How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
My parents founded the Ponzi Vineyards in 1970. I was five years old. I’ve been involved my entire life. I’ve been paid for the work for the past 30 years. I share ownership with my younger sister and am the current President and Director of Sales and Marketing.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
No, that was more my folks, but I returned to the family business after 4 years of working in advertising in Boston. I’d grown tired of the East Coast and needed to get back to the farm.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The diversity. We are farmers and producers of wine, but we’re also required to understand marketing, sales, hospitality, and how to operate a sustainable business. Because we are family-owned, I get involved with every part of the operation and although it’s exhausting, I love it and it’s all I know.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
The alcohol industry continues to be male-dominated. It has been white-dominated as well. I’m hopeful these traditions will begin to change. I have several stories of prejudice, but the one that gets me most frequently is when my husband attends a tasting with me, he’s always asked the questions. Fortunately, he knows nothing and isn’t afraid to tell then they need to speak with me. The constant one people assume is that my father started the business, when actually nothing would have started if it wasn’t for my mother. I always find that incredibly insulting.
Women are victims of the patriarchy as well, and often are 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?
I guess I don’t see that and I’m just not that woman. My sister and I have done all we can to bring young women up in our industry and continue to hire as many women as possible. My management team is often all women-lead and Luisa ensure she hires 70% women the cellar and over harvest. It’s just part of our DNA.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
Better wine, more sustainable practices and overall healthier businesses. We tend to look full circle and carry less ego. As mothers, we are natural nurturers.
What changes do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
More women in all aspects of the wine industry, from production to sales and ownership.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Get educated. Bring something of value with you. Never underestimate yourself. Know how to roll a barrel and never have a guy carry a case for you. Persist. Be kind.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
More women in leadership, winery ownership and the production areas.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
Because I have been an example for young women for over 30 years. I have demonstrated my leadership skills with my participation in multiple trade organizations and at the chair level in most cases. I have been a spokesperson for regional wine across the globe.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
My mother. She’s a pioneer and a trailblazer in many ways. My sister. Ditto. Sarah Graves. Inspires young women in this industry and has be around it for decades. Sharon Cooper. Runs a kick-ass wine business in Houston. Maria Stuart. Rockstar winery owner and marketer. Alison Sokol Blosser. Second generation winery owner and super smart business person. All women who sell wine across this nation, especially in Manhattan because it’s harder than hell to shlep cases of wine samples up and down subway stations in the dead of winter, the heat of summer and in general — and then deal with attitudes and male egos.