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 17 full time employees and 4 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.
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.
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.
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!
In 2002, I headed to school and took a long break from the winery. While going to school I spent my working hours in restaurants instead. Some serving, a lot of dish washing, but mostly cooking, which is still one of my passions. After graduating from Portland State with degrees in Business Administration and Human Resources I knew quickly that my personality and skill set fit well with a career in sales. Fast forward to an 11-year career in wine industry supply sales, where I built territories and launched new market leading divisions for global manufacturers.
I am excited that all of my experience has culminated in a return to the winery.
Family, Food, Wine and Travel are at the top of my list when it comes to free time. But I also enjoy spending time focusing on health through hiking, biking, tennis, running or any other type of physical activity. Staying healthy and focused are priorities for me.
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.
Jack practiced law for fourteen years, then changed direction and became a non-profit fundraiser and administrator for organizations such as Holt International Children’s Services and University of Portland. Jack retired in 2017 after six years as Executive Director of the Good Neighbor Center, a homeless shelter for families. In 2000, he started volunteering at Ken Wright Cellars on the sorting line and as a wine server for special events. After retirement, Jack and his wife Katie moved to McMinnville, Oregon. He started working part time in the Ken Wright Cellars Tasting Room, where he loves to share his passion for Pinot and tell stories to amuse, educate and entertain. Many of them are true!
September 5th, 2019—I approached Ken about working harvest with him and the team. Ken agreed after a working interview…which I deemed successful since I was offered a full-time position. I’m forever greatful to now be his assistant winemaker.
I graduated with a BS in Bioagriculture from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA. After graduation I moved to Aspen, CO where I worked as Chef at the Aspen Skiing Co. and catered to many of Aspen’s elite clientele including Robert DeNiro, Will Smith, Malcom Forbes Jr., Paula Zahn, Don Johnson & Melanie Griffin. After Colorado, I opened a resort in Belize and then worked for the Hyatt.
My love of wine is a culmination of all these experiences in the food & beverage industry. I fell in love with Oregon Pinot in 2007 and then again in 2009 at Oregon Pinot Camp, where I decided to move to Oregon. Learning under Robert Brittan, Eric Hamacher, Anthony King and now the tutelage of Ken will only further enhance my winemaking ability.
Outside of wine, I love the outdoors, dogs and working on my property with my wife Coral, and daughter, Phoebe.
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 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.)
If you have been following KWC closely over the past few years, you may have noticed a new obsession with soccer. Karen Wright, our soccer general, coaches hundreds of kids every year through her soccer club. Karly and her husband Wade, both transplants from Idaho, have three young girls who caught the soccer fever. One day after a soccer volunteer meeting, Karen asked Karly if she would be interested in some part time work at the winery. Karly began working for Ken Wright Cellars in 2013 helping maintain the company’s Winery Loft accommodations in downtown Carlton. In 2015, Karly started working in the tasting room pouring wine on the weekends. Karly, who graduated from Idaho State University in 1998 with a Bachelors Degree in Dental Hygiene still carries a passion for science. Karly says that she loves that her new wine job as it continues to fuel her love for learning. From the science to the people, one can stay busy learning for a long time. She has also found people much prefer wine tasting to dental work! When out from behind the tasting bar, Karly says her life mostly revolves around her kids but enjoys her new hobby of playing the guitar and her daily early morning dog walking in Carlton.
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.
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 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.
I began working part time for Ken wright Cellars when I was very young. Like many others in the KWC winery family, I have had the opportunity to grow up in the industry with the Wrights. Over time, I have expanded my knowledge and taken on new roles within the company. I now split my time between assisting in the cellar and pouring in the tasting room.
Prior to my new position, I completed my Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from George Fox University. Upon graduating in 2019, I worked at Pacific Seafood focusing on automation in their processing facilities and implementing lean manufacturing.
Outside of the winery, I enjoy spending time with family… particularly my four legged brother and sister, Chizzy and Zahara. Chizzy and Zahara are purebred Vizsla. The best part of staying home more in 2020 was spending more time with them. It has also given me more time to work on other home projects including getting our family’s ’69 Volkswagon Bug running!
What I love about the wine industry is the Ken Wright family. I feel at home when I go to work. It is exciting in the tasting room to talk about the wonderful people in our company, as well as share my experiences I have had with them. In addition, Ken and Karen are amazing people. I have learned a lot through this experience, and it is not all easy. There is a lot of blood and sweat in producing wine in the Willamette Valley but being able to do it with people that will always have your back is an honor in its own.