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Meet Bertony Faustin: the first known black winemaker in Oregon

“I decided I will be that trailblazer because someone needs to see me,” said the first generation Haitian-American.

NORTH PLAINS, Ore. — At Abbey Creek Winery you'll find a blend of wine, hip-hop and chill.

It's owned by Bertony Faustin, a first generation Haitian-American and the first known black winemaker in Oregon.

He is not what you'd expect, and neither is his journey into the industry or motivation for making wine.

Faustin is a pioneer with a mission to use wine as a vessel to change the world. He saw wine-making as an opportunity to build a platform to bring people together and create community, while opening up dialogues about diversity.

“I figured out a long time ago I needed to do something bigger than wine,” Faustin said.

When asked why we don’t see many people who look like him in urban farming in the United States, he said it was a multi-layered conversation that we could talk about in length.

“Coming from the slavery, sharecropping days and all that hard work, sweat and equity, those generations were like for the next generations ‘You're going to school, you're getting educated, I don't want you breaking your back like we did for you’. So we have this weird generational gap where we're not connected to the land. But that's where we come from, that's what we know.”

People don't expect him to own a winery and vineyard, in his Carhart overalls and Timberlands, in the heart of North Plains, Oregon.

“[People come in and ask] who is the winemaker? And when I say, 'Me', you get the kind of glare and ‘You don't have a vineyard, do you?’” Faustin said. “It really dawned on me that the industry as a whole said 'I didn't look the part.'”

But Faustin smashes industry expectations. When you visit his tasting room, the "crick" as he calls it, you'll vibe to hip hop music.

“I feel at the end of the day tradition makes us lazy. Traditionally, a winemaker is the white male or older white male. Obviously imagine how women feel in the industry, people of color, etc.,” Faustin said. “I decided I will be that trailblazer because someone needs to see me.”

He didn't get into wine-making to please people; he got into it because of tragedy. 

After his dad died in 2007, Faustin re-evaluated his purpose. 

“I just felt I wasn't living up to that legacy - I call it the immigrant hustle. Pops and my siblings came to the states back in ’69. White folks called them boat people, black Americans called him Uncle Tom.”

Faustin quit his job as an anesthesia technician at Oregon Health & Sciences University and he and his wife bought her parents' property off Germantown Road in the west hills of Portland. His in-laws grew five acres of grapes – not for wine-making purposes – and everyone around them planted Christmas trees.

Now, they have 15-acres of fruit on their 50-acre property, and it’s the site of Abbey Creek Vineyard.

It’s not open to the public and he can’t make wine on site there, but he invites kids from a local alternative high school on field trips

“Bringing inner city kids to vineyards it's not this long day trip to lalaland,” Faustin said. “They're like, ‘Oh wow, we're right here from home and we can be doing this or this could be us one day as well’.”

Never a drinker before this venture, Faustin's motivation hasn't ever been the wine.

“My plan B: I was going to make raisins if it didn't work out,” Faustin said. "For me it was just about my freedom and doing me.”

He doesn’t just sell wine.

“We sell love, magic and moments. So that's what makes us relevant today.”

You can meet Faustin at his tasting room in North Plains. It's open Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. To 5 p.m. 

He also created a documentary called Red, White and Black to tell the story of other minority winemakers.

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