Domaine Serene has been a staple in Oregon’s wine scene for 30 years now, with numerous awards to its name for pinot noir and chardonnay. The winery enjoys longstanding popularity in the local market, especially with urban tasting rooms in Lake Oswego and downtown Portland. However, the winery and vineyard recently came under fire on Twitter and in the restaurant’s Instagram comments after the American Association of Wine Economists tweeted an infographic depicting the wine industry’s donations to presidential campaigns — Grace Evenstad, who owns Domaine Serene along with her husband Ken, donated $50,000 to the Great America PAC, which supported Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016. According to the American Association of Wine Economists, it was one of the largest donations from the wine industry.
The Federal Election Commission also shows that Evenstad donated thousands to the National Republican Congressional Committee, former republican senator Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, the campaign of Florida republican congressional hopeful William Figlesthaler (also known as Dr. Fig), and the House Freedom Fund, a republican leadership PAC.
The U.S. wine industry overwhelmingly supports President Trump (see yesterday's post). The largest contributor by far is Wine Spectator's Marvin Shanken, followed by Jordan, Westerly, and Domaine Serene. Search all contribution data for all candidates at https://t.co/XPdtyjKByx pic.twitter.com/OXtefNdZ4q— AAWE (@wineecon) June 5, 2020
A few days after the AAWE posted its list of Trump donors, Domaine Serene took to its Instagram and Facebook pages, not to make a statement about the donation, but to promise a “comprehensive plan” to be anti-racist and support BIPOC communities. “We have been listening and considering how we as a winery, and as a community committed to inclusion, can rise to this moment to meet the needs of BIPOC, fight systemic injustice and implement improvements at Domaine Serene to bring even more diversity and opportunity to both our community and the wine industry at large,” the posts read.
The posts came during the midst of global protests against police brutality, white supremacy, and racism; President Donald Trump has played an active role in the perpetuation of that racism throughout his life, from refusing to rent to black tenants as a real estate mogul to retweeting known neo-Nazis and white supremacists during his presidential campaign.
The dissonance between claiming to fight systemic injustice while also donating thousands of dollars to someone who has reinforced that same injustice has not been lost on the winery’s customers: dozens of commenters posted complaints on Instagram about the donations and accusations of the words ringing hollow. “This is the utter definition of performative allyship,” one user wrote.
“Our company has long been committed to the values of inclusion and equity, which have been a core part of our practices since our founding more than 30 years ago. That’s why we have been speaking out in recent days to remind our customers and employees about our dedication to being a conscientious, active participant in the communities where we work,” a statement from a Domaine Serene spokesperson reads. “Like so many other organizations, we are taking the present moment as an opportunity to enhance existing efforts, including by updating the sensitivity and diversity training our staff receives.” The statement says the company has created an “internal committee of senior executives” to guide that program, also saying the company will make a financial contribution to “higher education designed to increase diversity within our industry” — the spokesperson chose to not name the institution the company pledges to fund.
“My company and the many businesses, large and small, in our industry are directly affected by a wide array of public policies, and I feel a strong obligation to take part in the process that shapes them,” Evenstad said in a personal statement. “I have always tried to support candidates that advance policies that will best enable our business and our employees to flourish. But the various contributions I have made to political campaigns have always been done on my own initiative, and with my own resources, not the company’s.”
Nonetheless, Twitter users have shared their outrage regarding Evenstad’s donations. “Where we spend our $$ matters, and these wine businesses are on the racist, sexist, facist [sic] WRONG side of history,” writes Marlynn Schotland, a food and beverage writer. “Domaine Serene’s wine was also served by Trump at a state dinner with the President of France,” writes user @hmcnuttyy. “Wonder if a hefty donation would influence this choice?”
Domaine Serene is a place I’ve avoided when tasting simply because it looks so grossly opulent. Glad to know there’s another reason.— Monkey Watson (@monkwatson) June 6, 2020
• American Association of Wine Economists [Twitter]
• Federal Election Commission [Official]
• Domaine Serene [Instagram]
• Donald Trump’s long history of racism, from the 1970s to 2019 [Vox]
• State Dinner for France will feature two Oregon wines [Oregonian]
• Is Donald Trump a Racist? [NYT]
Alex Frane contributed to reporting on this story.