Oregon wine leader Tiquette Bramlett isn’t just making history for herself, she’s making history for the diverse world of wine drinkers.
By Sedale McCall
In 2021, just five years after moving to Oregon and starting her wine journey, Tiquette Bramlett became the first black woman to run a winery in a major US region. It’s an inspiring moment for the industry and black women in wine. But it’s not the beginning, nor the end, of Tiquette’s story. This moment is a culmination of Tiquette’s upbringing.
“I start from the root, which is my family. They were a huge guiding light and set the standard of ‘nobody can tell you what you can or cannot do’” she said. “If you have the passion for something and you love it and come at it with honesty and the energy of wanting to learn, and you’re authentic in everything that you do, success is going to be waiting for you. And it’s whatever your definition of success looks like.”
Going further back, Tiquette is part of a family that isn’t afraid to break new ground. Her family’s legacy is based on doing things they are passionate about. Even if that wasn’t the norm during that time, sometimes, it wasn’t even legal.
“My grandfather was the first black general contractor in California. He came up at a time when there was more tension. He was a black man from Oklahoma, in an interracial relationship and relocating his young family to California. They had to start building from the ground up, and both were unafraid to dream big. They set a standard of ‘no one can tell you no.’”
Wine wasn’t her first love; it was singing. Tiquette was a classically-trained opera singer. She rose through the ranks through college. While she eventually changed passions, singing helped give her perspective on what her career would be after that.
“Opera was the first place where I received a gut check from my family and my vocal coaches. I said, ‘there’s not a lot of people that look like me,’ so I couldn’t envision myself being cast in certain roles. I’m going to go into these spaces and audition, and they’re going to put me in the chorus because there’s no black lead,” she said. “We had a dear family friend who’s an uncle to me and a jazz musician. He says, ‘first of all, how dare you say there’s never been a black Opera singer,’ and he gave me a framed picture of Marian Anderson. Immediately, I went to do research to understand why she wasn’t amplified more.”
At her first winery, Tiquette was planning to take over a winery—no matter what was standing in her way.
Tiquette Bramlett’s Wine Journey
“I was very honest in my interview when they said, ‘what do you envision yourself doing in the industry’ and I said, ‘I envision myself having your job,’” she said. “Whether it’s here or somewhere else, this is what I envision for myself. And while a lot of people thought that was crazy, I like being a dreamer. I like being able to figure out what the puzzle looks like and how I can put all of the pieces in the appropriate place.”
Her upbringing prepared her to build her own life and career. It also planted the seed for building a community-focused organization later in life.
“Community empowers you in a way you can’t even imagine. You have the opportunity to learn so much from each other and from different life experiences, and that makes you more powerful,” she said. “Because, you know, if you stumble, you have people in your space who will hold you accountable, but also coach you through that stumble.”
When Tiquette started Anne Amie, she saw the need to create space for people who looked like her. She conversed with her staff and mentors (she calls them “truth-tellers”). But, she needed a way to build that for others.
“There were things that I would notice, disparities and conversations and dynamics that would happen that bothered me. It always just struck me that I was one of few, or the only, in the space,” she said. “The one thing I’ve always appreciated was my community and my truth-tellers. So what would it look like for me to build that space here, and how can I make us all feel welcomed, included, and safe. But, I also recognized that things like doing harvest or taking three months off to do this is a privilege in itself.”
Creating Our Legacy Harvested
The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 created space for a clearer picture for Tiquette and others around her.
“When the quarantine was really happening, that was what gave me the time to put together what I envisioned Our Legacy Harvested looking like. And saying, ‘If I could have this thing from when I first moved here, what would my path look like’, instead of me having to build my own community,” she thought to herself. “I was sitting with one of my good friends who owns a place in McMinnville, and we were talking about the protests and how people would check in on us. We just kept saying to each other ‘I’m so thankful I have you in this space and can lean on you. But, how can we build that out’ because there’s still so many people in our community that don’t feel safe. That’s how we started building Our Legacy Harvested.”
Our Legacy Harvested quickly became a place of safety and security for people of color in the state. Once the picture was clear, the journey became just as clear. And, just as it does for so many in our community, it started by bringing the community together for fellowship.
“We wanted to start with a block party where we could bring some levity to the moment and bring in BIPOC small businesses that people could support. But also, we wanted to show people in this community and the Portland community how welcoming this space is. Once we built that, we had people comment that they felt safe. They didn’t see police or security and just had to thank us.” she said. “It was a journey, but I’m very proud of what our team has created so far and what we’re continuing to push.”
The Path Forward
Tiquette believes her organization can begin to start the change we’ve been looking for since the summer of 2020. She built the organization to help others take a similar path to her own. Where each individual learns every facet of the industry.
“The one thing that Our Legacy Harvested prides itself on is putting in programming, so they have to learn every aspect of the industry when they come in. When you’re working harvest, you’re not just working harvest,” she said. “You’re looking at bottling, journalism, compliance, all of it. We want you to see everything because your spirit may resonate with something else. Harvest may not be for you, but it’s an important part of the wine story.”
Beyond the knowledge and understanding of the industry, Tiquette focuses her efforts on leveraging her connections. Using her connections to bring more individuals into the space is exactly how we see a change in this industry. Through individuals like Tiquette Bramlett, black women running major wineries will no longer be news.
“I think being able to leverage my connections for my community is how this becomes the norm. There are people that do not look like us that leverage connections all the time and that’s how everything is normalized in that space. So why can’t we do that for each other?” she said. “If I know your abilities and I know what you’re capable of and what your goals are, I’m going to see who I know! I’m going to go through my rolodex and put that person in that room. And they [the company] know if I’m referring to them, this person is legit.”
(If you’re interested in other organizations doing this work, check out our list of organizations doing the work.)
An extension of self
Our Legacy Harvested is not an organization that Tiquette founded, and it is an extension of who she is. The future of OLH is so bright because Tiquette’s future’s so bright. And the journey is only beginning for both of them.
“The thing that makes my heart sing is community. The thing that makes my heart sing is the moment when the light bulb turns on for someone, and that piece of the puzzle falls perfectly into place for them. I want to be able to put that on a broader scale and see what that looks like in other spaces,” she said. “So my big thing is to understand how we can connect communities that are working on this in other areas to empower and uplift each other.”
If you believe in community, or Tiquette Bramlett herself, you should pay attention to Our Legacy Harvested. There’s so much more the organization can do with your support.
“For OLH, we’re growing and increasing everything. It’s been really exciting that we’ve been able to increase the number of interns coming in this year for harvest. We’ve been able to grow that program into something special. We’re even working on a relocation package for those that want to move here,” she said. “I feel like the world is our oyster. We’ve had some other wine regions that have reached out and asked how we can implement OLH into their states. Which is a new piece of the puzzle which we’ve had to look at.”
Applications are now live for the 2023 internships at OLH! Six internships will be awarded for harvest season in the Willamette Valley. You can apply at: https://www.ourlegacyharvested.com/application. If you want to learn more about Tiquette or OLH, you can learn more at https://www.ourlegacyharvested.com/ or on Instagram @OurLegacyHarvested.