Adrienne Ash - Winemaker & part-owner of The Austin Winery. Specializes in clay-aged/ fermented wine
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I was born and raised in Lake Tahoe, CA drinking wine with my family at an … “appropriate” age. After high school, I went to college at Sonoma State University, where I studied biology and was a member of our wine club. After I graduated, I ended up moving out here to Austin and went to work in the restaurant service industry. Since 2009, I’ve been in and out of the restaurant industry and have probably worked every job possible. I started out as a back waitress in a fine dining restaurant and slowly progressed to the managerial position of a little Italian restaurant. I took a big interest in the wine menu and ended up handling wine education for my coworkers. I researched each wine, the producer, the region, the year and the varietals. Today, I am one of three winemakers at The Austin Winery and recently became a part owner. It’s employee-owned and -operated so we have to rely on ourselves as a team to continue to make this business successful. My job has many responsibilities and they are always changing but winemaking is my priority. While I work with all the wines at The Austin Winery, I’ve also been working on my personal brand. I specialize in clay-aged and -fermented wines. My first wine was a 100% TX Montepulciano and my next wine is a méthode traditionelle blend of TX Sangiovese & Picpoul Blanc. It's not yet available but will be in the next couple of months!
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
My “aha!” moment, was when I dove into the wine list at my previous job Winflo Osteria. I realized how complex and interesting the wine industry was and I especially enjoyed the winemaking process. I went out to find a winemaking job after this realization and thankfully ended up at The Austin Winery door.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Sharing a wine I’ve made. Winemaking is a lon,g strenuous job and it is so rewarding to have someone appreciate a wine you've spent all year or more making.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
We all have stories about not being afforded the respect we deserve. When someone doesn’t believe you’re in a position of power, or that you could have made something on your own, it’s an undeniably horrible feeling. I can go into multiple stories of people being shocked, put off and unaccepting of the job and position I hold as a winemaker and owner, but that won't apply to every person's same experiences. One of the best ways I handle blatant prejudices is remembering this is a societal issue; it’s not something I’ve created by my actions. But each day I get a chance to correct that issue and redefine the paradigm.
Women are victims of the patriarchy as well, and are often more judgmental of other women as a result. How can we as women become more aware of our own prejudice towards each and change that behavior?
The best way to fix this is to recognize that it is happening and talk about it. We need to create an environment that supports each other and builds us up. The best way to equal the playing field is to play as a team.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
I am still amazed that women are the minority in the wine industry! So many of us are obsessed with wine, and that astounds me that we aren't more involved. If we support women in the wine field, I think we will see more perspectives, more avenues for creativity and improvement.
What changes do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
Women taking creative control in emerging wine regions (like Texas)! I do hope to see more women in positions as sommeliers, front of house, educators, winemakers, vineyard managers, owners, CEO, etc. I want to see women feel confident in their worth for the wine industry.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
You got this! Trust yourself and learn as much as you can. This industry is a maze of knowledge and experience so don't be intimidated by your peers, they are trying to learn and grow as much as you. You are just as capable as any man, and you must first believe in yourself.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Exactly that— EQUAL! Everyone equally represented and compensated in this industry. The stereotypical face shouldn’t be an old fat Frenchman.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
I think I'm contributing to equality in the wine industry by being an inspiration for others who want to be winemakers. Winemaking is physically and mentally exhausting but I am showing you can do it. Most of the time we just have to work a different way. I’m small, but my creativity and work ethic allows me to do the same things. My best friends are ladders, pallet jacks and forklifts.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
Willing and excited to learn, passionate about the craft, and a trailblazer in a field dominated by men.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
There are quite a few women that I admire in this industry. To name one, Cathy Corrison — and I was lucky enough to listen to her talk at the 2019 WWOW event. Her business model with no investors is a true inspiration for me and a plan I'm following with my clay vessels.