Wine and Community: Susan Sokol Blosser

Wine and helping others are the two things that come to mind when I think of Olivia Pope from Scandal. They are also the same two things that come to mind when I think of Susan Sokol Blosser. Having worked in the wine industry for over 40 years, Susan could probably give Olivia some pointers on what wines to try.

After handing over the Sokol Blosser Winery to her children in 2008, Susan Sokol Blosser knew she had the time and resources to help her community. I got the chance to sit down with Susan to discuss her nonprofit, the Yamhill Enrichment Society, and I of course had to ask her about her favorite TV shows!

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What is the goal of the Yamhill Enrichment Society?

The goal of YES, which is the acronym, is to build the community through innovative projects that are collaborative. Our mission is to really enrich the soul of Yamhill County.

 

What are some of the projects you are currently working on?

Under arts and education we have the Books for Babies program and Imagination Library, which really emphasizes literacy for ages 0-5. The other aspect of arts and education is the music enrichment for public school children. We bring professional artists to do a concert for the community at night and perform for all McMinnville third graders during the day.

For food and agriculture we have Nourish Yamhill Valley, which is part of our mission to build a strong local food economy. We also have Bounty of Yamhill County, which brings together the chefs and pairs them with local farmers and we serve some of the famous wines. It’s a big fundraiser, but it’s also about making Yamhill County a culinary destination known all over.

Under history and community we have a tour of historic homes and old photographs which gives people a sense of their community.

 

What inspired YES?

The inspiration for YES came after I ran for state legislature in 2010 and didn’t win. I was so impressed with the people that I met who were so engaged in the community. There was so much momentum from my campaign I wondered what could I do locally instead of at the state level that would be useful. I decided on a nonprofit that could raise money and would be devoted to Yamhill County. I had some funds left over from my campaign and you’re very limited in what you’re allowed to do with campaign funds. One of the things you can do is donate them to a nonprofit. So that’s what I did, I donated to my nonprofit. I assembled a board of directors and we zeroed in on the projects that we all agreed we would be interested in working on.

 

What are the differences and similarities between running a YES and running the Sokol Blosser Winery?

There are a lot of differences and similarities. The similarities are that running the winery was running a business and it has to be profitable to stay in business. That’s true in a nonprofit too. Not that it has to be profitable, but that it has to have enough cash flow coming in to be able to accomplish the goals. There is a lot of competition for people’s philanthropic dollars in the nonprofit community and I found nonprofits are just as competitive and territorial as businesses are. You always have to be thinking about what is going to appeal to the public and what’s going to resonate with them so they will be loyal to you.

The differences are that in running the winery, one is really climbing the career ladder for success. In running a nonprofit you’re not climbing that same ladder. You’re nurturing it and that’s where it’s giving back. If you’re running a business it’s accumulating and if you’re running a nonprofit, it’s giving away.

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How can people get involved with YES?

If people are interested in specific projects that we are doing then they would email the yamhillenrichmentsociety@gmail.com and we would direct them to the right person because there is a board member in charge of each project. We are growing by word of mouth. It’s not something we advertise in the paper partly because that’s impersonal. It’s a person to person kind of opportunity.

 

Why is it important to be a part of your community and give back?

That’s an interesting question. The idea of giving back doesn’t resonate with me, but the idea of making my community more livable resonates with me. That’s what motivates me.

 

What is your favorite TV show?

I have to say I love Downton Abbey. That’s been great fun. On a regular basis, I watch the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. I think Steven Colbert is brilliant, just brilliant.

 

 

 

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Starting Your Morning Off Right: Brunch

Brunch is a favorite meal on shows like How I Met Your Mother, so now you can find a favorite place to start your Sunday morning!

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The smell of bacon and french toast fills the air in and around the Wildwood Cafe just off Third Street in McMinnville, Ore. Not a single chair is empty as more eager foodies wait for a table in the warm Sunday morning sun.

This eclectic eatery is a favorite among McMinnville locals, college students and visitors. Not an inch of space is spared on the walls. Cooking utensils hang from the ceiling. The small space is warm and welcoming and the food keeps people coming back for more.

“The food is great and consistent,” says McMinnville local Susanne Sayles.

Wildwood Cafe is the place to be on any given Sunday morning. People constantly run into each other as they wait for their table.

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“There is always a familiar face,” says Sayles “It’s a small community.”

The lunch and breakfast spot isn’t only for those living in McMinnville; visitors love it too. Robyn Aoyagi of Portland comes with her family any time they are in the area for wine tasting. The family loves the restaurant so much that they spent their first Mother’s Day there.

“We like the food and the decor, it’s fun.” Aoyagi says.

A trip to the Wildwood Cafe would not be complete without ordering the Wildwood Toast. The cafe’s twist on classic french toast is made on homemade bread covered in oats has a crunch on the outside with a soft middle. The toast is so thick that a to-go box is almost a necessity after eating the first slice.

This McMinnville staple continues to draw customers back for more.

“We come every couple of weeks,” Sayles explains, adding that she grew up coming to the restaurant.

The Wildwood Cafe has good food in a quirky environment for regulars and those visiting from out of town.

Wildwood Cafe is located at 319 N. Baker St. and can be reached at (503) 435-1454. They are open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.