When a new vineyard is planted, growth is measured by the changing of seasons. It’s a long, slow process, requiring careful tending by those who are dedicated to the outcome. Strong resilient vines are the result of bringing together a combination of region, terroir and time. The evolution of the wine industry follows this formula as more women have chosen to walk the rows of the vineyard with a view to the future. The opportunities that continue to grow for women in the wine business allow for the changes that—over time—strengthen their roles and solidify their places to take root.
With the increase of women worldwide becoming winemakers, many also are taking on the dual role of winemaker-mother. There is a crossover in the skills required to be a mother and to make wine. One needs to be a nurturer, learn to be adaptable, develop the power of observation and guide their charges’ growth and development.
In a recent webinar hosted by Julia Burke, marketing and communications coordinator of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association, three women winemakers in conversation gave their perspective on the unique challenges that women face in navigating their way through the multi-tasking life of a winemaker-mother and creating a “new normal.” The winemaker-mothers featured were Jessica Mozeico of Et Fille, Anna Matzinger of Matzinger-Davies Wine Company and Wynne Peterson-Nedry (pictured above) of 00 Wines and RR Wines/Ridgecrest Vineyards.
The predominant element in their shared experiences is the need to find the balance between family and the demands of being a winemaker. What parallels motherhood and winemaker is gaining a wide set of skills to work smarter and accomplish more in less time. Of great importance is to find your people—those who understand and support one another (and you!). Another parallel in motherhood and winemaking is working toward the next generation. In the vineyard, looking up at the long, sloping rows provides a view of the future, the anticipated harvest and the wine that will result from its time in the barrel.
Taking the Lead With Connection Over Pretense
The journey into wine country begins for many women by taking a detour from their chosen career path. This was the decision for Heidi Stine, redirecting her years in the corporate world to following a passion that led her into the world of wine. Early on in the wine industry, she did encounter some people with the attitude that few women make it in this business, but she did not share that belief and responded with a determination to succeed. One important element in establishing herself was to network and find people with the same passion and desire to inspire. She found a mentor in Earl Jones, winemaker/owner of Abacela Winery, in the Umpqua Valley of Southern Oregon. Their collaboration resulted in her becoming the Executive Director of the Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society. Heidi held this position for 15 years and feels that it was how she earned her stripes and gained recognition in the industry. She has also been on the Board of the Society of Wine Educators.
To enhance her experience and increase her knowledge of wine, Heidi has traveled to other wine regions around the world. A few of these are Spain, Portugal, and working the harvest in the Loire Valley, France, and Argentina. She found it enriching to immerse herself in the local culture to learn the history of the wine and region. Although she has taken formal wine studies classes throughout her career, she prefers the hands-on experience of working the harvest.
It was after one such harvest as a volunteer at Abacela in 2007 that her friendship with Earl and Hilda Jones was formed and remains a turning point in her growth in the wine industry. Creating friendships and lasting relationships is central to her persistence to redefine the business. One of her first instructors advised her to remember that wine is inclusive, and snobbery is not the way. Heidi prefers connection over pretense. This has served her well in taking the lead and making her way.
The New Generation—Talking About My Second Cousin!
In this new world of wine where more and more women are beginning careers as winemakers, viticulturists, vineyard managers or heads of wineries—whether it be the family business or starting their own—it is a time of new beginnings for the wine business.
A recent graduate of California State University, Chico, Melissa Bordi (my second cousin) has found the wine industry to be welcoming to women, and her own experiences have been steppingstones to her career. Her decision to attend Chico was based on knowing that she wanted to pursue a career as a viticulturist.
Upon graduation, with a major in crops and horticulture, she began working for a major winery where she had also done her internship. Melissa found the environment to be open and she worked with an all-female team. In her short time in the industry, her observation has been that it is a good balance of men and women with more women becoming winemakers. Already her range of school and work experience has included six harvests, shadowing a winemaker, and learning how to taste wine and distinguish styles. She is a licensed Pest Control Advisor with plans to study sustainability programs and organic practices. Melissa is making her way with a solid background and attainable goals.
Now working with Trinchero Family Estates of Napa Valley, a family legacy winery, Melissa can follow the early influence from her father who made his homegrown wines. And now she is part of the new generation that embraces regenerative practices in the vineyard and eco-friendliness. While not altering the industry’s ecological footprint, Melissa has been an integral part of altering an industry that embraces her.