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 wine business for 20 years, starting with my first harvest job right after I graduated college. After getting my feet wet in production, I got a Master’s degree in Viticulture and Enology from UC-Davis. I worked seasonal positions in Italy, New Zealand and Oregon, gaining experience and perspective, and have been settled in Napa Valley for nearly 16 years, making Bordeaux-style blends. In 2012 I started a small label of my own, Post & Vine, to work with heritage vineyards as a side project. For the past five years, I have been Winemaker of Quintessa and Illumination, a dream job working with the incredible Quintessa Estate in Rutherford.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
Actually, my “aha” moment came after I was already in wine. I was at a lunch where the 1998 Ornellaia was served. Without knowing anything about the wine or property, I was instantly transported and knew this was a wine with a soul. That experience informed my winemaking path and I have focused on expressing true terroir in the wines I produce ever since.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of being a winemaker is hearing how your wine has become a part of people’s lives, that they’ve become engaged over a bottle of Quintessa or celebrated a special occasion, for example. It is an intensely gratifying feeling to know that you’ve added joy to the lives of others.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
Like any woman, I’ve experienced my share of minor and major slights. From the truck driver who can’t believe I can drive a forklift, to the assumption that I’m in sales and must not be a winemaker, to the unsolicited comments about my looks. But I think the real damage comes from the lost opportunities, from being left out of activities or not being considered for a promotion that really hurts women in the wine industry.
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?
The greatest change comes from simply becoming aware of stereotypical expectations based on gender and how women are judged more harshly than men, by both women and men. Acknowledging gender (or race) based expectations, particularly in regard to negotiation and leadership style, will go a long way towards changing prejudicial attitudes and behaviors.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
Stronger support for women will improve the wine industry for everyone. Let’s work to change the expectations regarding work/life balance and what success looks like. More diverse teams have proven to be better performing and holding everyone to higher standards of behavior can only help build a stronger, more supportive community.
What changes do you hope to see in regard to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
More of us, in more and varied positions, and especially more women in top management.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
I would give the same advice to a man or a woman entering the wine profession and that is to make sure this is really what you love to do because the reality will not be as glamorous as you imagine. And to work hard, listen, and find like-minded people who will act as mentors to you.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Equal opportunities, equal treatment, equal pay. I think we will really have achieved equality when being a woman winemaker is no longer something to be remarked upon.
In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
It’s very hard to be what you can’t imagine, so I think simply being a woman winemaker demonstrates that this is very much a position in which a woman can excel.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
Someone with integrity and strong character who defines her own success.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
There are so many women that I admire who worked hard to create and share beautiful wines and are also so generous and supportive to the community – Celia Welch, Cathy Corison, Sharon Harris, Karen MacNeil, Marika Vida are just a few that come to mind.