Vidon Vineyard's president blazes a trail of success.
Making strides in representing communities of color in the wine industry and paving the way for increased inclusion, Tiquette Bramlett — the first Black woman in America appointed to run a winery—is one to watch out for.
Named an Imbibe 75 Person to Watch, one of Wine Enthusiast's 40 under 40 Tastemakers and among Portland Business Journal’s ‘30 New Portland-area Executives You Should Know—all in 2021, her curiosity about wines at a young age blossomed into an ongoing love affair. That resulted in her becoming a sommelier, working at two west coast wineries to sharpen her wine know-how and eventually leading to her current role as president at Vidon Vineyard in Oregon, a winery in a region known for its viticulture and wine tourism.
Donning a New Role
“The fun part about being the president of a boutique vineyard is that I have my hands in everything,” Bramlett says. “I get to be involved in production and what we are making, which is exciting because we have an incredible vineyard where the possibilities are endless of what we can introduce to Oregon and the country.”
There will be new wines announced in the spring and there are plans for a new facility with a tasting room and barrel hall. Bramlett has worked at Vidon for just shy of a year. It is a small team comprising four members—herself, owners Dru and Erin Allen and head winemaker David Bellows. The 20-acre estate has about 12.5 acres planted and grows its own tempranillo, viognier and syrah in addition to making pinot noirs and chardonnays.
“Our production facility is connected to the tasting room, so people get a true hands-on experience with what we are making. We let people do barrel tastings and get to break down the science behind winemaking to show how approachable it is,” she says.
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Bestsellers include syrah, which pairs well with meatier chilies and stews and single blends aged for 18 months in oak where she says, “the structure and mouthfeel behind them are absolutely breathtaking.” She notes the chardonnay has a bit more minerality to it than typically found in that varietal.
Wines are only sold directly to the consumer on location or online. Some of Bramlett’s go-to varietals include nebbiolo, sauvignon blanc and pinot gris. “And because I am a Willamette Valley lover till the day I die – pinot noir!”
Sharing in the Journey
Bramlett studied Organizational Leadership at Chapman University and is a trained vocalist. But thyroid cancer cut short her singing career, and she turned to her interest in wines. She fondly reminisces traveling with her parents and being the inquisitive kid who asked too many questions during vineyard visits, which usually led to a winery tour.
A trip with her parents to Anne Amie Vineyards left a lasting impression as “the kind of environment I would want to work in.” Interestingly, she always gave Willamette Valley the highest scores in all her blind tastings during her sommelier training. When she finally did score her first role at a winery in the area, she figured it would be a good stint for a busy summer. She stayed there five years.
She went on to work with Abbey Creek Vineyard before landing her role at Vidon. “I fell in love with wine in a way I didn’t anticipate. Having the conversations I was able to have with consumers, people in production and getting to learn about the wine community has been awesome. And having my family support me 1000% the entire time, I am thankful for that.
“I’m most excited about engaging people who look like me in the wine industry. That’s been a big passion of mine,” she says. Not seeing herself represented in the industry brings up the question: How did she motivate herself to make her mark?
“I owe a lot to my parents and the truth-tellers I surrounded myself with,” she says. “I grew up in an interracial family, so for my parents, the mentality was always ‘there is no excuse.’ If there’s no one that looks like you, get yourself there, so other people see someone looking like them.”
Bramlett’s paternal grandmother is from Holland, which is where her father was born. Bramlett’s grandfather was born in Oklahoma and moved to California, where he was the first Black general contractor. “He always reminded us of the fact that even though there is no one else that looked like me in the room, I made sure that I could bring other people into the room, and I could build my own story,” she says.
“I came in with that mentality where I knew for myself even if there weren’t a lot of people who looked like me at that time. I was going to show that I can amplify other folks that look like me.” That drive has witnessed Bramlett receive many accolades for her work recently. “The awards have been surreal, but I look at it as an opportunity to continue to amplify what the mission is.”
Creating an Inclusive Space
To that end, Bramlett established the nonprofit, Our Legacy Harvested, which aims to diversify Oregon’s wine industry, in 2020. The organization held its inaugural fundraiser recently and is inviting applications for the first round of interns in spring. “For me, it was about cultivating a community in the wine industry where we have some change makers that are as diverse as the world that we live in,” she says.
“I wanted to provide a mentorship experience where we provide housing and a vehicle for them to get around but also opportunity for them to build their own community within the wine industry.” Bramlett’s end goal is to grow the program to one day have a campus dedicated to her efforts to build community and lasting relationships, especially for the BIPOC community.
She shares these words from her journey thus far for those exploring the wine industry as a professional option. “Believe in yourself. Study your craft. If you have questions, ask them; find somebody that will answer those questions for you. It is important to surround yourself with truth tellers that will speak truth into your life and provide that wisdom. If you have that drive and curiosity, figure what direction you want to go because there are so many different facets of the industry you can dive into and find your passion.”