written by Carrie Wynkoop, co-owner Cellar 503

There’s a proper way to become a winemaker—apprentice in France or Italy, get a graduate degree in oenology and find a millionaire investor to serve as your patron. If you’re Corey Schuster, you answer an ad on Craigslist for a winery assistant to work on the harvest crew and pour wine in the tasting room.

It’s not as though Schuster had nothing better to do. After all, he was making a good living as a civil engineer. Looking for a career change, he promised himself that he’d try any job for one day. When he answered that Craigslist ad, the winery manager asked him what he knew about wine. Schuster’s answer: “Not much. But I like drinking it!” His honesty won him the job that day. His hard work ensured he kept it.

After working at several well-known wineries in the Willamette Valley, Schuster found his way to the Southeast Wine Collective. The Collective is an urban winery and tasting room in Portland with shared equipment used by multiple winemakers. 

Mentored by the Collective’s Kate and Tom Monroe, Schuster’s first vintage was created in 2012. He’s certainly not playing it safe, experimenting with unique and interesting grapes not often found in the Willamette Valley. For example, more than half of his production last year featured Cabernet Franc, a distinctive wine that he celebrates by bringing out its spicy and herbal qualities rather than just fruit.

The winemaker from Craigslist has found his place. “The wine industry is about community, and a love of the work, something I’d not experienced before,” Schuster said.