Part 1: The Women Of Wine

In honor of Women’s history month, I’ve decided to kick off a series of interviews featuring inspiring women of the wine industry.

I’ve already learned there’s an incredible community that is changing the status quo of women in the wine industry and helping forward opportunities, equality and safe work environments for women in general.

So sit back, grab a glass of Cab, and enjoy the commentary from a few fabulous ladies in wine.

My first two guests are Kathleen Inman, owner and winemaker at Inman Family Wines in Sonoma, CA and Audrey Cross-Gambino, vineyard hand and winemaker of Villa Milagro Vineyards located in NJ.

I had the pleasure of meeting Kathleen back in July during a visit to Sonoma.  When I decided to do this segment, I immediately reached out to her.

Discussing the importance of sensitive farming, natural winemaking, and environmentally responsible business practices with Kathleen was truly inspirational. She is known for her creative, and authentic approach to winemaking and is also a talented chef whose farm to table culinary expertise is legendary. 

Kathleen Inman outside Inman Family Wines.  In 2000 she planted the 10.45 acre parcel that she farms in the heart of Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley.

1. How did you get started in wine?

I grew up in Napa and became interested in wine when I was at University. I did some wine seminars that a local wine merchant was doing and I became fascinated with how the same grape grown in different places could taste so different and how wines grown on the same piece of land but made by different people could also be so different. Endlessly fascinating and something I really wanted to explore more. However, I never thought of wine as a job or career option. My first winery job was during summer break from UC Santa Barbara. I came home to Napa and got a job at a small winery in St Helena. That is where it all began!

2. What inspires you as a winemaker?

The fruit inspires me. I am in awe of nature. As a gardener and farmer I find each year as the growing season begins, I am filled with hope that the crop will be even better; whether it is veggies in my garden or grapes in the vineyard, spring makes me look forward with great anticipation to making something beautiful and delicious from my produce.

3. What is it like being a woman in wine?  

I have never been a man in wine, so it is difficult to answer. Seriously, I don’t feel I have been discriminated against because of gender in this industry, but I do get a lot of vendors asking for Simon Inman, my husband who has nothing to do with the day to day of Winery or vineyard operations. Guests at the winery who have not done their research usually expect the winemaker to be a man.

4. With the wine industry being male dominated, what do you see in the future for women in wine?

I think that gradually more and more women will take on lead winemaker roles. After all, even though we are just under 10% of winemakers we are making just under 30% of the most lauded wines (according to Prof. Lucia Gilbert’s research). Ultimately quality wins out!

5. What advice would you give a woman who wants to pursue winemaking?

Follow your passion. Don’t give up, and seek out mentors.

6. What’s your current go-to wine?

There are two sparkling wines I am drinking a lot of these days: Hattingley Blanc de Blanc 2011 (a delicious English sparkling also made by a woman) and Laherte Frères Ultradition Champagne, a 60% Pinot Menier Blend. Fantastic!

Now for my second guest…

Audrey Cross-Gambino has a law degree and a PhD. in nutrition, served as President Jimmy Carter’s coordinator of human nutrition policy and is a renown book author who has published numerous articles in both professional journals, consumer magazines and newspapers.  She is among the most often quoted nutritionists in the country. She is also both a television and radio personality!

Dr. Audrey Cross and her husband, Steve Gambino, create unique blends in the style of traditional European wines ranging from French style dry red, Bordeaux blends to light and delicate blends like “Rosita.”

1. How did you get started in wine?

I’m a Californian….we breastfed our babies until they are 3 then wean them directly to the bottle (wine!!)  Just kidding….but as a Californian, wine was part of my “culture.” I love everything about wine – most importantly that almost every country ferments something to make a wine or other beverage.  So learning about and experiencing wine is an endless endeavor. The same can be said for making wine. There is so much to learn, so many different techniques to try, so many different fruits to experiment and each year grapes are a different challenge as they come from the vineyards.

2. What inspires you as a winemaker?

I strongly believe that wine is food – not an alcoholic beverage.  So I take inspiration from food, always making wines that pair with food, that compliment food, that enhance food.  I am not just a winemaker, I am a “chef du vine!” I am also inspired by my land. As I walk through the vineyard, the soil, air, sun, birds and vines all speak to me, whispering their secrets of favor.  Wine is made in the vineyard not in the winery. Yes, a bad winemaker can ruin the good earth’s fruits. But it takes great grapes to make great wine.

3. What is it like being a woman in wine? 

My Jersey guys don’t discriminate against we three female winemakers.  Yes, they have their jock talk. But who cares! We are busy making wines that stand shoulder to shoulder with theirs and they know it!

4. With the wine industry being male dominated, what do you see in the future for women in wine?

Like most great chefs (of the past!!!), most great winemakers (of the past!!!) were male.  That is rapidly changing. Women are the leading purchasers of wine – just as we are still the dominant decision makers about what’s for dinner.  So it is natural that we become the dominant winemakers. We are the nurturers and making great wine results from nurturing our vineyards and our winemaking.

5. What advice would you give a woman who wants to pursue winemaking?  

The fastest route to being a good winemaker is to enroll in an academic program to learn the techniques and science of winemaking.  The “art” part will come with practice. But the practice should be based on knowledge rather than wild guesses and expensive experiments.

6. What’s your current go-to wine?

I am really enjoying champagnes though I am not yet producing them.  Once I get over my fear of exploding bottles, I will start making it.

We’re just getting started on sharing stories and advice from influential women in the wine industry.  Stay tuned… I’ll be interviewing and posting about women of all wine professions!

 

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