“When you taste a complex wine, you can smell the spices, the flowers, the fruit, and in that moment you get transported to a memorable experience. When you can connect emotionally with the wine that is what I call a transcendent moment.”
— Jesús Guillén
Jesús Guillén is a passionate crafter, artist, and head of Guillén Family Wines—one of the only Latinx-owned wine labels in the United States. Although Guillén began his career as a computer systems engineer in his hometown of Ciudad Jiménez in northern México, a visit to Oregon in 2002 sparked a career change. At the time, his father worked as a vineyard manager at White Rose Estate Winery and Guillén says he quickly fell in love with the state’s beautiful landscape and “winemaking lifestyle.” He was determined to also immerse himself in the world of wine.
To reach his goal, Guillén juggled working hard at the vineyard year-round while studying English at Chemeketa Community College in Salem. By the summer of 2006, scorching heat waves heavily damaged about 1300 plants at a nearby vineyard, but Guillén saw an opportunity to salvage the fruit just as the vineyard was preparing to throw them away. After carefully picking the grapes and cultivating a batch of pinot noir, the aspiring winemaker tasted his experiment and knew he had made it—he was finally a winemaker.
Guillén was promoted to head winemaker at White Rose Estate in 2008 and he received his first accolades that same year. By 2009, the Wine Advocate ranked one of Guillén’s pinot noirs as a 96, tying for the highest score ever attributed to an Oregon pinot noir. Just over a decade later, Guillén opted to establish his own label, Guillén Family Wines, in 2013.
Today, Guillén Family Wines is a thriving, family-owned business that produces nearly 1,000 cases per year. Staying true to his own roots, all Guillén Family Wines’ pinot noirs are named after family members. In 2017, Guillén’s work as a winemaker was featured in the documentary, Red, White, and Black alongside other prominent minority winemakers. “When you taste a complex wine, you can smell the spices, the flowers, the fruit, and in that moment, you get transported to a memorable experience,” he says. “You can feel the smells and flavors and the time you spent with family and friends. When you can connect emotionally with the wine, that is what I call a transcendent moment.”
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