As a prelude to Women’s History Month in March, our #winestudio in February was a early celebration of women-focused wineries. As I have found in my past conversations with some of the iconic women in wine like Merry Edwards, there is still much work to do.
That is why, when I found that we were kicking off our discussing on Amy Bess’ new Sonoma-based Women Owned Wineries of Sonoma County project, I knew this was finally the collective platform that was needed to inspire change.
Amy stated, “I was compelled to create this site because, during my eight years of helping operate a boutique winery, I witnessed hardworking women throughout the industry being marginalized every place from sales meetings to the cellar floor. I wanted to do something positive to celebrate their work. This project is my love letter to them.”
Since its launch last November, after being inspired to action after the Sonoma fires, fifty producers in Sonoma have been identified that either have a winery or fruit source in Sonoma County and where a female-identifying owner plays an active role in the company business.
Woman-Owned Wineries of Sonoma County is on the brink of exciting growth that will 1) expand our geographic area, 2) include a review and features section showcasing nationally published wine writers, and 3) establish a wine club and/or concierge service.
With these efforts, WOW hopes to bring female wine entrepreneurs their due attention. A few key stats:
- Of 4,000+ wineries in California, only 10% have a woman as their lead winemaker.
Of those wineries, a significantly smaller portion of female (4%) than male (47%) winemakers are also owners of their winery.
- In California, the North Bay area has the highest percentage of women head winemakers (12 to 14%) while Southern California has the lowest (4%).
- Proportional to their representation in the field (9.8% women, 90.2% men) more women lead winemakers (23%) than men (14.1%) are listed in the acclaimed wine reference book Opus Vino.
A shocking fact for me was that until 1988, women had to get a male co-signer for a business loan. Seriously? Let’s support these wineries and empower some change in Sonoma and beyond.
We had the chance to visit with Breathless Wines, a winery built on a tribute to a very special mother who passed along a passion for life to her three daughters and taught them to cherish “breathless moments.” The family is also dedicated to support non-profits focused on health, education and issues affecting women and young people. Sadly, their mother died from emphysema, illustrating to them to never take any of life’s special moments for granted.
We tried two of their sparkling wines, the Breathless North Coast Brut SRP $25 and the Breathless Blanc de Noirs SRP $30 and I loved both. I also want to call out the label art that brings to life a time when sparkling wine illustrated celebration and fun. It came from a 1920s vintage poster that the sisters fell in love with at first sight.
We then moved to a conversation with Julie Pedroncelli, one of my most famous humans in the world of wine. I had the opportunity to celebrate the 90th anniversary live with the family last July and I am still so honored to have been part of such a small family celebration. Most families would spend the time focusing on their history and celebrating their success. This family spent as much time taking us around to other family businesses and places that helped form Sonoma County. You can read about it here – here. During 2017, we did a variety of Twitter events to celebrate with the family like this one here – here. It was a great year to be a part of the extended Pedroncelli family!
Julie and her father, Jim, toast to the 90th anniversary of Pedroncelli
Julie talked with her usual honesty and candor about how to find your voice and place in a family business. Having spent some time with her dad, Jim, I can tell you that Julie had to earn and prove herself every step of the way. He’s a lot like my dad. Big expectations, and never one to let me coast into an opportunity that I didn’t deserve. Julie is a master of all trades but her love for the marketing side and bringing wine to life through writing and working with people makes her the perfect brand ambassador (and third generator owner). She hasn’t only found her voice, she owns it.
We tried two wines – the first was the 2017 Pedroncelli Friends White SRP $14, which has a fun screw top with a happy face on top. While it’s been said to be targeted for the millennial generation, it’s a great easy drinking white for all.
We also tried the Pedroncelli 2015 Mother Clone Zinfandel SRP $19, which has become a rallying cry after spending time with Ed St John (happy to fill you in if you ask). This is a wonderful Zin at a great price point.