By Tarah-Lynn Saint-Elien
Twenty-five minutes outside of Portland and tucked into the urban West Hills, you’ll find a 15-acre vineyard and a black man with overalls and a wide smile, awaiting to greet you.
Upon entering, you’ll hear The Notorious B.I.G. belting out “it was all a dream” or Jay Z thumping through the speakers. Looking around, you’d see paintings of family, Haitian art, fitted caps and cigars. Barrels and bottles fill the room and guests are speckled in the space – people of all races coming together to enjoy the music, the ambiance and most importantly, the wine.
You’re at Abbey Creek Vineyard. And it is not your average winery.
“It’s a hip-hop winery,” says Brooklyn-born owner and winemaker, Bertony Faustin. The first generation Haitian American first opened the winery in 2012. It wasn’t at all unusual for guests to be surprised he was the owner. Now, Faustin is known for being the first recorded black winemaker in Oregon.
An Anesthesia Technician by trade, Faustin calls himself an “accidental farmer.” In 2007, he quit his job because though he had money, he was not fulfilled. After the passing of his father, he got the idea to build his own operation on his in-laws property.
“The passion of my father brought me to this path,” he explains. “Everyone assumes I wanted to make wine because maybe my father drank wine but really it were the feelings of not living up to that legacy – the immigrant hustle. Coming to the states, having no degree and needing to be successful because of those struggles.”
Ever dedicated to create an opportunity, Faustin pursued his new venture. However, there was no love for wine or grapes ingrained in him at all. In fact, Faustin was abstinent from alcohol before pursuing his wine business.
“I taste my wine now but I don’t drink-drink,” he says, laughing. “I was a wannabe athlete all my life. I played basketball, football…but those weren’t in the cards for me. I never needed a whole glass to enjoy it. I taste it because I make it. ”
Faustin’s own dreams were never set in stone – he was and is always looking for the next best thing. His advice for people who have to redirect their dreams is to measure facts against feelings. “The first thing you have to do is separate the two,” he advises. “Is it a factual issue or is it just me in my feelings? That helps me to either deal with something or move on.”
Applying this process has assisted him greatly in all types of decisions – especially regarding his fields. Everyday, mother nature proves to be a teacher and the farmer is tactfully open to learning. Currently, Faustin is in Detroit with his sponsor, Carhart, awaiting for more of his crop to ripen before he is able to harvest, make and sell more wine.
When asked how the fields to his life, he responds:
“Farming is life in the sense of I don’t just wake up and the fruits are there – ready to pick and perfect. You have to do the steps it takes. You’re either trimming the fruit, cutting it back – doing all of this maintenance. Same thing with life. Whether it’s a degree, a great job or even fitness – it takes work, the things you have to put in.
The real correlation is there are setbacks, as well. Let’s say we get crazy weather and I lose all of my fruits. Do you give up? Do you fold? No, you have to shift. You have to think what else can I do now since I just lost my fruit? You don’t just give it all up.”
Well aware of the ups and downs of life, Faustin doesn’t allow setbacks to sway his plans. His dedication isn’t to the fields but to purpose, which is to be a mouthpiece for himself, his family, other underrepresented winemakers and the future.
“My father still inspires me,” he says. “If he came to the states and did what he did in ‘69 then hey, I can make wine. My kids add to that, too, now – being an example for them. I can’t tell them to go out there and live their best lives, take risks and do things if I’m not doing that, as well.”
Never content and always hesitant to say he has “arrived,” Bertony Faustin hopes to be remembered for being a changemaker – not only in the wine world but in the real world.
“We’re all influencers,” he explains. “Sometimes, we’re not always aware of who we’re influencing but people are always watching. Being open and honest with who you are and what you share with the world – that’s my daily motivation.”
In other words, this isn’t just a dream of his.
This is legacy.