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Lauren Rae Williamson - Harvest Queen with Marine Layer Wines & Jolie Laide Wines

How many years have you been in the business? Tell us briefly about your background and your current position today.

About 5 years! I started my career in sales but eventually found my true passion in production after my first harvest with Rideau Vineyard in Santa Barbara County, CA. I spent a couple years with Cruse Wine Company in Petaluma, CA learning all I could about sparkling wine production before returning home to Texas and working with the lovely team at Bufalina Pizza in Austin. I’m now in the middle of my 4th harvest as an intern for Marine Layer Wines & Jolie Laide Wines in Healdsburg, CA and planning a potential Southern Hemisphere harvest in the spring.

Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?

Honestly, I don’t think it was one particular moment but a period of time in my early career when I first found a community in wine. I was just out of college, back home in Houston and I found a wine shop and bar that focused on education and exciting wine, and was the first place I fell in love with wine. I was always able to walk in, try something new, learn a little bit, and make friends with other consumers that were just as interested in wine as me. I made lifelong friends there, and always think fondly of the time I spent at that bar.

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?

Actually making wine! I’ve worked with wonderful winemakers and being able to help them execute their vision and make some really stunning wine has been beyond amazing.

What do you do to create wellness balance in your life? Any particular activity, practices, etc that are meaningful to you?

Ha! Balance in the middle of harvest is hard to find but on my day off I do my best to take care of my body. I allow myself a lot of rest, lots of stretching, long baths, and massages to soothe sore muscles.
And since I’m far from home I usually call my mom on my way home from work to stave off loneliness & homesickness.

What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?

Fair wages for vineyard workers, and the inclusion of labor when we talk about sustainability and natural wine.
Widespread excitement, intrigue and understanding about domestic wine from places outside of California, Oregon and Washington.
Alternative packaging being used more frequently - glass is heavy and expensive, what are our other options?

What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?

This is a really great question and I’ve spent a few days trying to come up with an adequate answer. I think equality in each aspects of the industry will look different. At a bare minimum, it looks like fair pay and benefits for all folks in all sectors of the industry, mutual respect amongst folks from different backgrounds, more BIPOC and queer folks as winemakers, business owners, educators, etc. But, I think until everybody acknowledges and begins working towards eradicating the racism, sexism and colonialism that’s pervasive in our society and industry, it’s hard to imagine true equality.

How do you feel you’re contributing to creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive wine industry?

Share resources and knowledge. Wine is so exclusive and intimidating and I’ve spent several years making mistakes, learning new things, meeting new people and building a community. So many folks have graciously helped me and I want to share what I know to help others in their wine journey.
It’s also really important to me to spend my money where it matters - supporting businesses run by folks from marginalized communities, eating at restaurants that pay their employees a livable wage, tipping well for all service, and donating to organizations dedicated to creating an equitable wine industry.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the same sector of the wine industry as you?

Ask a million questions! Build a community and accept help when you need it! Take care of your body - don’t hurt yourself trying to prove yourself! Set boundaries! And always, always bring an extra pair of socks to work!

Name some people who inspire you in the wine industry and please explain why.

Monica Moreno @dustybubbles - Monica and I were colleagues at Bufalina Due in Austin. She is passionate about hospitality and food and its cultural significance. I’m constantly in awe of her wine knowledge and her ability to make it digestible and easy to understand for everyone. She’s radical and honest and I’m proud to call her a friend!
Bailey Fortuna @beebaileyfortuna - Bailey and I worked together while I was at Cruse - she taught me almost everything I know about cellar work. She answered many of my millions of questions then, and continues to graciously answer them now. She reminds me to drink water, treats everyone around her with kindness and empathy, and is committed to helping anyone in her community who needs help. She’s a dear friend and colleague and I don’t know where or who I’d be without her influence.
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