About Angel Vine
The route that leads to the wine business can be as twisting and gnarled as the vines themselves, but as Angel Vine’s Ed Fus and Laureen O’Brien have found, the rewards of following a passion for fine wine are well worth toasting.
Led by his “first angel,” his wife Laureen, winemaker Ed Fus came to Oregon in 1997 to pursue the couple’s shared love of Northwest wines. By 2000, they had found the land where they would grow their grapes: an old cherry orchard overgrown with Himalayan blackberries, which the couple removed and replanted to Pinot Noir to establish Three Angels Vineyard. Named for Ed’s three angels, Laureen and their two daughters, Alex and Morgan, the 5-acre vineyard is located in the windswept Eola-Amity Hills, a region known for producing wines that communicate a strong sense of place.
That sense of place influences Ed’s philosophy as a winemaker, especially since he began crafting red Zinfandel—a grape uncommon outside of California—with fruit sourced from the sunbaked slopes of Eastern Washington, where harsh conditions yield Zins with the intense character Angel Vine is known for.
Since Angel Vine’s inaugural vintage in 2007, Ed and Laureen had made Angel Vine wines as custom crush clients at Domain Coteau (2007–2009) and Carlton Cellars (2010–2014), two wineries in Carlton, Ore. Without a winery of their own to call home, the couple spent hours commuting between Three Angels Vineyard, their source vineyards in Eastern Washington, their host winery in Carlton and their house in Portland.
But by 2014, Ed and Laureen were ready to find (and found) a place to make Angel Vine wine their way—a winery whose urban-industrial setting would give them space to work alongside other craft winemakers and share the “fruits” of their labor in a dedicated tasting room and lounge. After many months and nearly one too many dashed hopes, Laureen finally found the ideal location to house their small winery business in vibrant Southeast Portland. The couple took a leap of faith and founded Urban Crush, Portland’s premier winery and tasting facility, as the new home of Angel Vine and a selection of artisan winemakers.
Winemaker Ed Fus
As a kid growing up in a Philadelphia suburb, Ed and his family always grew a vegetable garden. “I was the kid with the green thumb,” Ed explains. So it was a natural choice to study horticulture at Penn State, where Ed worked at a university greenhouse that “was like a Noah’s Ark for plants.” Ed’s green thumb eventually led him to a career as an environmental engineer, where he developed the fermentation know-how and commitment to sustainability that would inform his work as a winemaker.
Ed’s interest in wine was planted by his father, who loved to share sparkling wines made by “some forgotten producer” in his hometown near the Finger Lakes. Even so, Ed’s wine epiphany wouldn’t come until he opened a bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal with a date in the mid-eighties and was “blown away by what good wine could taste like.”
By his 30s, Ed and Laureen were married and and living in Denver, where friends exposed him to good food and even better wine. Ed and Laureen attended wine classes hosted by The Chicago Tribune’s Bill St. John, and soon Ed began collecting wines, especially Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. Opportunities to travel took the couple to Napa and Sonoma, but a 1991 trip to Oregon “opened our eyes to the beauty of Oregon wine country.” As Ed explains, “I began to want a vineyard planted to Pinot Noir, so Laureen and I made a non-binding fun goal to buy land by the time I was 40 and move to Oregon before we turned 50.”
Angel Laureen O’Brien
So it was that when Laureen O’Brien’s career as a healthcare executive brought Ed and his “three angels” to Oregon in 1997, the couple’s dream of starting a family vineyard came to fruition. Laureen’s taste for Zinfandel inspired the creation of Angel Vine, since she was its primary investor.
In 2013, after 30 years leading teams and managing projects as a healthcare IT professional, Laureen took an opportunity to leave the executive suite and take the lead in helping Angel Vine flourish. Learning the business side of winemaking on the fly, Laureen wasted no time in making Portland Angel Vine’s new home. Laureen’s two-year search for a place Angel Vine could put down roots led to Southeast Portland’s happening Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood, where she now reigns as the queen and CEO of Urban Crush.
Ed and Laureen live in Portland with their spunky cellar dog, Oliver, and run Angel Vine with the help of their two daughters, Alex and Morgan.