Today it has a winery and tasting room in the coastal town of Astoria and sources its grapes from the Willamette Valley. She also opened a brewery and continues to bring attention to racial justice with #PurposeWines, like her bottle of I Can’t Breathe in honor of George Floyd. We had a discussion to see what motivates them.
You said earlier that you see wine as a way to get closer to your ancestors. Can you tell me a little bit more about how?
Eunice Chiveshe Goldstein: They made wine, mead and beer long before modern breweries and cellars appeared. There is something here that is like a tradition passed down from generation to generation. It’s something that came long before me. I’m grateful that I can do that now, and I can sell wine to anyone and be in Oregon. There are times when I feel like I needed to break down some of these barriers in 2018. But it’s really great.
Never feel like continuing the legacy of that old drink while starting this new legacy of Oregon’s first black female winemaker?
EKG: It’s funny, but I don’t feel the pressure as something I have to do.
Courtesy of Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein Winery
Do you feel a connection between your life as a winemaker and life in the film industry?
EKG: Absolutely. Wine brings people together, and so does film. It’s so important to be able to come and go between them. It brings me into balance as a person.
Tell me about the bottle of I Can’t Breathe in memory of George Floyd. How did you come up with this concept?
EKG: If you look at the words I can’t breathe, it’s like a cross. When we came up with it, we thought this guy was going to the store – he didn’t need to lose his life that way. For a cop who plays referee in the middle of the street and sticks his knee in someone’s neck for eight minutes and pays no attention to their screams: I can’t breathe. It’s gone that far. Here is someone who saw this man not as a person, but as someone who could be discarded.
That bottle of wine I can’t breathe from is my way of saying: You can’t close your eyes anymore. You can’t turn a blind eye to the person speaking: I can’t breathe. You can’t close your eyes to a 12-year-old black kid playing with a toy gun in the park, and he [will] be killed, if you remember Tamir Rice’s story.
How many more excuses can people accept? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. You’ve reached the point where I have to do something. Sitting in the back is not a choice. It’s no longer an option. I have to do something.
Courtesy of Eunice Chiveshe Goldstein Winery
And what was the reaction to this bottle and the feelings it elicited?
EKG: It was great. People support the movement and the bottle idea…. That’s what I was hoping she would do. And I’m grateful for that. People were very, very receptive.
I hate that there are so many events that I have to ask this question, but do you see this as part of the series?
EKG: I think that’s one of the most important things [to continue]. Look what we can do today. I think to myself: I can’t believe that when someone wanted to buy a house, especially in Oregon, my ancestors had to have the signatures of all the neighbors within an eight block radius in order for a black person to buy a property. It took me this long to become the first black woman in Oregon to own a winery, because of the laws. Blacks or women were not meant to be covered by the Constitution.
We need to keep the pressure on. Wine really brings people around the table, and it makes us talk. I had a great conversation over a glass of wine. They say there’s truth in wine.
What gives you hope, what gives you the ability to move on and enjoy this industry?
EKG: My family is the key, I have a family that really supports me. I am by nature a very positive and optimistic person. And then I think to myself: I can’t do this: Not long ago, Harriet Tubman tried to escape to freedom in the middle of the night. And she is if the dogs keep barking, keep running …. It’s just an idea of what they had to go through to get me here. And it makes me feel like no matter what, I don’t have the option of giving up.
That’s a very strong perspective. Do you feel like you currently have mentors in the wine industry?
EKG: No, nothing. That’s right. I’m reading. And luckily, I’m an avid reader. I had to read and draw from what I saw in my grandparents’ house when I was young. But no, nothing.
Do you hope to be a mentor to those who walk behind you?
EKG: Absolutely. Maybe I’ll start an online course, or maybe a way to teach others about winemaking.
Do you feel a sense of community in the world of wine?
EKG: I really feel a sense of community. I feel the community comes more from the people learning and buying. That’s where it comes from, more than anything else in the world. What about the other winemakers in Oregon? I don’t know if that’s the case. That’s a starting point. We certainly started somewhere.
Courtesy of Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein Winery
And I think that takes time, especially with so many second- and third-generation winemakers in the Willamette Valley.
EKG: I met people who work in the wine industry, some even introduced themselves and said: I just wanted to check in and let you know we’re here. Which is good. And I thought maybe at some point we should find a way to bring everyone together. We need more than that to reach out and say we are all human. The only thing Covid-19 brought us was consciousness. Whether you’re black or white or whatever, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that we are all human, and we need to wear masks and take care of each other.
What is the first wine you remember tasting?
Either Merlot or Pinot Noir.
Can you share your most memorable drinking experiences?
At family reunions and drinking Pinot Noir, discussing things, you know, goals and dreams. That would be one of my most memorable. I like it.
If you could only take one grape to a desert island, which one would it be?
Oh, my God, it’s supposed to be a Pinot Noir, triple-seven ….. The other would probably be a clone of the 115 and 113.
And finally, it’s pizza night. What kind of wine do you drink with your pizza?
Definitely Pinot Noir.
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