Tag Archives: vino

Oregon Wine Country, Part 2: Latinos and vino

12 Oct

So this Mexican college student walks into an Oregon winery…

If this sounds like the setup for yet another tired joke, you couldn’t be  more wrong, chicas y chicos. This is literally how the story of  the Willamette Valley’s only Mexican head winemaker begins. And it’s a story I stumbled upon during day three of my Oregon wine country sojourn in late Septmember.

The tasting room at White Rose Estate.

But first, the backstory: On day two of our trip, a bright and friendly young woman working at the Ponzi Wine Bar in Dundee saw me scribbling tasting notes and we started chatting. When I shared with her  Señorita Vino’s mission to spread the love of wine among Latinas and wine newbies of all stripes, she told me about Jesús Guillén, head winemaker at White Rose Estates. I was intrigued. And I was determined to meet Señor Guillén before returning to L.A.

Jesus Guillén, head winemaker at White Rose Estate.

The next day I found myself inside the uber-hip, black-walled, A-frame tasting room at White Rose Estate. Dagoberto, the young man behind the counter, turned out to be Guillén’s younger brother, and for the next 10 minutes, he diligently texted and called his big bro so that Señorita Vino could squeeze in an impromptu interview. 

A native of Chihuaha, México, Jesús Guillén was studying computer engineering there until his life took a detour through Oregon.

“My dad came here from México in 2000 to work in the vineyards,” Guillén says. During a summer  break from college, he traveled to Oregon to help his father. One evening  Guillén went to a wine tasting and knew on the spot that he wanted to work in the wine industry. He returned to México, finished his degree, and came back to Oregon to work the vineyards. In 2002 he came to White Rose as a vineyard worker, and by 2008 he was appointed head winemaker.

The vineyards at White Rose Estate, where Guillén got his start.

Guillén dreams of having his own vineyard one day, and if the quality of White Rose Estate’s wines is any indicator of his abilities, he’s well on his way.

As if you needed more proof that wine makes some pretty fantástico things happen, I’m going to leave you with a tale of what happens when successful winemakers pay it forward.

Much like California, the majority of seasonal vineyard workers in Oregon are Latino. Because of the constant moving and variable pay, many workers can’t afford health care and often they and their families don’t get medical attention until it’s too late. Enter ¡Salud!

Founded by the Ponzi family, ¡Salud! is a collaboration between Oregon winemakers and local healthcare professionals to make healthcare services available to Oregon’s seasonal vineyard workers.

The Ponzi Wine Bar in Dundee, Oregon.

Since 1991, ¡Salud! has provided health screenings and health education programs to vineyard workers and their families. Last year alone, ¡Salud! logged more than 7,000 medical and dental encounters including vaccinations, clinical visits, dental procedures and worksite wellness clinics. Each year, ¡Salud! holds its signature fundraising event, the two-day Oregon Pinot Noir Auction, to support the health and well-being of seasonal vineyard workers. This year’s event is Nov. 9-10. Visit http://www.saludauction.org for details.

If you can’t make it, then just do Señorita Vino this favor: The next time you have a glass of wine, raise a toast to all of the people who worked with love and diligence every step of the way to create that liquid magic. ¡Salud!

Next week: Oregon wine country, part 3: It’s all in the familia! 

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Happy Swiss National Day – Aug. 1

1 Aug

If you ever wondered how Señorita Vino first became a wine lover, count your lucky estrellas that I’m still studying for my Wines of Bordeaux exam next Monday and I’m too slammed to write an original post. Here, enhanced by some snazzy photos I just snapped  (and sporting a new, timely  title), is my first-ever Señorita Vino blog post, which explains how my love  for wine was born. Wondering how Swiss National Day ties into all of this? Read on! (But please spare my parents a collective heart attack by not telling them that I got into a car at age 22 with a strange man and let him drive me to the outskirts of Geneva, Switzerland, just because he promised me a fabulous meal with some local wines. ¡Gracias!)

This is the ACTUAL map I took with me to Switzerland as an impressionable young college girl. And no, I’m not a hoarder.

At a wine tasting event last month, someone asked me how it was that I came to love wine. It all started 23 years ago in the countryside outside the city limits of Geneva, Switzerland. The middle of nowhere, to be exact. With a man I had met only two hours earlier.

But it’s not what you think. This is not that kind of blog, and I was not that kind of chica.

I was a 22 year-old Latina in her last year at the University of California, away from home for the first time on a summer work-abroad program. That was the summer I came into my own, and to get back to the story, the summer I discovered the joy of wine. And improved my French.

The man in question was a thirty-something banker who had taken a liking to my gringa roommate. He had asked her to dinner at a small country restaurant, and she was nervous about going for a drive with a man she barely knew. So I took one for the team and accepted her invitation to join them.

That photo in the background reminds me of the experience I’m about to describe. By the way, the Swiss National Tourist Office did not sponsor any part of this post. I just happened to find this brochure in my living room. (De nada, Swiss National Tourist Office.)

What I remember most about that afternoon was not so much the conversation or even the food, but the glorious red wine. I couldn’t tell you the name or the grape. At the time, the only things I was jotting down in notebooks were French words I’d never heard in my literature classes (bretelles for bra straps, Coupe Danemark for a lethal portion of velvety hazelnut ice cream with heavy chocolate syrup, served in a cup the size of a fish bowl).

And this, my friends, is fromage. Real Swiss cheese. From left to right, Vacherin Fribourgeois A.O.C., Holzmilch Kase, and Le Maréchal.

Maybe it was the bucolic country setting. Maybe it was the thrill of being with a European man who could school my American boyfriend back home on wardrobe and manners. Regardless, I was hopelessly, unapologetically, deliciously hooked on wine.

This is a Swiss white wine made from the Fendant, or Chasselas, grape. The book in the background is the same Baedecker’s that accompanied me on my Swiss odyssey back in college. I swear I’m not a hoarder.

Which brings me to today. Before I head into the kitchen to pour a glass of Australian Shiraz, I want to share a few things you can expect to see on this blog. Let me stress that while I may be targeting my fellow wine-loving Latinas, this content is for everyone and anyone who loves wine, wants to learn more about it, or would like to share their knowledge or expertise about wine. I’ll be writing about wines I think you might enjoy, tastings and events that I visit, profiles and interviews with people in the wine industry, factoids about what I’m learning in the UCLA Extension wine education program, and maybe a few foods I enjoy with various wines.

So cheers, salud,  and santé, chicas y chicos! And a special toast to the fine Swiss gent who started it all.

Why we drink wine

19 Apr

Some drink wine to forget. Others–like the soldiers of the Roman Empire–drank it to avoid the nasty effects of guzzling contaminated water. Yours truly is drinking it in hopes of killing off some fat cells (see my post from April 5).

The reasons we drink wine are as unique as the thousands of grape varieties used in winemaking. But don’t take it from me. Allow me to introduce you to a group of  accomplished Latinas who clearly illustrate why enjoying the occasional copa is good for the soul. I raise a glass to their intelligence, wit and belleza. !Salud, chicas!

Jackie is a mover and shaker who likes to relax with a glass of wine and a little chisme.

1. We drink wine to connect.

Busy public relations executive Jackie Quintanilla Aker says Pinot Grigio is her favorite wine. She’s lucky enough to have a cousin who studied wine, and luckier still that she and her prima are close. “My cousin is like a sister to me,” Aker says. “We like to share a bottle of wine and just chat about our day or vent. Or gossip.”

L to R: 'Green' blogger Catalina Juarez (Greenery in Mommyhood) and mommy blogger Ruby Wright (Growing up Blackxican) love their Muscat!

2. We drink wine to relax.

For blogueras Catalina Juarez and Ruby Wright, sipping a glass of Muscat is the perfect way to unwind during a conference break. Both prefer sweeter wines, so Muscat is the wine of choice while they take a breather between workshops and panel discussions. Juarez, who works, blogs, has two teenagers and is a student, says wine provides a little stress relief when things get loco.

Sometimes, life goes better with wine, says Helena Osorio-Zavala, a lifestyle blogger at Pink Guayoyo.

3. We drink wine to enjoy ourselves and the people we love.

Food and wine go together like un cafecito y conversación. Makes sense, especially if you’re Helena Osorio-Zavala, a Venezuelan writer whose blog name, Pink Guayoyo, is a fanciful spin on a traditional Venezuelan coffee drink. But get her started on wine and ay, ay, ay!  “I’ll be having a glass of wine with my husband and all of a sudden, he’s looking really good. So I’ll have another and I’ll tell him, ‘You’re looking pretty fine.’ So he’ll say, ‘Have another glass–I love it when you tell me I look good.'”

4. We drink wine as an excuse to photograph perfect strangers. Especially if they’re good-looking. 

I'll have a glass of red, thanks.

I know what you’re thinking. Señorita Vino is happily married, yet she dutifully follows her mother’s brand of marital advice, which is mira, pero no toques (look but don’t touch). I swear, Mom (and Señor Jim), the only thing I touched was the glass.

Why do you drink wine?  Post a comment and tell us!

A blog for Latinas who love vino

27 Apr

At a wine tasting event last month, someone asked me how it was that I came to love wine. It all started 23 years ago in the countryside outside the city limits of Geneva, Switzerland. The middle of nowhere, to be exact. With a man I had only met two hours earlier.

But it’s not what you think. This is not that kind of blog, and I was not that kind of chica.

I was a 22 year-old Latina in her last year at the University of California, away from home for the first time on a summer work-abroad program. That was the summer I came into my own, and to get back to the story, the summer I discovered the joy of wine (and improved my French).

The man in question was a thirty-something banker who had taken a liking to my American roommate. He had asked her to dinner at a small country restaurant, and she was nervous about going alone with a man she barely knew. So I took one for the team and accepted her invitation to join them.

What I remember most about that afternoon was not so much the conversation or even the food, but the glorious red wine. I couldn’t tell you the varietal. At the time the only things I was jotting down in notebooks were French words I’d never heard in my literature classes (bretelles for bra straps, Coupe Danemark for a lethal serving of velvety ice cream with hazelnuts and heavy chocolate syrup, served in a cup the size of a fish bowl).

Maybe it was the bucolic country setting. Maybe it was the thrill of being with a European man who could school my American boyfriend back home on wardrobe and manners. Regardless, I was hopelessly, unapologetically, deliciously hooked on wine.

Which brings me to today. Before I head into the kitchen to pour a glass of Australian Shiraz, I want to share a few things you can expect to see on this blog. Let me stress that while I may be targeting my fellow wine-loving Latinas, this content is for everyone and anyone who loves wine, wants to learn more about wine, or wants to share their knowledge or expertise about wine. I’ll be writing about wines I think you might enjoy, tastings and events that I visit, profiles and interviews with people in the wine industry, factoids about what I’m learning in the UCLA Extension wine education program, and maybe a few foods I enjoy with various wines.

So cheers, salud,  and santé, chicas y chicos! And a special toast to the fine Swiss gent who started it all.

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