In “No Women, No Wine,” I wrote about the roles women are playing in today’s wine industry. There’s a great deal to write about this topic, but I thought it would be best to hear from some of the people that I’m writing about – the women that I work with every day. I’m proud to say that Bedell Cellars has many great women working in important positions throughout the company – from vineyard management and winemaking to sales and administration. Presently, women make up 60% of the overall management personnel at the estate. With such a large pool of talented women working alongside me, I thought it would be best to ask them their feelings about working in the wine industry. Here is what they told me:
Marin Brennan, Assistant Winemaker:
“My peers are very supportive of having more women enter this industry. In viticulture and enology, I believe it still takes people off guard. Some are shocked to discover that I work in a wine cellar. It’s a stereotype that needs to change. I want to be viewed as a winemaker, not as a female winemaker. Women tend to be more detail oriented with each task and have more to prove. We usually put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be better and to do better than our counterparts. It’s women like Louisa Hargrave, Claudia Purita and Alice Wise that have paved the way for women like me to continue in a career that I’m so passionate about.”
Molly Deegan, SVP Marketing & Sales Development:
“I’ve never had a problem working with men, either in New York City or as part of the Long Island wine community. I’ve always gravitated more towards being ‘one of the guys’ as opposed to traditional female roles. Women are important here now more than ever. I think the biggest difference is that women today are starting to get the credit for their contributions to the industry. We are inherently effective communicators and that’s a huge factor in the success of any winery. Once you have a great product you have to bring it to people’s attention.”
Donna Rudolf, Assistant Vineyard Manager:
“In the past, women were behind the scenes. We had more housewives working part-time in the vineyard — not as a career but to make extra money. Nowadays it’s a career path. I think women are better at multitasking and time management which is important in vineyard operations. There are still very few of us working in vineyards so I think we still have to work a little harder to prove ourselves. Like any profession, it’s a good thing and I would love to see more women in the vineyard. We bring new ideas and it would be great to promote career opportunities in the vineyard to young women. Diversity can only make the industry stronger.”
Whitney Beaman, NYC Sales Ambassador:
“There have always been brilliant women shaping the world of wine but these days, more so than ever, women in wine are in the spotlight, being recognized for their work, and encouraged in the industry. There are several differences in the way men and women are socialized from a young age. As a result, I think that women tend to be more sensitive and communicative which are important qualities for team building, strategic planning, and cooperative success. Men are often more assertive which is also important in business. I think men and women can learn from one another and balance each other with their respective skills and strengths. We can expect to see more women in management roles; everything from project management, to financial management, to managing an agricultural crew. I also think that all-female production teams will become more common. I’m excited for that.
Erin Troxell, Vineyard Manager:
“Mostly I feel proud to be able to pursue a profession that I am passionate about, despite discouragement from some because of gender along the way. However, I also feel very fortunate to be working in a time and place where it is conceivable to take on a viticulture career as a woman. While studying with a diverse international group in Europe, I became aware that this is not always the case. The number of women working in the local industry, as well as the array of high profile positions that they hold from winery owners to managers to researchers, is a testament to their great importance. Women also have strong instincts about tending plants, a natural ability acquired evolutionarily as women were the ‘gatherers’ while men took on the role of ‘hunters.’ These intuitions about plant growth and development are also very useful viticulturally and can be translated to vineyard practices to nurture the vines. The large role played by women also really demonstrates that the local industry is united by its values of wine quality and technical progress, taking precedence over traditional gender roles.”
Lauren Smith, Tasting Room Manager:
“Women tend to thrive in roles of multitasking, communication and team-based environments. Whether working in the vineyard, in the cellar or in the tasting room, having these strengths is imperative. All of these roles benefit greatly from these skill-sets. While men can contribute these same strengths, it may be easier for women to tap into their sense of empathy for creative solutions. Women innately strive to prove themselves in many facets of their life, professionally being no exception. Because of this, we are more inclined to constantly raise the bar for ourselves in order to exceed expectations, continuously pushing personal and professional boundaries. Personally, I feel proud of the fact that women are becoming more prominent in the wine industry and I love that in my own small way, I am a part of that movement. The more society sees women in specific professions, the less we give in to gender role stereotypes.”
The roles of women in the local wine industry will no doubt be critical to our future. Kelly Urbanik Koch, winemaker at Macari Vineyards, states that “our local industry has a lower percentage of woman winemakers than other wine regions in the world – I think that the number of women will continue to increase as our industry evolves.”
For Ms. Urbanik Koch and others in her profession, the reality is that being a great winemaker is not whether you are male or female.
“I think that individual personalities matter so much more than gender,” she said. “For me, the path to being a successful winemaker has been through hard work, focus, attention to detail, and passion. My gender has nothing to do with that.”