Salem couple puts extra wine to use for Ukraine aid

Patrick Bush holds a bottle of his Highsaw Cellar 2020 Pinot Noir (Courtesy/Jennifer Bush)

After the 2020 wildfire season, Patrick and Jennifer Bush ended up with more wine than they could hope to drink.

Patrick was working at a local winery as part of his studies in Chemeketa Community College’s winemaking program. He had planned to make a wine for a school project, with the winery keeping most of the product. But when wildfire smoke hit the crop, the winery decided they weren’t going to make pinot noir that year.

“There’s grapes out in the field if you want to go pick them,” Patrick remembered being told.

He picked enough grapes with some friends to make a barrel of pinot noir – enough for about 300 bottles. 

Now, the Bushes want to share the wealth while supporting people in Ukraine.

Jennifer Bush came up with the idea to offer a bottle to anyone local who donates at least $20 to a charity of their choice aiding people in Ukraine.

She’s originally from Taiwan and said she sees parallels between the Russian invasion of Ukraine and China’s treatment of Taiwan, describing both as situations where a tiny democratic country is preyed on by a larger authoritarian neighbor.

“I’m a firm believer that if you extend help when somebody else needs help, when it’s time for you to ask for help, you will get it. But if you don’t do anything right now and just sit on your hands, chances are no one’s gonna come to your aid when you need it,” Jennifer said.

The couple has previously donated their own money to the cause and encouraged friends and family to do the same, but Jennifer said she wanted to do more.

Eventually, she realized the wine sitting in their garage could help. Despite the wildfire smoke, the couple said there’s no hint of smokiness in the finished product, which Patrick bottled in February.

A similar bottle would typically retail for $20-25, but Patrick had no interest in selling the wine, so Jennifer asked if she could give some away.

“We have this resource and we don’t know what to do with it,” Patrick said.

The pinot noir is bottled under the label Highsaw Cellars, which pays tribute to Patrick’s grandmother, Jane Highsaw.

Highsaw was an educator and history lover who became the first woman professor in the history department at Mt. Vernon College, Patrick said. During World War II, she served in the United Kingdom helping allied forces during D-Day, and was a chair of the League of Women Voters Chapter in Washington D.C.

“She was just really big into education and helping others, and this seemed like a fitting thing to really pair with that,” Patrick said.

The couple met online while both were living in the Washington D.C. area, and moved to Salem in 2018 in part so Patrick could pursue a career in winemaking. He graduated from the Chemeketa program in 2021 and now works as a cellar associate at a local winery.

Jennifer, who works at Willamette University, has the week of July 4 off and intends to spend that time coordinating pick-up of wine for donors around Salem.

Anyone interested in getting a bottle can email Jennifer a proof of donation to a charity serving Ukraine at [email protected]. She suggested donations to World Central Kitchen, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit that serves fresh meals to people displaced by natural disasters and war, including in Ukraine.

They’re intending to give away about 120 bottles of wine.

“If we get inundated with requests we might open up the floodgates a little further,” Patrick said.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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