About Sandee Piluso
Owner and Winemaker at Piluso Vineyard
"They said there was no future in winemaking for women. They wanted me to do art or music."
Sandee Piluso's grandmother always told her she had a green thumb. Piluso's knack for growing things seems to be so potent, she even grew her city-boy husband, Pinky, into a farmer.
"He has a restaurant and building background, not an agricultural one," Piluso says. "But now he likes to drive the tractor. He does the mowing, spraying and maintaining the grounds."
Sandee Piluso grew up in the San Joaquin and raised cows with her family. But one late night, while sleeping over at a friend's vineyard home, she played a magical game of hide and seek among the vines.
"It was an enchanted summer evening," she recalls. "Since then, I've always had a fascination with vineyards."
A high school career fair gave her another nudge in the viticulture direction. Her parents were not pleased.
"They said there was no future in winemaking for women. They wanted me to do art or music," she says.
After a winding road that included time spent in a number of divergent industries, she and her husband decided to give the country life a try. They bought a 2-acre farm near Beaverton.
In 1998, the pair purchased a 67 acre farm near Shaw and developed 4 acres of it into a vineyard. Piluso enrolled in viticulture classes through Chemeketa Community College. She used her own acreage as her classroom.
"Everything was learned on-site," she says.
The family planted the vineyard in 2000 using scions (shoots) that Sandy Piluso had gathered from around the state. The label's first vintage was a pinot noir in 2003.
Piluso Vineyards' single varietal wines have earned many medals thanks to Sandee Piluso's palate and perceptive winemaking skills. She chalks her success up to being patient and eager to learn.
Piluso doesn't anticipate going a different direction in life, but she predicts she will always strive to do well at whatever she does. She admits she's thought of writing a book about her adventures in a variety of fields before she became a winemaker, including wigmaking, bartending and teaching fitness classes. She even did a stint as a dynamiter and was known for her high degree of accuracy with explosives.
Of course, she's also a master gardener. Who would expect anything else from someone with a potent green thumb?
Five Women in Mid-Valley's Wine Industry
By Marion Barnes | Photos by Timothy J. Gonzalez