It’s a fact that in just the last two decades, the number of women that have taken over the reins at wineries throughout the world is exponentially increasing. More women are not only making wine, they’re buying into the business, owning their own wineries and managing everything from marketing to sales and distribution. But why did it only take until the turn of the century to really see this take shape?
Even today, women comprise a minority percentage of winemakers around the world. In Ontario, approximately 20 percent of wineries have women winemakers. It’s also 20 percent in California – where just four percent of the state’s approximately 3,700 wineries are owned by women. But the numbers are steadily rising and they show no signs of slowing their ascent.
In fact, the number of women graduating from Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) in Ontario has steadily increased over the last 20 years. Whereas the class of 2000 saw a 50 percent female contingent, that number has since grown to 67 percent as of 2019, and although both percentages are very impressive, the indication of positive growth and interest is clearly showing.
Over the past year, VineRoutes has had the opportunity to spotlight several women in the wine industry, representing various places and positions. All are very identifiable within their field of expertise, responsible for much of their winery’s (or organization’s) success when it comes to global recognition of their brand and overall quality of their product.
It’s very interesting to see that they share much in common when it comes to their specific practise and their feelings towards representing their profession and doing their part in being responsible caretakers, not just of the land that they have been tasked to manage, but also their commitment to equal opportunity and the ever-changing time that we’re in.
We salute these women of wine, and pay tribute to them below, as they are clearly demonstrating through their work that the page is turning on a once male-dominated industry. We look forward to featuring many more women and telling their stories in the coming months and years ahead!
Canada’s foremost authority in the organic/biodynamic winemaking space, Ann’s resume is vastly impressive and includes the implementation of organic certification at Malivoire’s Moira Vineyard in Beamsville, Ontario in 1999; The continuing of her family’s vineyard in Kelowna – now called Sperling Vineyards; And various consulting projects, including her own malbec vineyard in Mendoza. Add to this her being awarded Winemaker of the Year at the Ontario Wine Awards in 2004.
She’s now Director of Winemaking and Viticulture at Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario where she transitioned the farm and vineyard practise to biodynamic viticulture and winemaking in 2006, with Pro-Cert and Demeter certification in 2008.
“The alignment of our goals has always been threefold: to make great wines of character and place; to create a long lasting vineyard environment that we are comfortable and proud to work in along with all Southbrook employees and visitors; to add value to agriculture and show the region and wine industry that organic production is attainable. We completely agree that consumers are ready for this and supportive.”
She’s one of Australia’s best-known winemakers, producing world-class wines at Wynns Coonawarra Estate. Quality and heritage are central to her winemaking philosophy, but it’s her forward-looking focus on sustainability and the evolution of Australian cabernet sauvignon that sets her apart.
“A focus on looking after our precious vineyards against a backdrop of climate change and changing consumer values is a big part of our daily life in Coonawarra. Our natural resources are commanding respect as we work out how to preserve our vineyards for the next generations and reduce the footprint in doing so. If the consumer is prepared to pay more, that is a pleasing consequence, but we are doing it anyway. Yes, I believe the wines are better with judicious viticulture.”
Lynzee was raised in the Okanagan and started her career at the age of 18 as a cellar hand at Summerhill Pyramid Winery. There she became interested in winemaking, and this led her to Australia to start her formal wine studies. After completing her studies, she traveled extensively and completed vintages at several wineries in several regions, including California, Australia and Ontario.
She returned to BC in 2014 and spent the next five years at Vancouver Urban Winery, Postmark Brewing and Okanagan Crush Pad until starting in 2019 as a winemaker for what would eventually become the brands under the Five Vines Cellars ownership.
“My inspiration has always been my mom. She is the strongest person I know. She is my biggest supporter and biggest fan. For the first couple years in my wine career, every time I had an accomplishment, I would send her a card and thank her for helping me get to that spot. I couldn’t have done it without her.”
During her studies in the Oenology and Viticulture program at Brock University, Emma travelled to Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany and British Columbia. Her passion for wine and food grew with each trip. After working in vineyards and cellars in the Niagara region, she began working at Trius Winery, where she made wine in various capacities until 2005 when she began working for Thirty Bench. In 2010, she became head winemaker. She believes in allowing the vineyard to express itself by making wine with minimal intervention.
“I think that [Canadian winemakers] will only continue to improve. We have been on such a positive trajectory that I can’t help but think it will continue. We are learning more about our vineyards, varietals and management techniques to best tend our vineyards and the challenges that are unique to our region.”
Renée is head winemaker for Duckhorn Vineyards, widely recognized as one of California’s most treasured wineries crafting beautiful wines from a variety of Napa Valley area sites. She applies an artisan’s approach to winemaking and understands the needs and opportunities presented by each specific terroir and microclimate. By approaching each vineyard block individually, she embodies Duckhorn’s dedication to making classic wines that reflect the unique character and quality of the vineyards.
“I am extremely lucky to have a job that I love and am passionate about. I am particularly fascinated by the intersection of art and science and how that plays into my day-to-day winemaking decisions. I also love that wine is rooted in agriculture and is dependent on nature and the weather patterns which makes every vintage different and allows me to be challenged each year. There’s no recipe and I love that.”
Born and raised in the Niagara Peninsula, Suzanne has a passion for agritourism and has dedicated her career to the growth of Niagara’s wine industry from a visitor, cultural and consumer perspective. She was recruited in 2005 to be part of the opening management team at Stratus Vineyards. Now in her current role as Estate Director, she is responsible for the retail, digital, hospitality programs and revenue, media and public relations as well as product, packaging sustainability and partnership initiatives.
“Quality service is as important to us as quality wine – never more so than at a time when there is so much stress, uncertainty and disruption. Our wine world will evolve as a result of [this pandemic] in many, many ways. Everything from the way we manage our tasting rooms, event programs, through to the more ‘open market’ of purchasing wine from restaurants.”
Lesley is President of Canada’s only national sommelier association, The Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS). A 20-year veteran of the wine and hospitality industry, she is currently the vice president of sales and marketing at Vancouver-based agency, HQ Wine + Spirits.
“We have a great opportunity now to raise the bar of sommellerie even higher in Canada. My mandate is to continue to expand on our pillars of education, communication, professional development, events, competitions, inclusion and diversity in a continued effort to unify our sommeliers from coast to coast and position CAPS Canada as leader in our industry.”