Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein is a deep thinker. This is fitting because as Oregon’s first Black female winery owner and winemaker, she has a lot to think about. Certainly, there are the daily challenges of running a business; but there are also the struggles people like her face in the industry, where historical lack of diversity has led to a lack of role models from similar backgrounds.
Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein Winery launched in 2018 and opened its first tasting room in the small town of Astoria, Ore., the following year. The winery focuses on wine from the Willamette Valley, and each month, a portion of the sales is donated to different charitable causes.
Goldstein grew up splitting time between her home in the United States and her grandparents’ farm in Zimbabwe. Her grandfather brewed beer while her grandmother had a passion for drinking and sharing wine. She saw firsthand the way beer and wine opened up conversations and brought people together. It left a profound impression on her.
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Although she went to the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and graduated with a degree in filmmaking, there was never any doubt in her mind that, someday, she wanted to create something connected to wine. After all, she says, Francis Ford Coppola, another UCLA film school alum, had successfully pursued careers in both industries. If he could do it, she could, too.
This unwavering belief in herself is one of Goldstein’s defining characteristics. However, it is her belief in humanity that really sets her apart, both as a person and as a winery owner. She believes we can all do better, and will do better, for each other as well as the planet. This hopefulness and the sense of responsibility that comes with it shines through with Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein Winery labels like Black Lives Matter Pinot Noir, marked by wisplike letters spelling “I can’t breathe” in the shape of a cross. The wine was inspired by the murder of George Floyd. Goldstein says she incorporated the cross on the label to reflect the fact that George Floyd was a human being who did not deserve to lose his life.
VinePair spoke with Goldstein to learn more about why she feels it’s important to combine wine with social justice, the challenges Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein Winery has faced during the pandemic, and the groundbreaking role both wine and winemaker have in the Oregon wine scene.
1. You were living in California when you decided it was time to open Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein Winery. How did you come to the conclusion that Oregon was the right home for it?
I was in California, so the logical place would have been California. I thought about Malibu but there’s so much traffic. L.A. went from being not as congested to, like, two hours to get anywhere. I also have some friends in the Napa area and there are great grapes there, but I’m in love with Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
I knew nothing about Oregon other than there are trees and nature. So, I just booked a flight one day and started exploring all the beauty here. I just felt so drawn to Oregon, and so drawn to this little town — Astoria is where “Goonies” was filmed, and the Oregon Film Museum is here. It’s an adorable town and it has so much character. I just felt, “OK, this is the place to do it.”
2. How does it feel to know that you’re the first Black female winery owner and winemaker in Oregon?
I did not know the history of Oregon before coming here. I did not know, in the past, when a Black person acquired property, first, they had to get signatures from the white people in something like an eight-block radius. Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman and all these women fought so hard to get us to the point where we’re now at the table, but we still have so far to go. We saw during the summer [of 2020] how divided our country is. We just need to suck it up and come together and figure this out.
Being Oregon’s first African-American or Black female winery owner and winemaker means I need to keep pushing to make sure we are welcomed at the table because we haven’t been for so long. I believe we can create a table that is inclusive of everybody; somewhere with more room for people like me. And I always think to myself, “If there’s any way I can help and inspire others like me, I am so grateful for that.”
3. How do you feel about the wine industry’s relationship with Black consumers?
I remember reading an article on VinePair, “Why Is the Wine Industry Ignoring Black Americans With $1.2 Trillion Buying Power?” And I just don’t know. Is it just an assumption that Black people don’t like wine? — which I think is not accurate, because there are a lot of Black people that like wine! — and it doesn’t make sense to me why we aren’t marketing to them more, because that is a large buying power. And I also think spending that $20 mark on a bottle of wine is something that Black people are willing to do. I think now people are starting to realize that.
4. You are a relatively new winery. You earned your wine-producing and bottling license in 2018 and opened your tasting room in Astoria soon afterward. How were you forced to adjust when the [Covid-19] pandemic hit?
We had to close our tasting room to the general public for now. We were originally down in a basement area, which wasn’t a good idea with Covid. We’re moving next door where we’ll be on the upper level, and we’ll be able to do outdoor tastings on the patio in the summer.
Another thing that shifted was focusing on drop shipments, because before [the pandemic] we made most of our sales out of the tasting room. We just had to adjust. You look around, and you’re just thinking to yourself, “Wow, this is really happening.”
5. You focus on “Purpose Wine.” What inspired you to entwine social justice and winemaking?
The Purpose Wine aspect has been a core value from the beginning, inspired by my grandmother and my grandfather in Zimbabwe. They were just so nurturing and caring. All they wanted to do was take care of everyone. My grandmother was passionate about being involved with anything that was happening in the village. She invited everybody over and whenever there was somebody that was in need of help, it was her mission to help them. This is where the Purpose Wine focus was born.
The whole idea of Purpose Wine is to continue uplifting organizations that might not get the attention that they need or deserve [by donating] a portion of all our proceeds each month. Organizations like Black Lives Matter or the Brian Grant Foundation, which does amazing work for those with Parkinson’s; another one is Airway Science For Kids, which helps underprivileged children and girls interested in aviation careers.
6. Are you still involved in filmmaking projects, too?
Yes, there’s a documentary about the Flint, Mich., water crisis which I’ve been working on for a few years. So many politicians went through there, and whether Democrat or Republican, said that they were going to do something — and nothing really ever happened. Clean water should be accessible to everyone.
And then there’s also going to be one [documentary] on the pandemic. In two months, five people I knew passed away. It’s shocking and heartbreaking and unbelievable how much Covid really changed our lives. Maybe this should bring people together and show us that we are one thread.
7. What’s next for Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein Winery?
Summer is coming, and we’ll be moving to the place next door where we can serve wine on the patio. We’re also in the process of getting our brewery licenses and opening a brewery on the same block. We also have a gorgeous property in Rockaway Beach on the Oregon coast we’re developing. It’s so beautiful. You look across and there’s just nothing but a beautiful view for you to take in while you sip your wine. There’s a giant rock of about 16 feet by 30 feet and we’re working on putting a table setting there so that people can soak it in with their wine.
So, the expansion to three locations. I’m shooting for the summer, but obviously, it’s up to the governor and when things can safely be open. But summer is the target goal.
8. Congrats on the brewery! How many Black-owned breweries are there in Oregon?
Just the other day, I realized there are no Black-owned breweries in Oregon. And there are a lot of breweries! So, we’re going to be Oregon’s first Black-owned brewery. It’s so important to knock that door down and say, OK, here we are. And from there we can keep pushing to include everybody.
9. What are your long-term goals?
One of the key lessons of being on this planet is that we have to take care of each other. We have to do better. I’m a big fan of Paul Newman and all the charity work he did through his food brand. I’d love to do something like that so I can continue to help people. Because at the end of the day, we cannot take it with us. The Egyptians tried it and it didn’t work.