Out & Proud Winemaker Remy Drabkin Serves Up Vino in Oregon
McMinnville, Oregon native Remy Drabkin knew she wanted to be a winemaker at 8 years old. By 14 she was working her first grape harvest and by 17, with three harvests under her belt, she was studying winemaking abroad. Remy’s Old World Style philosophy developed under the guidance of Oregon wine industry pioneers and was informed by the Italian families around which she was raised. Her eponymous Remy Wines and Three Wives Wines started in 2006, baR (pronounced R bar) opened in 2011 and in 2017 she opened her second location at the family’s vineyard in the Dundee Hills.
Tell us about your experience while studying winemaking:
I attended the Lycee Viticole de Beaune (for a semester) and would go down to the local wine shop where they had a Nez du Vin - it's a kit of 100 or 300 essential oils that you use to train your nose...probably wasn't intended for a 17 year old to come mess around with but I loved it. Most of my life has been a study of wine but the formal study was fairly abbreviated. I've worked with amazing mentors who have put a lot of trust in me from an early age. Rob Stuart (now of R.Stuart and Co) winemaker at Erath had me running the bottling line by 16, Rollin Soles (Argyle) sent me to study in Australia, and the Ponzi family (really the whole family) has been coaching and teaching me my entire life. What made you want to open your own brand in the United States rather than work for someone? When I was in fifth grade we had a project, pretend you are old (like 30) and write about your life. I designed my first label, also eponymous, and wrote all about my life in wine and food. Et Voila! My last employer challenged me to make my own wine, even gave me some juice to compete with the Lead winemaker - just 5 gallons - but I won. I've always wanted to have my own winery and I launched my first business when I was 6 (selling origami to neighbors - which progressed into selling flowers to neighbors that I was harvesting from their gardens) needless to say I'm an entrepreneur at heart.
What is your favorite wine that you produce?
Depends which day you ask me and what the weather is like and my mood, it is very situational. We recently bottled the Gold Star Super Tuscan for the first time, and upon tasting, I fell in love with floral nose and flavors of strawberries, rhubarb pie, sour cherry contrasted with fresh black pepper on the finish. I'm excited for this wine and al fresco dinners.
Have you faced any obstacles as a member of the LGBTQ community?
Do you feel Oregon is more accepting of LGBTQ winemakers vs other states?
There are other LGBTQ winemakers!? Joking aside, I don't have the experience to compare this really - I know when I visit Palm Springs people love to buy some gay made wine!
As an entrepreneur, what is the best advice you ever received?
Keep your wines topped kid! - Dick Ponzi
Really though, the key to business is showing up, attention to detail, pay attention to your nickels and dimes and remember you love it - then spread the love.
What would you tell people thinking about starting a career in the wine industry?
The wine industry is primed for some transformative years - bring your grit.
If you weren’t a winemaker, what do you think your profession would be?
Academy Award winning Hollywood Actress - obv. I'm also a pretty damn good Civic Leader (currently serving as Council President, second term, City of McMinnville and Director at Oregon Wine Board)
What is your favorite wine region in the world and why?
That's hard. I love Burgundy because it's gorgeous and you can set out of foot and eventually reach these amazing production houses....I love Chianti because of the food and the rolling Tuscan Hills....but of course my heart is in the Willamette Valley - because of the community.
To learn more, visit https://remywines.com/