Could you introduce yourself?
“I am a director, actress, writer, and winemaker and winery owner. Deep down ever since I was little I’ve always been really passionate about the film industry, and just watching my grandparents really inspired me to take on the venture of winery owner and brewer, which is the next thing that we are preparing to embark on is a brewery.”
Could you tell me about the winery?
“I can start from the very beginning. As a little girl, I watched my grandfather do a lot of growing on the farm in Zimbabwe. My grandmother would be just right there by his side and it was really, really inspiring to watch both of them and learn from them. I would say my grandmother is an amazing person who was extremely passionate about helping others and uplifting others. And so was my grandfather. It was just amazing watching them as a child.”
Yeah, I’ve read a couple other stories that have been written about you. So I saw that they were a big influence on your life and your career.
“Thank you. It is such an honor to have grandparents and absorb as much as you can from them because they’ve experienced so many different aspects of life. And I think they have a vast amount of knowledge in terms of everything. From the simple things to the most complicated things, I always feel like grandparents have the answers. I just feel like they’re such a privilege to have.”
So then how did you come to start your own winery out here on the coast?
“I went to UCLA film school and being in the film and television industry I was around a lot of different people. Vittorio Storaro was someone that I learned from a lot and I’ve also worked with Francis Ford Coppola on a whole bunch of his movies. Whenever Francis Ford Coppola came through UCLA, watching him move seamlessly between film and the whole winery aspect seemed like something that made sense. I thought to myself, well I’ve gotten the directing part down and have gone through film school and with my grandparents having influenced me, I think this is something that I can definitely do.
In 2017, I took my savings and bought some property in Oregon. I really fell in love with the nature and the beauty of Oregon. And this was like, this is the perfect place. So I bought some land, and then came out here. I didn’t really know much about the history of Oregon, other than that it has beautiful trees and nature.
When I came here, I went through the application and in 2018 we received all of our licensing. The tasting room in Astoria, where Capricorn Pub used to be, is where we got our start. And from there, it’s just been getting everything in order and then getting our wines to as many people as we possibly can with a message, which is where the #purposewine originated.”
Tell me about the tasting room?
“It’s at 1052 Commercial St., Astoria.
And then as far as Rockaway, we still have our property there. That is where the vineyards are, and we’re developing the main tasting room there.”
I was looking at your website, and I saw that you have a lot of different purpose wines, including the Black Lives Matter Pinot Noir and the NAACP Inganci wine. And so I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about that, about how the Black Lives Matter resurgence has played into that.
“The ‘I Can’t Breathe’ bottle was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement that transpired over the summer of 2020. I think it was such a poignant point in American history. It’s important for us to be inclusive, America clearly belongs to everyone. And I think that the faster we get to that point, the easier it is going to be for us to start taking care of other issues, which include preserving our planet. But we’re so hung up on race and all these other things that I think if we’re not careful, are just going to continue destroying us instead of helping us as a nation. It’s sad that America has become so divided. I believe that wine brings everyone to the table. And with that, we can all start discussing these really eminent issues that we need to tackle, which one of them is racism.”
Definitely. Yeah, that’s important. Since this feature is going into February’s edition, and February is Black History Month, I was wondering if you wanted to talk about that as Oregon’s first Black winery owner.
“I’m not only Oregon’s first Black winery owner, but first Black female winemaker, and I didn’t realize it until 2018. And I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that it’s taken this long.’ It’s sad that for Black people in the past, whenever you bought property or a piece of property, you had to get the signatures in an eight block radius from everyone before you could even purchase it. And there’s a lot of issues that were even in Oregon’s constitution. You can’t change the color of your skin. Now, what would you do if you were in a society that continuously seems to present that to be something that is a problem or an issue? Just out of curiosity, what would you do?
Yeah, I would definitely want to be part of the change and speak against that. And write about what’s happening, and try to advocate for positive change.
“Right. And that’s precisely it. You know, I think that sometimes people don’t realize it until you’re kind of thrust into that. And you’re like, ‘wait, I just woke up this way.’ But the best I can do is teach positivity and love and peace and do the best I can to make this place a better world. For Black History Month, we’re partnering up with NAACP and continuing to advocate for people to see the humanity in other people because I think that if we all saw the humanity in each other, the circumstances would be different.
And we will probably also have a Valentine’s Day bottle. I love February because obviously it’s Valentine’s Day and Black History Month. I will continue to highlight so many other ancestors that have come before me and paved the way and opened the door, but I do see that there is still a lot of work for us to do.”
Yeah. For the purpose wine I also saw you had a “Pandemic Relief Rosé.” (The label on this bottle shows a picture of a zombie.)
“We’ve been in this pandemic for quite some time and I know people are getting to a point where they’re like, ‘I need some relief.’ So we thought it would be great to have this zombie as kind of an homage to the many zombie movies that are out there. And so if you drink some of this, it will help you with pandemic relief, you won’t turn into a zombie!”
Is there anything else you want to say about the pandemic, how it affected you or your business, and how you’ve adapted?
“It propelled us to be very innovative. It’s affected a lot of people in a very short amount of time. I had several people I know who passed away, and no one expected this to happen. And being that it has happened, the best we can do is to do everything we can to serve and to not be in a situation where it’s unhealthy or people are exposed to it. That’s why being in the basement in that particular building seems to no longer be the best situation, so some of the changes that we have made is to find ourselves a location that’s above ground.
That way, we’re not in a confined space and exposing ourselves to the pandemic. We figured having a location that’s upstairs and is suitable to having little nice tables placed outside so people can be in a safer place is key.”
That sounds really nice. Okay, great. Then, do you want to talk about the brewery?
“We’re planning on having a brewery and we’re working on brewing our first beer.”
And do you plan to have that in the same space as the tasting room?
“We are already somewhat looking at another space for the brewery, but it’ll also be in Astoria.”
That’s exciting. Do you want to talk about your films and your history with that through film school and becoming an actress and director?
“As for the movie side, I have loved, loved, loved making movies ever since ... I don’t even know. Deep down in my heart, I’ve always wanted to be in the movie industry. Working in the industry definitely opened up my eyes that the sky’s the limit. The possibilities are through the roof in terms of scripts and ideas that I’ve had through the years.
Right now, I happen to have a documentary on the Flint, Michigan water crisis, which I’ve been working on for a long time. To know that here in America, we actually had a place where people were turning on their faucets and brown water was coming out, despite paying their bills for fresh water, for clean water. And a lot of people were affected by that. I think it was very important for me to help shed light on that. You think about people in Flint, Michigan right now, going through the pandemic and they’re still having water issues. I still stay in touch with a lot of the people that I filmed.
My other project is about COVID. It’s very important to me as a filmmaker and as a director to tell that story through my lens and my perspective. And then the other documentary is about the movement, the Black Lives Matter movement. The words ‘I can’t breathe,’ they have changed us. And I think America, definitely we need to start looking internally on how we can get through this and bring everybody to the table. We can’t keep having African American young men and women getting shot for reasons that just don’t even make any sense. Telling these documentaries is important.
And then ‘Lion’s Den’ is another script. It’s a scripted narrative feature film that I do plan on filming, but with COVID I’ve had to kind of push that one back. And what’s been at the forefront has been the documentaries, which I think are just equally as important and need to be told.”
Definitely, those are all really important issues. Wow, well you sound really busy!
“Oh my god, it’s always so funny because it’s like, every day is amazing. There are things where you’re like, ‘wow, how did this happen?’ But you get through it and you figure it out. So it’s a good feeling. I’m grateful in every aspect.”
That’s great. Well is there anything else you’d like to add?
“I just want to continue working on all these projects. And I’m grateful for my family, my parents, my brothers and all the ancestors and loved ones who inspire me everyday.
One other thing is we plan on having coffee. We’re importing coffee from Zimbabwe, from our village. So the long term goal would be bringing coffee from Zimbabwe and then wine that eventually we’ll also be bringing from there. It’s just connecting all these worlds that make me who I am. We also have baskets, which are handmade Zimbabwean baskets. And those are at chiweshe.com. I’m like one of those entrepreneurs with so many things going on. And then eventually I plan on releasing a bra line. There’s so many things that I can’t wait and I’m grateful for.
The great thing about my mom is she’s big in fashion and is a fashion professor and consultant in New York, and she’s just been pivotal. She’s the one who I’m working with on the bra line. My mom and dad are just so amazing. They inspire me everyday.
We’re also doing a Pinot Noir for Parkinson’s. And we’re really excited about that. The Trail Blazers reached out and they definitely want to do something and highlight Oregon’s first Black female winemaker and winery owner. I’m certain you’re probably familiar with Brian Grant, he was a former Trail Blazer and he developed Parkinson’s, so a percentage of the proceeds will go to his foundation.”