Podcast – Interview with Sarah Horner

Making a career change is something many people consider at some point in their lives, and Sarah Horner from Left Coast Estate did just that. In this episode, she tells her story about how a chance meeting with a winemaker led to her entering the wine industry and never looking back.
Ute and Sarah are also discussing how the wine industry in Oregon has changed in the past two decades, and what these changes meant for women.
Listen in to another great episode!

Left Coast Estate

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Full episode transcript:
Ute: Hello again, awesome listeners and welcome to the Thru The Grapewine podcast today with your host, Ute Mitchell. Please like and subscribe to the podcast, and if you really want us to go up in those algorithms, download our episodes and rate and review them wherever possible.

I have some really super exciting news for today before we get started: we now have a private Facebook group for women called Thru The Grapewine VIPs. This group is a safe space for women who are looking for answers to all things related to wine. It really is a great community and we are growing daily. You can expect special content just for you VIPs, questions, polls, and of course lots of laughs. Check the show notes for the link.

So I can’t believe how quickly time flies right now! I feel like I’m doing an interview with a guest almost every single day. Ali and I are so busy that sometimes nighttime sneaks up on me and I realize I haven’t even thought about dinner yet. I guess that’s not a terrible problem to have, right?

So anyway, today I will be chatting with Sarah from Left Coast Wine right here in Oregon, and we’re gonna hop right into it.

So welcome Sarah. Thank you so much for being here.

Sarah Horner: Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for having me. I’m very excited.

Ute: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? Have you always lived in Oregon? You know, who’s Sarah?

Sarah Horner: Yeah, so I actually was born in England and my parents came out to the United States, to the Seattle area, when I was really little, like two years old. It was meant to be a two year temporary project that turned into basically a lifetime. So I grew up in the States, but I ended up going back to the UK for college and graduate school.

Ute: All right.

Sarah Horner: And then I had a hard time finding work in the field I was interested back then and came back to the States, and started a career in public relations. That was my first career. And I have two adult children. They’re 25 and 28, and as of April, I became a grandma.

Ute: Yay. Congratulations.

Sarah Horner: Thank you. And that’s very surreal.

Ute: So what we’re saying is we have two grandmas talking to each other right now.

Sarah Horner: I know, but we’re far too young to be grandmas. I’m sure!

Ute: Absolutely. You know, and I was actually just thinking about this too. I went to a kickboxing class this morning and I was usually, it’s a pretty good mix of ages, but this morning I was definitely the oldest person on the mat and so I’m, you know, doing my thing and I’m having a lot of fun with it, and I’m thinking to myself “Damn, I’m a grandma and I am a kickboxer and I’m having a damn fine time with it!”, so…

Sarah Horner: It’s badass, if I can say that.

Ute: Yes. Yes, you can!

Sarah Horner: Yeah, I know. It’s awesome. And I, I love being strong too because it’s strong physically and strong mentally, so I think that keeps us younger for sure.

Ute: It sure does.

Sarah Horner: Yeah. So my husband and I, we came, became empty nesters and we moved from the suburbs to the country. So we live on about eight acres and we have this very old orchard that we’re trying to refurbish and it’s, it’s just lovely.

Ute: Oh my gosh. That sounds amazing. So what area do you live in?

Sarah Horner: So I live in Amity, which is…

Ute: Gotcha.

Sarah Horner: Yeah, it’s not too far from McMinville. It’s definitely wine country. We’re the Eola- Amity Hills AVA. So there are vineyards around us, too. Yeah.

Ute: That sounds amazing. I’m having such a hard time deciding. Do I wanna stay in my little postage stamp lot here in Tigard, where I love it. It’s great and I can get anywhere I want really quickly.

We have everything in Tigard. You know, we have the movies, we have stores, we have bowling alley and restaurants and, and all of those things. Or do I wanna be out in the country where it’s beautiful and landscapes and vineyards and wine country and… So I have not dared yet to take that leap out into the wine country.

Sarah Horner: Yeah, it’s definitely different in terms of accessing services. You know, it’s about 15 minutes to the grocery store, but for the most part it’s fine. I think I’m, I’m jealous of people who get DoorDash cuz we don’t have that , but, but that’s a small sacrifice, honestly.

Ute: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Yeah. That. That sounds pretty amazing. I have a couple of friends who live out in in the boonies and it sure is beautiful.

Sarah Horner: It’s gorgeous. It’s really peaceful. I pinch myself still, but it makes sense for, we’re both in the wine industry. Actually my husband just retired, but it makes sense for us to be out here.

Ute: For sure. So I do understand, of course, and you’ve just mentioned this, that the wine industry is your second career. You’ve joined 18 years ago. I would love to know how did that happen? You know, when did you make that career switch and did you start on the production side or in the tasting room, or what did you do?

Sarah Horner: Yeah, actually my story is I couldn’t have made it up better honestly. Back when I was in the UK and university I had spent some time studying in France and kind of happened upon a very rustic tasting room, literally in the, or not even a tasting room, but winery in the hillside. And they had a handwritten sign that said tastings. And I thought, well that sounds interesting. And it just captivated all of my senses, what it smelled like and tasted like and what the, what the vines looked like.

And I thought, “wow, this is so interesting”. But I was on a different path, so I kind of filed it away thinking, I wonder if I could ever circle back to something in wine without any sort of true idea what. And then fast forward to 2003, 2004, and my oldest child was eight or nine at the time, and had a little friend from school and the friend would come over and play and whatnot and said, “yeah, we just moved here for my dad’s work.”

And I said, “what’s your dad’s work?” And she said, “he’s a winemaker” . So this, like, woo, like this spark went off, you know, sort of thing. And later that spring I met her dad at the school carnival, which is called the Hoop De Do . And, and I said, “I understand you’re a winemaker. I have always had this sort of romantic notion that I would work in wine, but I don’t know anything really about it except I like to drink it. But maybe I could just come and like sweep the floor.”

That’s what I said! And he kinda chuckled and said, “you know, we have more than sweeping to do. And actually you could, there’s plenty of things you could do during harvest that we could teach you. You don’t have to be experienced. You could learn while doing.”

Ute: Yeah.

Sarah Horner: And so I thought he was being polite. That was April, and I think maybe about July he called me and said, “are you still interested? I’m getting my crew together for this harvest.” And I was like, “are you kidding me? I would love to.” So I actually did start on the production side.

Ute: Right on.

Sarah Horner: Yeah. And then I grabbed shifts in the tasting room too, just to kind of get the whole picture. And, and just kind of dabble around. So I actually have done a total of six vintages on the production side and then also working in tasting room and kind of worked my way into different areas of the industry.

And fun fact, and this can be for another time, but that guy who first hired me is now my husband!

Ute: Oh, come on.

Sarah Horner: I told you, you can’t make it up!

Ute: This is so great. Oh my gosh.

Sarah Horner: Yeah.

Ute: Well, good for you.

Sarah Horner: Yeah, I mean that, you know, that took some time to get from point A to B, but yeah, that happened.

Ute: Sure. Well, I mean, how wonderful. I, I love stories like that, that just makes me so happy to hear, so thank you for sharing that.

Sarah Horner: Yeah, I mean, the, the wine industry is a community and it was founded that way and I, and I, one thing I love so much about it is still community and there’s a lot of, you know, interrelationships. You know, there’s a lot of married folks or partnered folks out there that both work in the industry and people say, “oh, isn’t that a competition?” But I don’t think so. It’s complimentary actually.

Ute: Yeah, and I really appreciate that about Oregon. I know that not everywhere you go, it is like that. And we do have a really great unique situation going on here. Maybe partially because it’s a young wine industry here in Oregon, but I really do love the community feeling that you get.

That people don’t necessarily look at each other as competition, but that you can go to a winery and say, “okay, so how many other wineries should I see? And which ones are nearby, and which ones do you recommend?” And then you get a list of wineries that are being recommended to you, and that’s a beautiful thing.

I love that.

Sarah Horner: Absolutely. I mean, we see the industry as a collaboration and what’s good for one can be good for all as well. So it, it’s a really special feeling. I feel so lucky to be in this industry.

Ute: Yeah, I hear you. Can’t, can’t leave once you get in. Right?

Sarah Horner: Oh, no way!

Ute: I feel like I say this in every episode: “you can’t leave! Once you’re in, you can’t leave!”

Sarah Horner: And you don’t want to, that’s for sure!

Ute: No, I do not want to leave. That is very true.

Sarah Horner: No.

Ute: So you are now the Marketing Direct to Consumer Director.

Sarah Horner: Yes.

Ute: For our listeners, what does that mean?

Sarah Horner: That means I do a lot of different things. Direct-to-consumer, DTC. We abbreviate [inaudible]. Those are the three consumer facing channels of business, and those simply are the tasting room, the wine club, and then e-commerce, you know, our web store.

So I have oversight over those three channels, strategizing how we can sell more wine, reach more people, and that does sort of parlay into the marketing piece, which is I do all of the writing for the, for the winery. I do…

Ute: Oh, nice.

Sarah Horner: Yeah. And I actually have a writing background because I was in PR and I had, I actually do some freelance writing still and some photography dabble in all those, so those skills come into the winery too for email marketing, social media, all that kind of stuff. So despite the fact I didn’t know anything when I first started, the skillsets that I have, I, I get to use all the time, which, I mean, that’s really lucky.

Ute: Sure, sure. And it sounds like this is something that you’re gonna be doing for a while. Yes? You’re not…

Sarah Horner: Yeah, I hope so. I mean, I’ve been, I sort of settled, I moved out of the sort of the harvest production side of things just because I felt like I could be, I was good at it, I took to it, but I felt like I could do better on the hospitality side.

I worked in tasting rooms and then I moved into wine club management. And then the last five years I’ve been doing more direct to consumer stuff and I just joined the winery I’m at now in May. And I, I see a long future with them. Hopefully they feel the same way.

Ute: Yeah. I definitely, I think I would like to work a harvest more so that I can say I’ve done it and I know what the behind the scenes is because I’ve been in the tasting room, I’ve been a tasting room manager. I love that part of working in a winery, and I hope to, you know, do at least a little bit of part-time work in a winery this year when, when they start hiring again for the high season. But I feel like getting to really know, the hands-on approach, on the behind the scenes and, and production and harvest would be kind of cool. Just, just to do that for one season.

I don’t know that I need to do it for multiple seasons, just just one, so I know what I’m talking about. You know?

Sarah Horner: A hundred percent. And I think one is plenty because I remember my first harvest being absolutely blown away by how much goes into making wine. And I remember thinking, I can’t believe there’s any wine that could be $10 a bottle because it… so much goes into it.

Ute: Yeah.

Sarah Horner: From the vineyard to the winery, to the time it gets in the bottle, it’s such a process. And then, just doing it yourself and literally getting your hands, you know, grape, stained helps you talk about wine in a different way, in a more meaningful way, I guess, having experienced that behind the scenes.

So yeah, I’m all for you doing that. I think you’ll really appreciate it.

Ute: Well, there, there will be job postings for harvest helpers, so I will keep my eyes out for that.

Sarah Horner: Definitely.

Ute: So, let’s pivot just a little bit. I’m very, very interested in hearing how you feel the wine industry in the Willamette Valley has changed over the past couple of decades that you’ve been working in it, and especially from the standpoint of a woman?

Sarah Horner: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, in a general way, not related to gender, you know, almost 20 years ago when I started, it was still… Oregon was very up and coming. Not as many people knew about the region, and literally you could get free tastings in most places. Can you imagine? And now you know, you’re hard pressed to find a tasting that’s under $20. And rightly so, because these wines are beautiful and, you know, they take a lot to, to get them to where they are.

Ute: And I’d actually like to throw something in here real quick too, you know, because sometimes I do hear people saying, why would I pay $30 or more even, for a wine tasting where you just get like a sip of wine. I really have to stress this. You are not just buying a tasting.

Sarah Horner: Right.

Ute: The vast number of wineries in the Valley are offering a service. A lot of the tasting room servers are very, very knowledgeable about wine. They can tell you a lot of stuff. They’re wanting to give you a really great experience. And so, yes the wine itself is part of that, but that whole experience is what you’re paying for.

Sarah Horner: Oh, absolutely. I appreciate you so much saying that because that is at the core of the work we do in the tasting room. It’s… we take you on a journey. And we want to engage with you and we want to, to develop a relationship. So you come back, you join our wine club, you, you know, support us out there in the world and buy our wines and tell others about it.

Absolutely. It’s, we’re not just pouring you wine into a glass.

Ute: Right, exactly. So, but to get back to the question, how has it changed?

Sarah Horner: Yes!

Ute: Aside from, you know, there used to be free tastings.

Sarah Horner: Yeah! And there’s just so much, there’s.. I mean, I think there’s over 700 now, wineries maybe even closer to 800. It’s absolutely amazing.

But I think, you know, back when I started, I think we saw a lot more tradition quote unquote traditional roles, whereas the hospitality teams were mostly where the women were. And then the winemaking team tended to be, overwhelmingly male. And with some exceptions obviously, but it’s so exciting now to see so many more female winemakers who are at the helm of really important, significant wineries that are pioneers.

But then also there’s this whole field of women who have started their own labels and are doing their own thing and carving out their own destiny in this business. And it’s, that just has exploded, and that’s been incredibly exciting to see. Of course, on the downside, there’s still a wage gap between men and women in our industry, but the wine industry, in general, is a little bit better than other industries with that wage gap, although it does still exist. You know, we have a ways to go, but we’ve made progress and we are seeing more diversity in terms of gender at least. And, you know, I, I hope that we can be more inclusive and accepting of all folks eventually.

And the winery industry, it typically was kind of a white, straight industry. But I think we’re, we’re trying to, to change the way we do things and the way we approach our industry so that it does welcome all people.

Ute: Yes, absolutely. I could not agree with you more. And fortunately the women that we see now walking into the wine industry. You know I’m thinking Tiquette Bramlett who is doing Our Legacy Harvested, a nonprofit for people of color to have a better opportunity and to also get scholarships and things like that to work in the wine industry. We have the McBride sisters. Here in, in McMinville we have Remy Drabkin, who is really an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.

So a lot of good things going on with, with a lot of these women stepping in and not just working in a winery, but also doing outreach and doing this work that’s so important to get more women into this industry.

Sarah Horner: Absolutely. There’s definitely some exciting things happening; we’re moving the needle. And we just have to keep talking, keep having these conversations and remain steadfast. And I, I think we’re gonna get to an even better place.

Ute: Yeah. And someday we won’t have to say anymore, “this is a ‘female’ winemaker” because

Sarah Horner: Right?

Ute: She’s just a winemaker. Thank you very much!

So do you have any wine certifications?

Sarah Horner: You know, I… I do not!

I feel like being married to a winemaker and being in this industry. I mean, we live and breathe the wine industry, and I don’t want to say I couldn’t learn something from a certification, not at all. But I’ve had so many incredible opportunities to learn things firsthand that I haven’t made the time to do it.

But I definitely am making space this year to investigate that further because there’s a whole world of wine out there, and I, there’s. Huge gaps of knowledge. You know, they definitely don’t know more than I do know, and I know quite a bit. So it’s definitely one of my goals for this year.

Ute: Sure. And I think this is actually… for women who are looking to break into the industry… it’s kind of encouraging to actually hear that because you’ve been in this industry for 18 years and you don’t have any wine certifications and you’re doing quite well, you know?

Sarah Horner: Thank you.

Ute: So I think. It’s a good thing for women to hear that: no, you don’t have to have all of the wine certifications.

If you wanna go for it at some point, please do! It’s fun. It’s educational. But it’s not something that you have to have 100% all the time. You will be learning on the job, especially if you are willing to start in a tasting room or on the production side, and you learn as you go along. And then at some point, you know the certifications might become something that you want to do.

Sarah Horner: Yes.

Ute: In some cases just for yourself.

Sarah Horner: Absolutely.

Ute: And in some cases, because it’s going to be helpful to you in the department where you’re working in the wine industry.

Sarah Horner: 100%. And I think if you have the desire, the aptitude will come along. You know, I knew nothing when I started. If you’re excited and you’re eager to learn, you’re going to learn in a way that’s more meaningful than, you know, maybe book learning for example, although that’s a good accent for your studies.

But I’ve always found that learning by doing is the best way. And if I’m hiring, yeah, I don’t really, it’s gravy if you have certifications, but I’m more interested in your desire and drive and enthusiasm for the industry, cuz that that’s what’s gonna be the most meaningful.

Ute: For sure. I love that. So you heard it here, people! Go to Left Coast Wine!

Sarah Horner: Yeah.

Ute: So speaking of wine, I do wanna talk a little bit about wine and…

Sarah Horner: Yeah!

Ute: You know, I mean obviously we’re in Oregon, so Pinot Noir is our state wine, I guess. But what other wines outside of Pinot Noir do you think might be a little bit underrated in Oregon?

Sarah Horner: Oh my gosh. There’s some really cool wines being made in Oregon.

I think, thankfully, we finally got Chardonnay back on the map where it should be here in Oregon. And following that, our sparkling wines are spectacular.

Ute: Yeah.

Sarah Horner: And people are making, in Oregon, are not just making sparkling wines from the traditional grapes… you know: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay. They’re making sparkling Riesling. They’re making sparkling Pinot Blanc. And that leads me to my personal favorite Oregon wine. That’s not Pinot Noir. That’s Pinot Blanc. I love it. We make it at Left Coast as well, and that is such a delicious wine. And when you pair that with Dungeness crab, it’s like this quintessential Oregon experience in my mind.

Ute: Mmmm!

Sarah Horner: Yeah. And then…

Ute: Well, now I wanna go and have food and wine!

Sarah Horner: I know. Me too. I know. And then of course Riesling does fantastic here in Oregon and there’s so many places that are making some gorgeous Rieslings too, so…

Ute: Yeah, for sure. And I mean, you know, I’m from Germany, so while I’m not a huge Riesling drinker, it does hold a special place at my heart. And I love that some of the winemakers out there make some really good Riesling.

Sarah Horner: They do!

Ute: I also, what I’m starting to see much more of, and climate change has a little something to do with it, is that more Oregon winemakers are now starting to make darker wines. Like all of a sudden, you know, I see Tempranillo! There’s, in Carlton, there’s a winery, small winery called Stone Griffin. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it.

Sarah Horner: Yes, I am.

Ute: So Terry, he makes an estate Tempranillo and I’m going, what? Are you for real?

Sarah Horner: I know, I know. Well, let me tell you, we at Left Coast, we have a couple acres of Syrah and we make really pretty Syrah from our estate.

Ute: So now, I mean, now I really have to come out there!

Sarah Horner: Oh my gosh. You have to!

Ute: Yeah. Yeah. I’m excited for, I’m really excited to be interviewing all of these women here in Oregon. Like I, I wanna inter interview women all over the world, really. But I’m really excited about the women that I’m interviewing in Oregon who are with wineries. Then after the interview, going to the winery to check it out. That is so exciting for me. So…

Sarah Horner: Oh my gosh. Yeah, we would love to have you. I mean we, we have 500 acres and we have restored these native oak savannas because we’re a sustainable winery where being good stewards of the earth is, is our primary goal, really, after making great wine.

Ute: Right. Yes, for sure.

Sarah Horner: So, yeah, come on out.

Ute: I, I will. So, and, and we basically answered this question already. I know that I’m known on this podcast for loving red wine . I talk about reds all the time. I sometimes forget to talk about the whites. What are your favorite whites outside, like, so you were talking about the Riesling, you know, is there like one or two where you go, “ah, yes, this is, this is what I am gravitating towards every time I drink a white wine.”?

Sarah Horner: So I live really near Brooks Winery and they have… they make so many Rieslings, I’ve lost count. But they make one called Ara… Aria? Ara? I should know this, cuz I drink a lot of it .

Ute: I’ll look it up and put it in the show notes. [ currently unavailable from Brooks website]

Sarah Horner: It’s delicious! It’s dry, it’s just so perfectly balanced. Everything you want in Riesling. It has that beautiful aromatics. That’s definitely in my cellar all the time. And then, like I said, Pinot Blanc all day long, Left Coast. That’s delicious. And you know, Erath Winery had made sparkling Pinot Blanc when my husband was still there, and that was an incredible treat.

Ute: Yeah, so I worked, in 2020, I worked for Avidity, which is just outside of Sherwood. It’s actually between Sherwood and Newberg. And Avidity buys most of their grapes, and they will actually have their first ever estate Pinot Noir this year. But they bought Albarino grapes and they made this gorgeous Albarino that is just so very drinkable. And I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I do, but I’m, I’m a big fan of their Albarino, and I’m not entirely sure where they’re getting the grapes for it. I know that they’re buying some of their grapes in Oregon, but they also buy some of their grapes in Washington.

Sarah Horner: Yeah, you know, I know that there are some folks in the Gorge making Albarino on their estates, so perhaps that’s where… I love Albarino as well. Just a lot of wines coming out of Spain are so affordable and such high quality.

Ute: Yeah, I agree. So obviously you must have done some traveling in wine regions. Did you travel outside of Oregon wine regions? And is there one, and I asked this question in every interview…

Sarah Horner: Yeah, I know.

Ute: Is there one that stands out to you that you would say, “I would go back there. Over and over. I could settle down there. I love it so much.”

Sarah Horner: Yeah, so , I definitely explored… in the United States. I have explored California wine regions and then in Washington, I love Walla Walla. That’s one of my favorite. I’ve been there many times. I usually about an annual, at least, visitor to Walla Walla, and I have gone, I have been to France and to Burgundy three times since 2014.

So fortunate to have been able to do that, and it feels like… It’s not the birthplace of Oregon wine, but it’s the inspiration perhaps, because those early pioneers came out and said, “Hey, this is the 45th parallel, just like Burgundy, the climate is similar. I bet we could grow great Pinot Noir here like they do there.”

And lo and behold, they were correct. I absolutely treasured the, the history of Burgundy and just seeing our industry that, I mean, we are babies just over 50 years. This is hundreds of years, multi-generations. And these catacombs under the city of Beaune where they’re these miles of cellars with these… it’s astonishing and it’s, it’s humbling.

Ute: Yeah, my husband and I were just in Beaune in October and it was so amazing, and we only had a couple of days because we had some other destinations that we wanted to get to as well, but I could have stayed there a week and just gone and ate all the food and check out all the wineries and the cellars. Oh my gosh.

I just was so blown away. It was one of my best vacations of all time.

Sarah Horner: Exactly. I feel the same way about Burgundy. And then I did actually get to visit Champagne the last time we went as well. That was new and absolutely as exciting. So, yeah.

Ute: Did you get a chance to see Veuve Clicquot?

Sarah Horner: I didn’t go to Veuve Clicquot, but we went to some small houses [inaudible] Nicolas Feuillatte, which is a big house out there, and they have a really interesting virtual reality experience where you put the gear on and you go into this world where champagne bottles come to life. It’s, it’s trippy but interesting!

Ute: Wow.

Sarah Horner: It was very unusual, very unique experience and, and thus very memorable. So…

Ute: Welcome to the 21st Century!

Sarah Horner: And in all places in, you know, Champagne in France. So…

Ute: Yeah!

Sarah Horner: That was surprising!

Ute: Where you’re thinking they’re all about their tradition and their name and everything and… Well, so, but you know what, this is actually something I, that I was talking to Jamie a couple of weeks ago when I did my interview with her and she’s been in the wine industry for 25 years.

And was talking about, you know, we were talking about the younger generation of wine drinkers and what can be done to pull them in into this industry and, and appreciate new wines, but also these names, these traditional wines, and having something like a VR experience, I’m sorry…that’s brilliant!

Sarah Horner: It’s genius because, you know, I think there’s such stereotype around wine being the stuffy, snobby thing for bougie rich people, or whatever, and to make it accessible and meet people where they are, I think is… if you unlock that, that’s the key to success.

Ute: Absolutely. I could not agree more. This is amazing. . I’m, I wanna go back. . .

Sarah Horner: I know, exactly!

Ute: Oh my gosh. So I really just have one last question left. This is also a question that I like to ask at the end of my interviews, and that is what advice and I feel like we already, basically said it during our interview, but what advice would you give a woman who wants to break into the wine industry?

Sarah Horner: I mean, just don’t let your preconceived notions hold you back for one. And actually they’re, you know, I, we talked about community and how important that is in our industry, and I think women in the industry have their own important community and comradery. And I think if you just reached out to women in the industry on all different sides, they will respond to you.

They will welcome you, and they will encourage you. I know that if any woman reached out to me, I would, and I, and they have, and they will take the time and lead you, you know, give you tips, give you advice, and, you know, welcome you with open arms.

Ute: For sure. Amazing. Thank you so much. I, I really do feel like a lot of the women that I talk to have pretty similar messages about, you know, don’t let your own doubts hold you back. And don’t feel like because you don’t have any experience yet, that doesn’t mean that you are not going to be a great fit for the wine industry.

Sarah Horner: Absolutely. I mean, if you look at all the people, all of us who do work in this industry, our backgrounds are so varied. And not a lot of us really started going to school for wine. We have liberal arts degrees, we have science degrees. We, we did all kinds of other things in our prior lives, and that’s really a cool thing about the industry.

Ute: Exactly. I, I couldn’t agree more. Okay, so you do work for Left Coast, and can you tell me a little bit about the estate, about how it started, who are they and where are they located? All of that good stuff.

Sarah Horner: You bet! Left Coast Estate was founded. This… 2023. This is our 20th anniversary year, so we’re very excited.

Ute: Oh, congratulations.

Sarah Horner: It’s, it’s a big achievement. And it was founded in 2003 by a couple who were captivated by Oregon and the Oregon wine industry, but they were very future minded, so they never, they immediately turned over the ownership to their children.

And in fact, their youngest son is the CEO and part owner and the kids’ children as well are all owners of the estate. So it’s very much about legacy. And as I think I mentioned earlier, sustainability and environmental stewardship is really important to us. And we have 500 acres and a hundred acres of that property are beautiful white Oregon Oaks that have been restored by us. Some of them are over 300 years old, and we consider them to be part of the terroir that makes the wine there so special. And we’re right there in the Van Duzer Corridor, which we finally got to be an AVA as of a few, about three years ago now.

So it’s a really special place. And you, you could drive right by and not realize when you go through the gates, what a special place we are in the Willamette Valley. And of course we make Pinot and Chardonnay, but we also make Syrah and Viognier and Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris and, and a beautiful sparkling wine. So it’s a beautiful winery and a lovely spot to go explore the Van Duzer Corridor.

It’s a great stop.

Ute: Right. So actually I just hopped onto the website here real quick. So I see Taylor as the CEO.

Sarah Horner: Yes.

Ute: And I’m assuming Bob is dad?

Sarah Horner: Yes.

Ute: Okay. And Bob is a chef and master gardener.

Sarah Horner: Yeah, that’s what he does in his retirement. And we have, we source a lot of the food. We actually have a little, a pizza cafe.

We have a woodfired pizza oven, and we, we fire those up every day. That was Bob’s brainchild and it’s a pretty fun spot and we, you can take your pizza and your, your wine out into the oak savanna and really take it all in. It’s pretty special.

Ute: That sounds absolutely amazing. And I think especially with Left Coast trying to be sustainable and going with nature rather than against it… how brilliant to be a master gardener because these master gardeners, they know everything.

Sarah Horner: Yes.

Ute: I have a couple of friends who are master gardeners and I can ask them anything and they will have an answer for me and so that’s really brilliant. I love that.

Sarah Horner: Yeah. It’s pretty special to be growing a lot of our own food and, and also he does flowers and just, Kelly is the daughter and she is a landscape architect. And so this family have all these amazing skills that are all brought to life at Left Coast.

Ute: Yeah. I also see that you have a National Sales Director, so that means you cannot only get this wine in Oregon.

Sarah Horner: That’s right. We do have national distribution. You can, you can also find us in Quebec. There’s a resort in in Mexico that carries our wine and we actually, this holiday season we’re in the UK cuz with our white Pinot noir, which is our flagship.

Ute: Oh my gosh. I love that. That’s so great. I absolutely am looking forward to coming out there and visiting and tasting the wines. That sounds just like what I need in my life, you know.

Sarah Horner: I think so. And then of course we probably should exchange photos of our grand children.

Ute: Yes. Let’s do that. I’m, I’m all up for that.

I love showing off my grandchildren. Oh my. Oh my gosh. It’s, I’ll hop on Facebook and go, “oh, so by the way, I got to spend some time with the babies again!”

Sarah Horner: Oh my goodness. So special.

Ute: Yeah, it is pretty special. I never thought that, you know, and I know that other people have said it before too, but I never thought that I could love any, any little people as much as I loved my own kids, and then grandkids came around and I’m going, “holy smokes!” I am just like they have my whole heart!

Sarah Horner: It’s so true. And actually I just read, there was a study they did about this phenomenon, as it were, and there’s proof around that there’s this special love for grandchildren. And I think part of it is, you know, when we raise our children, it’s hard at times and there’s adversarial moments and challenges, but with the grandchildren, we can just treasure all the best about little children, you know. So…

Ute: Exactly. Aw. I need to start a second podcast and you know, talk to all the grandmas of the world.

Sarah Horner: The cool, badass grandmas who do kickboxing and weightlifting and…

Ute: Exactly!

Sarah Horner: And drink wine! Of course!

Ute: Well, Sarah, thank you so very much for being here today and for bearing with me as I got my stuff figured out. It was such a pleasure to talk to you and I do hope to meet you in person very soon.

Sarah Horner: Thank you so much. It’s been such a privilege. I enjoyed talking to you and yes, we’ve gotta make a date.

Ute: Absolutely. Let’s do that.

Well, thank you listeners for tuning in once again. Of course, as always, hop into the show notes and we’ll have a link to Left Coast Wine and we’re gonna have all of our freebie downloads and the newsletter sign up and all of that good stuff.

And with all of that, all I have left to say, of course, is Prost!


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