Standing: (from left) Elena Rodriguez, Alumbra Cellars; Cristina Gonazalez, Gonzalez Wine Co.; José Maritnez Lopez (graduate), Ponzi Vineyards; Sergio Reyes (graduate), Montinore; Daniel Barajas (graduate), Results Partners; Jessica Sandrock, AHIVOY; Alejandro Avalos (graduate), Montinore; Rich Schmidt, Linfield University; Alejandro Moreno (graduate), Results Partners; Miguel Angel Azua (graduate), Wine by Joe; Omar Garcia Perea (graduate), Beaux Frères; DeAnna Ornelas, Winderlea; Sam Parra, Parra Wine Co. Sitting: Sofia Torres-McKay (founder), Cramoisi Vineyard; Miguel López (founder), Red Dirt Vineyard Management & Winemaking.#Photo by Kathryn Elsesser

Graduation Day

AHIVOY celebrates inaugural cohort

By Neal D. Hulkower

On March 3, with the sun shining brightly, the inaugural commencement of the Wine Industry Professional Training Program established by the Asociación Hispana de la Industria del Vino en Oregon y Comunidad (AHIVOY) honored eight proud graduates, set on their paths by three important dreamers: the late Jesús Guillén of Guillén Family Wines, Sofia Torres-McKay of Cramoisi Vineyard and Miguel López of Red Dirt Vineyard Management & Winemaking.

In 2018, the trio conceived of an organization to broaden the opportunities for those tending the vines that are the foundation of Oregon wine.

Joined by members of the AHIVOY board, the first cohort gathered outside the Cramoisi tasting room in the Dundee Hills to celebrate the completion of their coursework at Chemeketa Community College in Salem. Classes started in January 2020, but were suddenly interrupted two months later due to the pandemic. Instruction resumed this January in accordance with the school’s COVID policies.

The participants show a strong desire to pursue continuing education. Alejandro Moreno of Results Partners acknowledged “the motivation to keep learning” as the most important benefit; he hopes to earn a degree in vineyard management. Sergio Reyes of Montinore Estate and Daniel Barajas of Results Partners both want to take GED classes and learn more English. Alejandro Avalos of Montinore Estate praised the “support from the Oregon wine industry and instructors” and plans to earn a degree in vineyard management. Omar Perea of Beaux Frères mentioned his “next step is taking [the] GED” followed by additional classes; while aspiring vintner Miguel Azua of Wine By Joe plans to enroll in computer, English and winemaking classes. Several of the men will continue at Chemeketa, which offers GED, English (as a second language), viticulture and winemaking studies — matching funds are available for some of these courses.

Jessica Sandrock, a member of the AHIVOY education committee and coordinator of programs and grants, is currently gathering feedback from students, instructors and employers. “It wasn’t easy all the time to complete the program,” she admitted. Compounding the challenge was the start of the second cohort — which includes the first four female students — on Jan. 12, the day before the first cohort came back to class. “Chemeketa did a fantastic job [handling the two cohorts at the same time]. They really went above and beyond,” she said.

The second graduation ceremony is set for April 27. Sandrock says there is funding for 12 scholarships for the 2022 class, with more fundraising events planned to cover 2023 and beyond. New partnerships are being formed, as well.  

Before the ceremony, Red Hills Market catered a lunch accompanied by wines from Cramoisi Vineyard, Guillén Family Wines, Gonzales Wine Company, Alumbra Cellars and Parra Wine Company. In addition, Argyle Winery, which donated $5,000 for scholarships, contributed three 2018 wines from its Ojo Brilloso program. Each was made from grapes harvested from a small Pinot Noir block in a vineyard chosen, cultivated and vinified by each vineyard’s manager. The Ojo Brilloso program contributes money to ¡Salud!, AHIVOY and The Roots Fund.

With attendees well-satiated, the graduation began. AHIVOY President DeAnna Ornelas of Winderlea Vineyard & Winery recognized each student with a few personalized comments; she then presented certificates of completion and take-away bags.

Other board members offered additional praise and encouragement.

Sandrock acknowledged the time and dedication required to finish despite the demands of full-time jobs and the pandemic. Elena Rodriguez of Alumbra Cellars commented how the men, pushed outside their comfort zones, grew from the process, saying, “Just remember, the energy you put out will one day come back to you.” Miguel López encouraged the group to pay it forward. “Make sure you find that one kid or that one person who’s interested and nurture them and help them grow,” he urged.

Rich Schmidt of Linfield University was “excited to see what comes next for all of you” and also asked that they help find the next groups for the program. Torres-McKay observed, “This is a dream come true not just for us, not just for you” but for setting a path for future generations.

After recounting the highlights of the short history of AHIVOY, Sam Parra offered the Board’s final bit of advice: “You should make the rounds in the Valley, educate your palate.” The ceremony concluded with words from the graduates.

Despite the demands of their critical work in the vineyards, compounded by the nightmare of COVID-19, these eight men, with the support of an association that was only a vague notion less than three years ago, are officially carving their own destinies. A remarkable feat for everyone involved. 


First Cohort

Alejandro Avalos Corona, Montinore

Miguel Azua, Wine by Joe

Daniel Barajas, Results Partners

José Martinez López, Ponzi

Adrian Mendoza, Montinore

Alejandro Moreno, Results Partners

Sergio Reyes Silva, Montinore

Omar Perea, Beaux Frères

Second Cohort

Cynthia Hernandez, Alumbra

Leydi Gonzalez, Vitis Terra

Javier Castaneda, Nysa Vineyard

Enrique Cervantez Diaz, Lange Estate

Ivan George, Vitis Terra

Jubencio Nezrete,  Vitis Terra

Ulises Ayala, Arlyn Vineyard

Sonia Nieto Solano, Archery Summit

Eva Lopez, Red Dirt

Sam Lopez, Red Dirt

Roman Carbajal Franco, Atlas




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