ERICA STANCLIFF - The winemaker for Trombetta Family Wines and Pfendler Vineyards.
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I grew up in the wine industry. My parents are home winemakers and my mother worked for wineries in hospitality and marketing. I graduated from Fresno State with my degree in Enology in 2010, so I have been in the industry professionally for 11 years. I became winemaker for the brand my mother and I cofounded, Trombetta Family Wines (est. 2010) in 2014. I started taking on winemaking clients in 2017 and became Pfendler Vineyard’s winemaker in 2019 prior to harvest.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
Walking a vineyard with my mentor Paul Hobbs—a close family friend—while in high school, harvest and winemaking piqued my interest. That’s when the light bulb went off.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I love crafting something with my hands. It’s a blood, sweat and tears kind of job. Every year harvest is trying, but extremely rewarding when the end result is a beautiful wine.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry?
Two big ones stand out. On one of my first jobs working in the cellar, I was told I couldn’t be strong enough to do the necessary job functions. I’ve always been athletic and was an NCAA division 1 athlete, so needless to say I proved that person wrong very quickly. The second one that is still with me today—I was on a sales trip in San Francisco with my distributor at the time. We went into this wineshop for a tasting with the owner. He said to us, “well, I see you brought the cute little blonde girl with you to help make the sale.”
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by advocating for diversity and inclusion?
We will see a greater number of small brands succeeding, more diversity in the marketplace—which can only enhance the wines out there, and as a result, more significant job creation.
What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?
I hope to see more women winery owners, and more women in charge of the larger wine companies (sales, distribution, etc). My generation seems to be the one closing the gap in this regard as there are many women winemakers my age with their own brands and clients. We’ve worked hard to get here and that deserves celebration. It’s very exciting to see!
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Being taken seriously, as odd as that is to say. But at 30, when you’re the winemaker for numerous brands, being taken seriously is the biggest obstacle, even when the wine speaks for itself. The wine industry, like many others, should reflect the groups of people who compose it. Diversity in genders and races should be represented at every level and be given equal voice in how the industry moves forward.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
I have always wanted to give back to the wine community. I was very lucky and grateful to have great mentors. I have mentored a few aspiring women who were studying enology and gave them their first harvest opportunities as well as helped them establish contacts in the industry to set them up for success. Through these opportunities, I feel that I’m leveling the playing field not only for women interested in wine, but people who weren’t born into the “wine club:” those with family ties and a leg up compared to newbies.
What message do you have for anyone now entering the wine profession?
It’s not going to be easy. But we are one big community and need to support each other. We are all in this together, and we will be successful if we help to promote and raise each other up with our accomplishments.
What other industry heroes do you admire and why?
Carol Shelton – She was an influential female winemaker and family friend as I was growing up. Carol has worked incredibly hard to be where she is today, has her own brand, and is an amazing person who is always willing to help or give advice. Rebecca Hopkins – I first heard her speak at the Batonnage forum in Napa last year. Listening to the struggles she had in her career to be taken seriously, hearing how she was able to be successful and the tips she had for everyone—I thought, “this woman is a powerhouse.” I follow her and her balanced glass company now because of it.