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Melinda Kearney - Co-founder: Lorenza Wine

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

A lifelong wine and food professional beginning as a server in a restaurant during college, I joined the wine industry in 1990 in Napa Valley. During my career I have served as Director of Operations, VP of Sales and 20 years as a Sales and Marketing Consultant. I co-founded Lorenza Wine in 2008 with my daughter Michele Ouellet Benson and am now building our company full time.

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

In one of our restaurants in Boulder in the mid-1980s all of our wines were offered by the glass. Each shift, our bar manager would taste a few wines from the list with us and tell us a story about land, people and what menu items each wine would enhance, like a condiment. These tastings sparked a deeper curiosity in me.

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?

Even with a small company we make an impact on many people's lives, from our growers and production team to those who help us sell and ultimately drink the wine. It's the relationships that make it all so special to me. I feel proud that people want to work with us and believe in our product.

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

I've been exploring sensory deprivation floating on a regular basis. The benefits to my mind and body are cumulative and an amazing re-set. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, I've been prioritizing time for deep connection with my friends and family who I appreciate so much.

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

I hope to see more growers adopting organic and sustainable farming practices and modernized direct to consumer shipping policies in the US.

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

When it isn't a novelty to be a woman in the wine business. Where people of all genders, races, and socio-economic backgrounds hold equal seats at the table. Equal opportunity to reach and excel in the myriad positions this industry has to offer.

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

I feel like while we can always do more, our team at Lorenza is diverse, we donate wine and time to support our involvement in LAIC and The Roots Fund and are always available for advice and mentorship. We make it a point to lift others.

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

Reach out to those you admire for a conversation. You'll be surprised by what you learn and how willing people are to share their wisdom.

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

Dr. Stephanie Bolton of the Lodi Winegrowers Commission for her work to bring forward a comprehensive and evolving program of sustainable practices with Lodi Rules. Beth Novak Milliken of Spottswoode for her tireless focus and leadership on environmental issues. Winemaker Francoise Peschon for a long career of unwavering commitment to quality. Zelma Long for being an early female superpower in winemaking and leadership. Joseph Smith who has built a successful career as a winemaker and leader in Lodi and as an entrepreneur/importer in his native Belize.
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