Updated: May 23, 2022
How many years have you been in the business? Tell us briefly about your background and your current position today.
2022 will be my 15th vintage working in vineyards and my 10th vintage at North Slope Management working as the Vineyard Manager/Viticulturist. I had previously spent five years working in a vineyard on Red Mountain but was thrilled when I had an opportunity to work closer to home in the Walla Walla AVA.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
I started enjoying wine, and especially wine tasting, in my hometown of Walla Walla as soon as I was old enough to start drinking. I had a date with a winemaker and he took me to taste in a cellar and spend time out in the vineyard. As soon as we went to the vineyard I was hooked, and I knew that's what I wanted to do. I had always worked outdoors and in some sector of agriculture, so deciding to work in a vineyard seemed very natural. I promptly went down to the Walla Walla Community College and enrolled in the Institute For Enology of Viticulture. The winemaker and I didn't last but my love for working in vineyards has only grown.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Agriculture is interesting because so often farmers grow a crop for production, and the crop is shipped off and the farmer doesn't know exactly where that product ends up. With growing quality wine grapes, not only do I know where the product goes, but I get to enjoy it for many years to follow. Seeing a vineyard from planting, to production, to bottle, to table is definitely the most rewarding part.
What do you do to create wellness balance in your life? Any particular activity, practices, etc that are meaningful to you?
I love spending time with my husband and daughters, riding my horse, hiking, and seeing my friends. I don't know that "balance" is possible when you have young kids and a busy career, but if I can find meaningful time with my family, my friends, and myself every week, I know I'm doing okay. When I am struggling to find time to do these things, I slow down and ask myself what can wait.
What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?
Millennials are now the largest generation. They're all old enough to drink and they're a more diverse group than previous generations in the United States. I'd like to see wine brands do more to target millennials and be more inclusive to all demographics. Wine will always unite people around a table, but I fear it won't be the drink of choice for younger generations unless wineries step out on a limb and do more to show consumers that everyone can enjoy wine with all types of food.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Equality looks like giving everyone in the wine industry a chance to learn, grow, and thrive on every level; from vineyard workers, to cellar workers, to tasting room staff, to consumers. Right now, I see employers who don't train and promote within their company when they might have the right person just waiting for an opportunity, and I don't see all potential consumers being reached.
How do you feel you’re contributing to creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive wine industry?
Over the years I have used Instagram to highlight the amazing work our vineyard crew does. I think so many people don't even know where their food comes from and the work that goes into growing it. I want winery staff and consumers to see that the wine industry wouldn't exist without our vineyard workers. I started highlighting individuals on our crew in early 2021 on Fridays. The employees love telling their story and being recognized for their contributions in the wine industry. I have also made a point to find people in the crew and train them to do more jobs and have an opportunity to move up in the company to roles with more responsibility and pay instead of hiring those positions. I let our employees know when I hear about potential opportunities outside of my company that would benefit them, even if it means I might lose a great employee.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the same sector of the wine industry as you?
If you want to be a great Vineyard Manager and Viticulturist, you need to start at the bottom and learn all the jobs. If you want your employees to respect you, you need to be able to do the work that they do. If you can't drive a tractor, learn. If you aren't competent at pruning, practice. If you don't understand why things are done differently in the field than you learned in the classroom, ask questions before making assumptions. All too often I see people who are classroom smart but don't have the practical skills to make sure they will succeed.
Name some people who inspire you in the wine industry and please explain why.
I've had the amazing opportunity over the last 15 years to work with some of the founders in Washington Wine. Jim Holmes, Norm McKibben, Marty Clubb, and Dick Boushey, just to name a few, have always been a wealth of knowledge and willing to share their successes and failures with me. I will always help build people up and give them opportunities the way my mentors have done for me. I am also thankful for my industry colleagues, Ryan Johnson, Lacey Lybeck, Brittany Komm, Jason Magnaghi, and Chris Banek, all who are great neighbors and willing to help when needed.