Dirty Radish founder curates luxury tours in Portland’s wine country.
How often do you get the opportunity to hang out with a certified sommelier and French wine scholar in some of their favorite vineyards, on a wine tour curated just for you? With Chevonne Ball and Dirty Radish—her travel company established in 2017—that’s every time you book a private wine tour with the Rising Star named by SevenFifty Daily and listed in Wine Enthusiast's Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers of 2020.
The Oregon-based wine expert specializes in luxury wine and food tours in the Willamette Valley and France, where she spent over a year, first in Lyon and then a small village outside Geneva on the French side, immersing herself in everything viticulture and gastronomy. Her thorough knowledge of her subject and spirited personality saw her participating in the World of Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara this year.
Planning Each Tour
Putting together curated tour packages takes time and effort, but the pandemic undid many of Ball’s plans in 2020, resulting in refunds. For that reason, she is only offering Willamette Valley wine tours in 2022 and 2023, with a return to France in 2024. There is already limited availability for wine tours in the 2022 season.
Ball gets on the phone to learn more about her clients to ensure each tour is customized just for them. Wineries must meet the criteria of Dirty Radish, which is boutique, organically, sustainably farmed, and preferably biodynamic (at minimum farmed, if not certified).
The wine professional is currently “working to put together even more thoughtful packages where it’s not just a day of tastings but a multiday experience.” She will be hosting a pop-up wine tasting room in Portland, smaller dinner collaborations with friends, and offering more fun educational opportunities over the next few months.
“I initially started Dirty Radish to spend more time in France and take people to experience the France I loved,” she says. “I heard from people about their time in France. It was typically negative, mostly because they spent too much time in Paris and weren't getting the access I had because I lived there and organically befriended people. Same with Oregon, I was working at the best restaurants. These connections I have are genuine, and that helps create the Dirty Radish experience.”
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Romancing the Vines
“I love hospitality and service. I think you can give just as good service at a diner as you can at the high-end restaurants; it all comes down to anticipating people’s needs,” shares Ball. But the interest in wine? “I got involved in wine when I saw how much it enhanced people's meals and their experience. Learning as much as I could about the technical side of the wine and the stories behind the people who made the wine made it easier for me to sell it tableside. My love of wine was genuine.”
Ball recollects a quote by French author Andre Simon, “Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized.” “I love all that wine brings and what it does for every meal. There’s the history, science, artistry, and agriculture, touching all the spots,” she says, chuckling. It's precisely that love for wine that’s taking her all over the world now.
She was recently in Portugal for the International Wine Tourism Conference; Norway, consulting on the wine program for Arctic Landscape Hotels; and Mexico, visiting San Miguel de Allende and Oaxaca, scoping possible Dirty Radish wine and wellness tour opportunities for next winter. That may seem a far cry from her days studying early childhood education at the University of Oregon.
At one point, Ball worked toward her master's in speech and hearing sciences to work with primarily autistic children who had problems with speech. “I am a talker, and I can’t imagine anyone not being able to express themselves that way,” Ball shares. But after a personal relationship went sour, she decided to take the leap to move to France in 2009, having studied French in school and worked at the famed restaurant Le Pigeon in Oregon for three years.
Shooting For More with Dirty Radish
Ball certainly wants to get in front of more people, speaking about wine and making it accessible and educational for everyone to enjoy. “I love bringing it to a place where people can truly understand it, and there’s a lot to learn. I’ll never know everything, and I don’t expect the average consumer to.”
About her journey with wines, she says, “I am working on harvest 2022. Getting everything lined up for that, purchasing fruit, finding a space.” Plans also include making another gamay from the same vineyard as the gamay noir she sells on her site and a skin contact pinot gris. “I’m releasing another wine this fall, a pinot meunier I made with Jason Lett at Eyrie Vineyards that I’m proud of. I’d love to make sparkling wine at some point.”
Ball envisions Dirty Radish having a series of wine and wellness boutique hotels in all her favorite wine and wellness regions—Beaujolais, Oregon, Mexico, Italy, Switzerland … and the list goes on. “There's a niche for an accessible boutique hotel that centers around wine and wellness as a combination on a small scale,” observes Ball. “That’s the big pie in the sky dream.”
Along the way, she has celebrated many milestones, big and small. But she also has a few lessons learned. “There are no nos. It’s either not for you because there’s something bigger and better, or it’s just not for you right now,” says Ball.
“I believe rejection is for your protection. It’s okay to be disappointed but quickly shift into ‘I can’t wait to see what’s coming next,’ because if it is not this, then what will it be? Let go and let God, whatever God is to anybody, and do your work here and let the rest work itself out.”