Home Community and Culture Meet Oregon's First Korean American Winemaker

Meet Oregon’s First Korean American Winemaker

Cho Wines
Source: Cho Wines

Dave and Lois Cho are partners in love, life, and wine, launching their own wine label during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cho Wines is the culmination of many years of hard work and an inspiration to follow your passion.

The Chos wine journey began when the couple moved sight unseen to Corvallis in 2014 with a 10-month-old in tow so Dave could study enology and viticulture at Oregon State University and gain experience working in the wine industry, including with some of the Willamette Valley’s most renowned wineries like Argyle Winery and Stoller Family Estate.

When the pandemic struck, the couple was at a crossroads. Dave was debating whether he should get a full-time winemaking job in California or whether to jump headfirst into creating their own label. 

Lois Cho
Source: Cho Wines

“From the start of our marriage 14 years ago, Dave has always been the visionary risk-taker and I have been the planner,” Lois says. The couple, who have three little children between the ages of three and seven, established Cho Wines in April 2020. Dave is the winemaker while Lois takes the reins as director of operations, managing everything from vendor relations to marketing.

“There are still only a small number of Korean American winemakers in the world,” Lois says. “We were excited to have that representation in Oregon. We grappled with the idea of having our own last name on a wine bottle and whether it would be embraced. The last year has been an awakening that those limitations were set by our own perceptions of what we felt would be acceptable. The response to Cho Wines has been overwhelmingly supportive.”

Dave Cho
Source: Cho Wines

Oregon is best known for pinot noir, and true to form, all six wines in Cho Wines inaugural lineup features exclusively pinot noir grapes sourced from Laurel Vineyard in the Laurelwood District AVA. However, only one of these is a traditional still red wine. Instead, the Chos are exploring the possibilities of pinot noir through sparkling wine, rosé, and even a trendy Piquette, a low-proof, lightly sparkling wine made from the pomace after the grapes are first pressed.

Some of the couple’s favorite pairings include their 2015 Blanc de Noirs with sushi at Dave’s mom’s sushi restaurant, pinot noir with bulgogi, Piquette with pizza, and pinot noir rosé or the pinot noir blanc with pad ka prao.

The Chos now live in Southern California and Dave stays in Oregon for harvest and travels almost every month to be involved in the progression of the wine from start to finish.

Source: Cho Wines

“One of the main reasons we moved back down to Southern California was due to my struggles with seasonal depression,” Lois says. She continues: “Being a nurse practitioner, I was well aware of the preventative measures and treatments. At one point early last year, we had made the difficult decision to move down and Dave was 100% on board in supporting my mental health. We found that prioritizing mental and physical health actually helped give us the boost to launch our label. There are many who struggle with mental health but often don’t bring it to light because of stigmas. I hope that by sharing my personal experiences on a larger platform and normalizing mental health struggles, others will take similar steps towards wellness.”

Right now, Cho Wines is only producing 500 cases and will be available at Red Hills Market in Dundee and McMinnville, Corvallis Brewing Supply, and The Wine Cellar, and Républica in Portland.

Amber Gibson
Amber Gibsonhttp://ambergibson.com
Amber Gibson is a freelance journalist specializing in travel, food, wine and beauty. Her work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Departures, Robb Report, Architectural Digest and Fodor's.
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