help of a panel of volunteer advisers from the local nonprofit community.