Our People

Resumes have rarely been a part of the Ken Wright Cellars hiring process. Ken and Karen hired people that they either knew or had met over a number of years, people who showed both high character and talent. Ken Wright Cellars now has 14 full time employees and 7 part-time employees. The vineyard and winery team works year-round from harvest to bottling to ensure we are delivering high quality single vineyard Pinot Noirs to our customers.

Ken & Karen Wright Proprietors & Winemaker

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Amanda Paradis Math Geek

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Angela Rhoads Wine Princess

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Asa Sarver National & International Sales Manager

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Carrie Simonson Tasting Room & Winery Loft Manager

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Darrin Harlow Mr. Fix- It

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Ivory McLaughlin Winery Ambassador

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Joylin Kent Wine Club & Events Director

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Julianne Nelson Oregon Wholesale Sales

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Mark Gould Vineyard Manager

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Ross Mattis East Coast Sales Manager

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Seth Miller Vineyard Manager

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Taylor Varuska Vineyard Manager

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Akihiro Ishida Tasting Room Associate

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Lauren Barnes Creative Director

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Ken & Karen Wright Proprietors & Winemaker

In 1986, Ken moved to McMinnville and started Panther Creek Cellars. His concept of focusing on vineyard-designate bottling began during those years and was cemented as a core philosophy in 1994 when Ken Wright Cellars was founded in historic downtown Carlton. Ken now makes a single vineyard bottling from 13 vineyard sites and is known as a pioneer of Oregon Pinot Noir. Before the move to Carlton, Ken met Karen in 1991 when she invited him to join her co-ed softball league. At the time, Karen had a design studio in McMinnville. She has been responsible for the revitalization of McMinnville’s downtown third street. One of Karen’s most well-known projects, which comes to no surprise, is the restoration of Carlton’s 1923 train depot, now home to the KWC tasting room. Inside the tasting room, you will find a collection Karen’s one of kind jewelry. When away from her jewelry bench, Karen is coaching on the soccer field with her and Ken’s two young girls Josie and Evy.

Ken and Karen continue to invest in their communities of Carlton and Yamhill through countless hours of non-profit volunteerism. The dynamic duo are also founding members of
¡Salud! A program that provides healthcare for the seasonal vineyard and winery workers. Their philanthropy & commitment to Oregon wine was recognized when there were announced as 2012’s Oregon Wine People of the Year.

Amanda Paradis Math Geek

Amanda believes she may be the only person who has ever experienced an actual formal interview process at KWC. One day while sitting in her house in New Hampshire in 2012, she happened upon a job posting for an accounting position at a winery in Oregon. That was enough for her to hop on a plane and move across the country just one week later. When anyone asks her how and why she did this, she just says, “it’s hard to explain but it was kismet!” Having lived in only large cities, she loves the small town vibe of Carlton and how warm and welcoming everyone is at Ken Wright Cellars.

Amanda has a BS in Finance from Bentley College and a Minor in Information Technology. One of her favorite college experiences was when she studied abroad in Rouen, France, her great grandmother’s hometown. After her studies, Amanda worked in accounting for a private flight sharing program and for a construction school before joining Ken Wright Cellars. Amanda, our resident math geek, loves reading, puzzles, games, painting and making charts and lists in her spare time. She says she can usually keep her nerd levels in check but loves analyzing everything with a good spreadsheet!- So she's in the right field!

Angela Rhoads Wine Princess

Originally from a small town in Ohio, she fell in love with Oregon and moved there in 1991. After saying, “I will never live in a small town again!”, she and her husband settled in the quaint little town of Carlton in 1996 and proceeded to have two children. Watching as Ken & Karen built their winery and revitalized the town, she became not only a fan of the wine but of Ken and Karen’s generous spirits. For 20 years Angela worked in the corporate world of advertising and marketing, tired of all the traveling she felt there had to be more to life. One day in passing she mentioned this to Ken, and he replied “I have a place for you.”  Attending all the Ken Wright Cellars’ events for years, Angela thought she knew a little about wine, so when she accepted this new path in 2008, she was unprepared to have her mind blown the first day. She finally understood why the extent of Ken’s viticulture and winemaking knowledge was considered legendary. Angela wears many hats in the company, her favorite is her Wine Princess crown. Using a Vinology Informational System, she follows the fruit from harvest to bottling and loves the memories that come from the different vintages. Always thankful for the winery family, she is glad she traded her high heels for flip flops all those years ago. When not at the winery, you will find her either at the beach or at one of her kids’ sporting events.  

Asa Sarver National & International Sales Manager

Asa has been with Ken Wright Cellars years for 11 years but Oregon has not always been his home. He is originally from the Rocky Mountain state of Colorado.  In Colorado, Asa managed restaurants while he studied Resort Restaurant Management at Colorado State University. Upon graduation, he was the restaurant manager at the Wildflower Restaurant in Vail from 1996-1999. He then moved on to be the manager of the Yellow Stone Club in Big Sky, Montana. When Asa wasn’t working, you could find him skiing in his big back yard on Pioneer Mountain. In 1999, while attending a wine dinner in Big Sky featuring winemakers from Oregon, Asa met Ken Wright. Shortly after meeting Ken and his wife Karen, and finding they shared a passion for winter sports; Asa invited them to join him on an exclusive part of the mountain for an early morning ski. Although it was nothing but fresh powder that morning, Asa was on a slippery slope in falling for Oregon Wine and the Ken Wright Cellars company. That same year he visited the Willamette Valley for the first time and attended Oregon Pinot Camp as Ken’s guest. The next year, he returned to Oregon for a whole week with a group from Montana to help KWC bring in the fruit for the 2000 harvest. By 2004, Ken and Karen had convinced Asa to move to Oregon and come on full time managing wine sales. He has been instrumental in making Ken’s wine available to customers across 44 states and 9 international markets.

Carrie Simonson Tasting Room & Winery Loft Manager

Carrie started working in the summer of 2006 for Ken Wright Cellars as a Tasting Room Associate. Carrie worked closely with Ken and his team to learn the unique winemaking and viticultural philosophies that create Ken Wright’s single vineyard Pinot Noirs. After 2 years of training and guiding tasting room visitors from around the world to experience Ken Wright Cellars wine, Carrie was promoted to Tasting Room Manager. Carrie has been influential in starting our very first wine club and 3 different renovations to our tasting room, including the recent addition of our brand new bar in 2017. Carrie also manages Ken and Karen’s Winery Loft accommodations, established in 2005, located in downtown Carlton between the winery and tasting room.
 
Carrie says, Ken and Karen’s inherent passion for their community inspired her to become more involved in community events on her own. She says it was a true joy and pleasure to see how this little community can come together through multiple non-profit organizations and give back in such a big way. Outside of the tasting room, Carrie enjoys volunteering for the Carlton Business Association, visiting other tasting rooms, and spending time in her garden and with her 5 adorable grandsons because there is never a dull moment with them!

Darrin Harlow Mr. Fix- It

After being self-employed and working in construction for about 30 years, Darrin decided to construct a slightly new career at Ken Wright Cellars. Ken and wife Karen had hired Darrin for many different jobs over the years. At one point, Darrin was working on so many different projects for the Wright’s the only thing separating him from being a full-time winery employee was a piece of paper… so they made it official in April of 2015. Darrin says he has really enjoyed being in a new industry and having a whole variety of new projects to work on. He said the Ken Wright Cellars team has been very welcoming and he already feels like part of the winery family. Outside of the winery’s projects, Darrin enjoys off road riding, hunting and fishing and spending time with family and friends.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Ivory McLaughlin Winery Ambassador

Ivory grew up a mere 1.5 miles away from Ken Wright Cellars in Carlton, Oregon. She got to know the Wright’s at the age of 14 and began working for them part time. Growing up on her families farm in the rural community of Carlton, Ivory witnessed firsthand the introduction and positive influence the wine community was having on her hometown.
 
Ivory's passion for agriculture was deeply rooted in her future career goals. Ivory attended Oregon State University where she received her Bachelor’s in Agricultural Sciences and Masters in Agricultural Education. During graduate school, Ivory began working at the tasting room. The tasting room is where Ivory discovered how much she enjoys the fact that when she shares a glass of Pinot Noir with a customer, it is like sharing a piece of her home.

Ken recruited Ivory to join the Ken Wright Cellars team full time in 2013 as the Ken Wright Cellars Winery Ambassador. As Winery Ambassador, Ivory focuses on direct to consumer sales, digital & social marketing, and primary fermentation during harvest. She received her WSET Level II Certification in March 2017. When away from the winery, Ivory enjoys being a volunteer FFA coach & working on her timber farm with her husband Aaron and dog Heidi.

Joylin Kent Wine Club & Events Director

 Joylin came to Oregon from Texas in May of 2012. Joylin was studying Restaurant and Hotel Institutional Management at Texas Tech University and wanted to focus on event planning. A long time friend mentioned to Joylin that she had an uncle in Oregon who makes wine and plans many events and that she should consider taking up an internship with him. When Joylin arrived in May of 2012 for her internship at Ken Wright Cellars she planned to stay for six weeks… and then six weeks turned into 3 months, 3 months turned into 6 months… and eventually six months turned in to a full-time job. Joylin is now the wineries Events Coordinator and Wine Club Manager. Joylin says that she loves working in the wine industry because she is always learning new things. Joylin recently recieved her WSET Level II certification. When not in the cellar Joylin loves to run and train for marathons. She also says that coming from Texas, she had no family here but Ken Wright Cellars feels like her new Oregon family (minus the accents.)
 
 
 
 
 

Julianne Nelson Oregon Wholesale Sales

Originally hailing from Minnesota, Julianne’s career in hospitality began at 15 in a small bistro in Wayzata. After attending college at Azusa Pacific University, she traveled to New York City to pursue a career in theatre but found she was destined for a life of studying and serving wine instead of the stage.

Beginning her wine education in 2005 with the late Chris Goodheart at Keith McNally’s Pastis and Balthazar, Marc Murphy’s Landmarc and Harold Moore’s Commerce, Julianne ventured to Oregon in 2009 to work harvest with Ken Wright Cellars. She fell head over heels with Oregon’s geological history, purity of fruit, specificity of place and the collaborative/cooperative wine community and never looked back.

Julianne is now the Oregon Sales Manager for the winery and works in fermentation during harvest. She received her Level II Court of Masters Sommelier Certification in 2012 and will be taking the WSET Level 3 Advanced Exam Spring 2017. When not being a road warrior - pouring & delivering wine, Julianne enjoys singing Jazz and musical theater around Portland and loves to hike and fish.

Mark Gould Vineyard Manager

 Mark met Ken for the first time in March of 1992 at the first Salud event while he was the Executive Chef at Atwaters in Portland, they became friends that year. Fast forward to 1997, Mark left the restaurant he was working at on New Year's Eve. His plan for 1998 was to have a sabbatical year working with friends at their business's while he developed his own restaurant concept. Mark had planned to work for Ken over harvest that year but Ken called Mark in January and asked if he would come to help out for 2 days. Those 2 days turned into 2 weeks and now 20 years. Mark says he won the lottery. Mark has had the opportunity to develop 7 vineyards from the ground up and redevelop another 3. He feels that each project is a legacy for him. He says, being connected to the land and the season, to the relationships with people that own the land and his coworkers and to the product that we make together makes his job very special. When Mark isn’t in the vineyards with his sidekick Scout, he loves snowboarding, riding and competing with his cutting horse ‘Lil’ and working with his wife Alice on their farm property.

Ross Mattis East Coast Sales Manager

Ross Mattis is our East Coast Sales Manager and first employee to live outside the state of Oregon. However, his history with Ken Wright Cellars goes back to the 1999 harvest when he was a student (and roommate to Vineyard Manager Seth Miller) at Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR. “Going to college in the Willamette Valley and helping with the 1999 harvest at KWC is what started my love for wine." After graduating from Pacific, Ross moved back to the east coast where he worked for Browne Trading Co. in Portland, Maine (fish cutter & wine shop rookie) and Al Forno Restaurant in Providence (garde manger, aka salad boy). He then followed his bride-to-be to Richmond, VA where he worked as a retail wine buyer. In 2007, Ross made his dream a reality when he and his childhood best friend opened Barrel Thief Wine Shop & Café in Richmond. Now under the direction of Sommelier Booth Hardy, it was recently awarded an “Elby” for Richmond’s best wine selection! In 2013, Ross took his first job outside of the retail wine and restaurant industry, covering multiple states for Rosenthal Wine Merchant. In September 2016 Ross returned to work harvest at KWC and the idea of representing the winery on the east coast began to take shape. Ross now resides with his wife Lauren, son Jasper, daughter Olive and dog Mosel in his hometown of Providence, RI. He fills his free time cooking for his vegetarian family, hosting a local school fundraiser & an occasional round of golf. “It is a privilege to work at Ken Wright Cellars after getting my start in the wine business on that sorting line in ’99. It feels like coming home.”

Seth Miller Vineyard Manager

Seth began working at Ken Wright Cellars part time between 1994 and 1997 while going to school. Upon graduating Pacific University where he recieved a degree in Business, Seth knew his future career was meant to be spent in nature. Taking a full time position at KWC in 2001 allowed him to do that. When Ken purchased Canary Hill Vineyard from Dick and Nancy Daniel in 2006, the Daniels wanted someone who would be a good steward of the land...Ken knew Seth was up for the task! Seth now lives at Canary Hill with his wife Kay, daughter Elliot and German Pointer Belle. He manages Canary Hill and Carter vineyard, two estate Pinot Noir vineyards that continue to produce fruit focused and ageable wines under Seth’s thoughtful management. Seth has been instrumental in carrying out multiple vineyard trials and projects including a 10-year crop thinning trial at Carter Vineyard with Oregon State University and a Prairie Restoration Project that converted 1.5 acres of unused land at Carter back to native plant species. Most recently, Seth has worked to recreate native habitat at Carter for the Fender’s Blue butterfly. Seth says he loves working with the talented group at Ken Wright Cellars and how we are able to come together at harvest to bring in the fruit, setting aside our primary roles. He is also grateful for the commitment of Ken in participating in many research groups for the betterment of both the company and the Oregon wine industry. If you can’t find Seth in the vines, he may be pouring in the tasting room, but most likely he is fishing on the river or snowboarding down the mountain.

Taylor Varuska Vineyard Manager

Taylor began his career with Ken Wright Cellars as a young high schooler, when he began mowing lawns for Ken and Karen in 2003. Ken, who was anxious to get local young people involved in the new and growing wine industry asked Taylor if he would be interested in working full time at the winery during his summer break. Taylor agreed and upgraded from lawn mower to driving tractor in the vineyards for the summers of 2004 and 2005. Taylor continue to work part-time while going to school and eventually completed his high school senior project based upon his experiences at Ken Wright Cellars. While Taylor enjoyed his work in the cellar, his true passion resided in the vineyards where he spent most of his summers. After graduating high school in 2006, Taylor went on to Chemeketa Communtiy College and studied Vineyard Management. Ken and Karen welcomed him to the team as a full-time vineyard manager after he graduated in 2008. Taylor focuses on maintaining the health of Ken Wright’s Yamhill-Carlton & Ribbon Ridge AVA vineyards; Savoya, McCrone, Tanager and Bryce vineyard. He says his favorite part about his job is not having to do the same task every day. There is a lot of variety to his job and he get’s to wear multiple hats. When away from work, Taylor enjoys bonsai, gardening, rockhounding and wood working.

Akihiro Ishida Tasting Room Associate

Akihiro, is visiting us from Japan and interning for Ken Wright Cellars while studying English at Chemeketa Community college. Akihiro decided to come to Japan when his wife Misuzu wanted to move to Oregon in 2013 to learn about the wine industry and to intern for Ken Wright Cellars… he thought it would be best if he came with her if he wanted to maintain a happy marriage. Before their move, Aki was working in a wine restaurant in Tokyo and had previously worked in a wine shop, so he was excited to learn more about Oregon wine. He says that he enjoys working closely with Ken and listening to all his stories and experiences. You can usually find Aki working in our tasting room on the weekends but in his spare time he enjoys running, cooking, and of course collecting wine. 

Lauren Barnes Creative Director

I absolutely love the wine-industry, and by that I don't just mean the liquid benefits! The Willamette Valley is breathtaking, filled with good food and wine, but it's the like-minded people who gravitate to this industry that make me know that I'm where I should be. I guess Ken is right, source is everything! I met Ken & Karen at my sister's wedding years ago and stayed in touch. After 4 years as the marketing director for another winery, I was ready for a change. Ken never looked at my resumé, just explained he selects people who fit the company's culture. I have felt at home since day #1!

Before entering the wine industry, I was an art director and then an account manager for big advertising and marketing agencies in San Francisco for 18 years. After moving to Oregon, I spent the next decade applying my skills to opening a retail store specializing in stationery & custom designed invitations. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but when ready for a change, the transition into the world of wine seemed natural and I haven't looked back. When not at work, I'm a pleasure athlete, loving to golf, ski and travel whenever possible. Argentina is next up on the bucket list and with a recently renewed passport, I'm ready!