Actress and screenwriter Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein was living and working in California when Oregon called. Her grandparents were wine lovers, and Chiweshe Goldstein felt drawn to an industry and beverage that linked her to them.
She now owns a winery and tasting room in the coastal town of Astoria, and she sources her grapes from the Willamette Valley. She’s also opening a brewery and continues to raise awareness of racial justice issues with #PurposeWines, like her “I Can’t Breathe” bottle in honor of George Floyd. We caught up to see what drives her.
You’ve said before that you see wine as a way to connect with your ancestors. Can you tell me a little bit more about how?
Eunice Chiweshe Goldstein: They had been making wine, mead, beers long before modern-day breweries and wineries. There’s something about it that feels like a tradition that’s been passed down from generation to generation… This is something that has come long before me. I’m grateful for the opportunity that now I can do it, and I can sell wine to everyone and be in Oregon. There are times where it makes me feel like, wow, it took to 2018 to knock some of these barriers down. But it does feel good to have [done] that.
Does it ever feel like pressure to continue the legacy of this ancient drink and also start this new legacy of being the first Black woman winemaker in Oregon?
ECG: Funny enough, the pressure aspect I don’t necessarily feel as much as it’s just something that I need to do.
Do you feel any connection between your winemaking life and your film industry life?
ECG: I definitely do. Wine brings people together, and film really does, too. The need to be able to go back and forth between them is so important. It balances me out as a person.
Tell me a little bit about the “I Can’t Breathe” bottle in memory of George Floyd. How did you come up with the concept?
ECG: When you look at the words, “I Can’t Breathe,” it’s almost like they’re in a cross. In designing it, we thought to ourselves, this man had gone to the store—he did not need to lose his life like that. For the officer to play judge in the middle of the street and put your knee in somebody’s neck like that for eight minutes and just disregard that they’re screaming, “I can’t breathe,” it just shows how far it’s gone… Here’s somebody who did not see this person as a human being, but as somebody they could just toss away.
This “I Can’t Breathe” wine bottle, to me, is a way of saying, “You can’t turn a blind eye to it anymore.” You can’t turn a blind eye to a person who’s saying, “I can’t breathe.” You can’t put a blind eye to the Black child that was playing in the park with the toy gun, 12 years old, and he gets [killed], if you remember the story of Tamir Rice.
How many more excuses can people take anymore? I don’t know. You get to a point where you’re like, I have to do something. Sitting back is not a choice. It’s not an option anymore. I have to do something.
And what’s the response been like to that bottle and sentiment?
ECG: It’s been unbelievable. People really are supporting the movement and the bottle, and the idea behind the bottle… I was hoping that it would do exactly this. And I’m grateful that it has done that. People have been really, really receptive to it.
I hate that there are enough of these events to ask this question, but do you see this as part of a series?
ECG: I think that is one of the most important things, [to keep it going]. Look at where we stand today. I think to myself, “I can’t believe that my ancestors, if somebody needed to buy a home, especially in Oregon, you had to get a signature from everybody in the neighborhood within an eight-block radius to allow a Black person to buy property.” It took this long for me to be Oregon’s first Black woman winery owner because of the laws. The Constitution wasn’t designed to include Black people at the table, nor was it designed for women.
We have to keep pushing. Wine does bring people to the table, and it does make us talk. I’ve had some amazing conversation over a glass of wine. So, they say, in wine there is truth.
What keeps you hopeful and pushing forward and enjoying this industry?
ECG: My family is key, I have a really supportive family. I naturally am a very positive, optimistic person. And then I think to myself, “Not that long ago, Harriet Tubman was trying to run in the middle of the night to freedom. And she was like, if the dogs keep barking, keep running.”… It’s just the concept of what they had to endure for me to stand here. And that makes me feel like no matter what, I do not have an option of giving up.
That’s a really powerful perspective. Do you feel like you have any current mentors in the wine industry?
ECG: Nope, not a single one. Really. I read. And luckily, I’m a ferocious reader. I’ve had to read and draw from what I observed my grandparents doing when I was young. But no, not one.
Do you hope to be able to mentor other people coming up behind you?
ECG: Definitely. Perhaps I’ll start with an online class, or maybe some way of teaching others about the wine industry.
Do you feel a sense of community in the wine world?
ECG: I do feel a sense of community. I feel that community’s more coming from people that are learning and purchasing. That’s where that is coming from, more so than anything. In terms of other winemakers here in Oregon? I don’t know if there is. It’s a starting point. Definitely, we’re starting somewhere.
And I guess that takes time, especially when so many Willamette Valley winemakers are second and third generation.
ECG: There’s some people that I’ve met that are in the wine industry, some have even reached out and said, “Hey, just wanted to reach out and let you know that we’re here.” Which is nice. And I was thinking to myself, maybe at some point, there’s got to be a way to bring everybody together. We need more of that reaching across the table saying, we’re all human beings. The one thing Covid-19 brought us was the realization. It didn’t matter whether you are Black, or white, or whatever, it did not matter. What mattered was that we’re all human beings, and we should wear a mask and take care of each other.
What’s the first wine you remember tasting?
Either Merlot or Pinot Noir.
Can you share your most memorable drinking experience?
Through the holidays around family and just drinking a Pinot Noir, chatting about things, you know, goals and dreams. That would be one of my most memorable. I love that.
If you could only bring one grape to a desert island, which would it be?
Oh God, it would definitely have to be Pinot Noir, the triple-seven… The other one would probably be clones 115 and the 113.
And finally, it’s pizza night. What wine are you drinking with your pizza?
Definitely the Pinot Noir.