How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I have been working in wine PR with Colangelo & Partners since July 2013 - so exactly 7 years! I joined the agency shortly after completing my undergraduate degree, following experiences working in non-profit and development with organizations like the Manhattan Borough President’s Office and the Clinton Foundation, as well as hands-on F&B training working at Eataly NYC. Today, I am the Vice President, California and oversee all of our agency’s West Coast accounts and new business development.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
From my first jobs working at ice cream parlors and cafes in high school to my experiences bartending in college, I have always loved working in hospitality. But my “aha!” moment in wine came when I made the transition to fine dining in 2013 and had the opportunity to work with an incredible Italian wine list. I loved the feeling of introducing a guest to a new region or variety, and realized that wine was an incredible lens through which to learn about geography, history, people, and culture. I also loved the community I was building in the hospitality industry and found the network to be especially down to earth, friendly, and fun.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is seeing how our work helps our client’s businesses grow and succeed. It makes my day when I hear that a client’s website got a huge bump in views or their reservations line was off the hook after a story ran.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
The most common prejudice I have experienced in the wine industry is an assumption that based on my gender, and age, combined with the fact that I am the second generation of a family-owned business, that I don’t have the authority to be in my position. Despite the fact that I grew up close to the industry, I have worked in the space for 7+ years and that I earned my MBA in wine business in 2019.
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 other and change that behavior?
I think we can start by changing our perspective. For instance, rather than looking at another woman as a threat or an impediment, think about the opportunities that working with someone who challenges you will bring. Also, always assume the utmost authority and experience of the women you are working with; don’t assume that the man in the room has the most knowledge or power.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
As an industry, I think we will see more women in leadership roles and as decision makers if we continue to support one another. And as a result, I hope that we’ll see a wine industry that is more inclusive in its marketing and branding, ultimately creating a more diverse wine drinking community. People respond to marketing that reflects their values, and right now as a wine industry, we have work to do in creating more inclusive and diverse campaigns. I also hope, and believe, that we will see more women as keynote speakers and panelists at wine industry conferences, outside of women-focused conferences and events.
What changes do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
I hope to see more women in leadership in sales positions, specifically among large chains, distributors and importers. Those companies, and the leadership within them, are still so male-dominant and tend to rely on the same type of thinking when it comes to sales and marketing. I think new leadership, specifically female leadership, could help shake things up and bring more creativity and innovation in the space. I also hope to see more women considered for board positions within wine companies.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Don’t be shy about showing your knowledge; share your talent via social media in the content you post, promote your wines on LinkedIn and other platforms, create a personal website. Also be specific in what you’re asking for when networking, interviewing and in other professional relationships. Ask for the intro, ask for the special price, ask for the speaking opportunity.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
To me, equality in the wine industry means more women, LGBTQ and BIPOC sitting at the decision-making table alongside men. Equality in wine means an industry that is more reflective of our communities. It means more diversity in leadership and winemaking especially, as well as in other roles (marketing, PR, sales, retail, restaurant/bar). To get to this place, it’s about providing mentoring, skills-training, and ultimately access to the industry for people who have historically not been engaged or exposed to opportunities in wine.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
As a communications professional, I am in the position to help amplify diverse voices and empower women in wine through awareness. I am working with my team to tell wine women’s stories on behalf of our clients, and our industry. I am also working to promote women sommeliers, educators and partners throughout our client activities. Internally, I am coaching and mentoring women on our team on communications and presentation skills, new business development and client relations. I am also advocating for their advancement and growth. Professionally, I never say no to an ask for a coffee, or these days a Zoom date, to talk about careers in the wine industry and share my own experience.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
The wonder women of wine in my life are generous with their time and resources, do not intimidate but advocate and support other women, don’t hide or ignore their family and personal commitments, and know how to have fun, and drink great Champagne.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
Kristen Reitzell; for leading communications for one of the industry’s leading families (Jackson Family Wines) and empowering and raising up other women in the communications space, including myself! Tonya Pitts; for leading one of the most respected wine programs in the country and for being one of the most approachable and kind people in the room at a big wine tasting! Elle Rodriguez; for being a pioneer in the wine influencer space and raising awareness and providing a platform for other women in the industry Lauren Wong (VP at Aperture Estates); for running sales and marketing, raising a newborn and opening a brand new winery -- all during a pandemic! Fern Stroud; for founding Black Vines in Oakland which creates a space to celebrate Black-owned wineries and Black vintners