Haley Fortier - Opened haley.henry, wine bar featuring small production wines from around the globe.
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I’ve been in the restaurant business for over 15 years now. Prior to that, I had a really checkered path from being a photography manager to a corrections officer to a ground handler for JetBlue. You name it, I’ve probably done it. I opened haley.henry wine bar in 2016 after working for the BL Gruppo for almost 8 years. It was time to get out on my own, bring something unique to the city and finally be able to feel a sense of accomplishment in my own personal growth. The rest is history.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
I don’t know if I would call it an “aha” moment per se, but I do remember drinking a 2008 Movia Lunar and thinking to myself, “Where the hell have you been my entire life?” That was the point of no return for me. Once you taste the difference in wine that isn’t compromised heavily by chemicals and terrible additives, you start to really “drink,” in my opinion. You’re tasting exactly the flavors that are meant to be there; terroir, climate and grapes. Nothing more, nothing less.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Most of my job is rewarding actually. I can’t tell you how many times I hear how incredible my staff is at both bars, how they have managed to win the hearts of our clients day in and day out. That’s a true snapshot of how you lead them and educate them on the things that are important parts of this industry. It’s rewarding to get to see their growth over time and to know that they have personal ambitions of their own that they’re eventually going to fulfill. I want to be able to teach them the things that I know so that they can really get out there when their time comes. That, for me, is the reward.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
Well I’m actually really tired of trying to be “man-splained.” I wouldn’t exactly call that prejudice, but rather a really tired tactic that doesn’t work on me and should be stopped immediately. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in meetings with women who are fully capable of running a meeting and then a man swoops in thinking he’s about to change the world by taking the meeting to the “next level”. I don’t think so; boy bye….
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 other and change that behavior?
That’s a great question and you’re right; women tend to be the hardest on other women. It’s crazy nuts to me! I think it’s human nature to want to excel in whatever you’re pouring your heart and soul into, but at the same time, it’s also an oddly weird part of human nature to tend to feel competitive when you see someone else doing the same thing. Women continue to have to climb that ladder in gender equality to the point where, if they see another woman climbing just as hard as them, the competition shifts to “well, now I’m going to climb this ladder faster than you!” type mentality. We need to lift each other up to get there together. Strength is in numbers.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
Supporting women should always be a priority in my book. Again, I think when you support a person, rather than a gender, you open your eyes to endless possibilities. Women know how to get shit done. We could all learn something from taking a page from a woman’s day to day life.
What changes do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
Well to be honest, I am hoping that we stop asking this question in particular. Women are here; they’ve been a part of the wine industry for generation upon generation. I think the current events happening worldwide (i.e. the #metoo movement, the prosecutions and arrests of some heinous men along the way) have certainly brought a spotlight to years and years of abuse of powers and gender inequalities in the workplace. But in the wine community, I see just as many females in this industry as males; from winemakers to somms to entrepreneurs. People are just starting to notice now: that’s the difference.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Be authentic. Be honest. Have passion for what you do. You don’t have to know everything all at once. Don’t be afraid of thinking that you don't know enough. The industry will teach you everything you need to know as long as you keep your eyes open. Trust in yourself. Do something magical.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Equality in any industry looks the same to me; where people of every color, sexual orientation, religion, race, ethnicity and gender are allowed to perform on level playing fields. Change doesn’t happen by categorizing industries and putting every profession in a gender inclusivity box that needs to be checked off. It happens when the human mentality stops this barbaric thought process. We’ve got to talk the talk and walk the walk. Plain and simple. Change happens by “doing”, not by “talking” about it.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
I would like to think that we are doing as much as we can to help support gender equality in the wine industry. nathálie bar has always focused on female winemakers since its inception in 2018. haley.henry has supported multiple female-driven wines since 2016. But more than that, both bars have always supported small production wines that come from the hands of farmers: people who don’t have deep financial pockets to get their wines into millions of retailers worldwide, but rather focus on the small quantities that they deliver with true, honest winemaking skills. Farmers are some of the hardest working people in the world, often with little financial gains. Everything we consume came from a seed of some sort. It’s important to recognize and support that community.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
Bold, honest and unapologetic. In this business you sometimes need to have a bravado that isn’t considered “ladylike”. Be true to yourself.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
The list is long. I admire many people in this industry. People that have taught me along the way; people that are my peers; other bar owners that are doing similar things to what I am doing and push me to do better; patrons of the bar that fully support me and the growth of the wine bar scene; I could go on and on…. But mostly, I admire the women winemakers who are out there doing their things, grinding away at something they are fully passionate and committed to. It takes a lot of guts to make wine; everything rests on the unpredictability of weather and climate change. In one instance, you could lose everything you’ve worked for that entire season. How many people do you know would take that risk??? I don’t know many….