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 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.

Ken & Karen Wright Proprietors & Winemaker

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Angela Rhoads Wine Princess

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Carrie Simonson Tasting Room & Winery Loft Manager

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Carson Wright General Sales Manager

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Darrin Harlow Mr. Fix- It

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Jack Schwab Tasting Room Associate

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Jeff Katz Assistant Winemaker

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Ivory McLaughlin Winery Ambassador

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J'Aime du Mauriee Tasting Room Associate

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Joylin Kent Wine Club & Events Director

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Julianne Kennedy Western U.S. & Int. Sales Manager

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Karly Sims Tasting Room Associate

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Katie Schwab Winery Chef

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Renée Knight Financial Connoisseur

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Ruthie Magnus Director of Hospitality

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Mark Gould Vineyard Manager

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Robert Dillon Central U.S. Sales Manager

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Seth Miller Vineyard Manager

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Taylor Varuska Vineyard Manager

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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.

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.

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!

Carson Wright General Sales Manager

As Ken’s youngest son I spent a childhood working in the vineyard and winery at KWC. As part of the original cellar and vineyard crews, which in many cases were my friends and I, I have many great memories. It was exciting to grow up seeing and participating as both the Oregon wine industry and my Dad’s career from Panther Creek to KWC grew into what it is today.

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.

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.

Jack Schwab Tasting Room Associate

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!

Jeff Katz Assistant Winemaker

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 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.

J'Aime du Mauriee Tasting Room Associate

J’Aime moved to Yamhill County in 2013, after a year of traveling through 32 of our beautiful states and volunteering on farms along the way. Sitting shotgun in the RV was Maddox, her soulful black lab mix she rescued during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
J’Aime has had a lifelong passion for agriculture and hospitality and found the Willamette Valley the perfect place to put down roots. She now splits her time between the Ken Wright Cellars Tasting Room and the Painted Lady restaurant in Newberg.

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 Kennedy Western U.S. & Int. Sales Manager

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 West Coast and International 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.

Karly Sims Tasting Room Associate

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.

Katie Schwab Winery Chef

Katie Schwab has been a friend of the Ken Wright Cellars family for two decades.
In 2017, she retired from a career as an investment banker, and her and her husband Jack, moved to Yamhill County. Katie has always had a passion for cooking and knew she wanted to spend more time in the kitchen. So, she joined Karen Wright in the winery kitchen as staff cook.
Outside of the winery, Katie loves to go mushroom hunting in the fall and gardening in the summer.

Renée Knight Financial Connoisseur

Renée happily landed at Ken Wright Cellars in June of 2019 when she was hired to come on board as our new Controller. Ken Wright’s reputation for producing some of the worlds best Pinot noir and Ken and Karen’s reputation for their generosity and care for their community were attributes that drew Renée to KWC. Renée loves the comradery and family feel of the company and would not trade it for the world!
Of Renée’s 25 years of accounting experience, more than half of those have been invested in the wine industry. Winery accounting provides a unique experience, and Renée will tell you that at Ken Wright Cellars there is never a dull moment! She loves working with great people in a great work environment where great wines are made, and at KWC she is privileged to experience all of these!
When Renée is not crunching numbers at KWC, you will most likely find her camping, boating or kayaking during the summer, and hitting the slopes and dreaming of being in Maui in the winter. Outside of work, her best times in life are spent with her husband and two grown sons, her two chows, and with great friends who bring love and warmth to her world.

Ruthie Magnus Director of Hospitality

Born in Pennsylvania but raised in Florida, Ruthie is an east coast transplant. Her first job was at the age of 13 serving ice cream at a popular shop near the intercoastal in the Sunshine State. She’s had many exciting service industry jobs since and found her way to the wine industry after graduating from the University of Central Florida. Many hours of contemplation, studying, and wine drinking prompted her to put down her couples counseling plans and pursue her dream to work with wine. One trip to Oregon that year prior was enough to seal the deal. She packed up her Jeep and her two cats and headed west with no idea how she was going to get her foot in the door.

Ruthie got her first job in the industry as a wedding and event coordinator for a local winery in 2011. She has worked in multiple tasting rooms since, became a venue manager, and also her real estate license. To Ruthie’s delight, Ken Wright welcomed her to the family in March of 2020 thanks to the suggestion of Julianne Kennedy.

On her days off, you can find Ruthie daydreaming out on the coast, hiking and gardening. She is also a member of the Aurora Historic Review Board and the North Marion County Library Association.

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.

Robert Dillon Central U.S. Sales Manager

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.