March 5th, 2021

Rooted in McMinnville: Monica Macias of Yamhill Valley Vineyards

Tasting room associate, Monica Macias of Yamhill Valley Vineyards stands in front of a counter with wine bottles displayed on it. She holds a bottle of wine.

Monica Macias sits at a desk on the far side of the Yamhill Valley Vineyards tasting room. A large window behind her frames a vineyard. Those are pinot noir grapes, she says. The vines are bare in February and it takes little imagination to visualize broad green leaves spreading like a blanket across this view.

“They are sleeping,” Monica says of the vines this day.

She should know. She’s worked at Yamhill Valley Vineyards south of McMinnville for 23 years. Her first job was in the vineyards working with her husband, vineyard field manager Carlos Romero. She worked there for nearly seven years. In the process, she learned how to prune, how to grow the grapes, grafting, everything.

The knowledge curve led her to the cellar where she discovered how a successful harvest translated in young wine in barrels. Eventually, three years ago, she moved into the tasting room.

It’s been a happy journey for Monica, who moved to Oregon 30 years ago from San Francisco with her husband, not knowing English. How did she learn her second language? “Watching movies,” she says with a smile.

With that big picture window behind her, Monica took some time to answer a few questions:

Q: You’ve grown with the wine industry, working from the ground up. You’ve pruned the vines and harvested the grapes. You’ve worked with the wine barrels. Now you’re serving it to customers. That must be rewarding.

Monica: I feel like this is my second home. I’m so proud to be in this place and so grateful. I know about the grapes and about the wine. Now the customers have so many questions that I can answer.

Q: How important is it to have a Spanish-speaking employee in the tasting room?

Monica: Last year we had some people from Colombia. They come inside (the tasting room), and they know the basic English to say hi, of course. But then I start speaking to them in Spanish. They are so surprised. “She speaks Spanish.” I see their faces. They are having so much fun because they can understand completely what I am saying, and I notice if they feel something from the beginning to the end. They enjoy it more and I was so proud.

Q: Can you estimate what percentage of your guests speak Spanish as their first language?

Monica: I don’t know. Maybe 10 percent or 15 percent are Latino coming in. I especially enjoy the club members because they speak both languages, of course, but there’s a lot of people as well that they are learning Spanish and they come in. They start speaking in Spanish – en español – because they want to learn as well, so it’s fine.

Q: We see a vineyard out the window so please excuse my phrasing but let me ask this. What keeps you rooted in McMinnville?

Monica: Maybe I can talk also for my husband. I feel the soil of Yamhill County is like my blood, that I’m below the ground of this place. I feel so good here. It is amazing being in this place. It’s just like the vines. This is what I feel.  The vines have my own blood running when they grow. That’s what I feel, and my husband as well.

Dan Shryock

Dan Shryock regularly writes about McMinnville and Yamhill County.