Remy Drabkin of Remy Wines has been stirring up a wine revolution in Oregon’s Willamette Valley for the last 15 years. In those years, Remy has carved a niche for herself by bottling gorgeous Italian-style wines that have an unmistakable Pacific Northwest character. These wines have spunk, style and plenty of soul; much like the fierce female winemaker herself who is steadily changing the narrative for women in wine. Besides wine, Remy is also deeply passionate about social justice, honing her craft every single day, and environmental conservation.
The best thing we’ve learned from Remy? Never stop learning! On that note, here are 15 golden nuggets of life maxims, hacks and wine wisdom that Remy has gleaned from her 15 (going on 16) years in the wine industry.
- Listen to your gut. This industry, like many others, takes a lot of grit and determination to find your way and the path isn’t always clear. This may be more of a life lesson but it definitely applies to winemaking and business; if it doesn’t feel right, pause and evaluate.
- Sparkling wine goes with everything. Celebrations, Sundays, Mondays, happy tears and sad tears, desserts, appetizers, first dates, anniversaries and everything in between.
- Counter discrimination by living out loud. Celebrate yourself and be a visible ally! I create visibility for queer and other historically underrepresented folks by being visible myself.
- Create your community. Sometimes it’s really hard to find your people. Keep looking! Because this life and this industry is better with friends.
- Dick Ponzi once said to me, “Keep your wines topped, kid!” Make the best wines you can in the simplest way possible.
- The difference is in the details! Every way that you choose to show up makes a difference — it’s about what you do and how you do it. At Remy Wines, we keep an Aristotle quote on the wall of the winery, “We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act but a habit.” I believe it.
- Nickels and dimes! Watch your waste stream and be thoughtful about how your actions impact the company you want to be successful. Be intentional in how you distribute the little things, from financial resources to personal resources to energy and your environmental impact.
- Ask for what you want! You’ll also need to accept that you won’t always get it — but you certainly won’t get it if you don’t ask!
- Do things that matter. My service over the past 12 years with the City of McMinnville and founding the non-profit Wine Country Pride has given me an ability to do good for others. Service doesn’t have to be high profile — it’s the service that matters.
- There is always an option. Never let people tell you there aren’t options. We can always do better. We can always make better wine, improve our systems, be better recyclers, better bosses, better teammates. I work very hard to be able to see the options in front of me and I’m committed to constant improvement.
- Figure out who should be in your brain trusts. Whether wine or politics or gardening — I run my ideas through my brain trusts. At work, this looks like assembling a diverse and knowledgeable team.
- Diversify wine. If your organization hasn’t already invested in DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) training and examined its own workforce, systems, hiring practices and advertising, then you need to catch up. Sorry, not sorry.
- Illegtimi Non Carborundum. Yes, this is fake latin but the bastards of the world are real and they will try to hold you down. I’m looking at you: women, people of color, queer folk. The service industry is majority women and people of color yet our industry sector isn’t generally recognized at the federal or state level, which leaves us vulnerable to continued systems abuses and discriminatory practices. Fight back.
- Be honest and kind. One of my best friend’s mom always gave this advice and it couldn’t be better. I’m sometimes accused of being aggressive because I’m a very direct person and was born female. I’m not sickly sweet — I tell it like it is but I do it in a way in which I try to bring others along. And sometimes I just have to give up on how others are perceiving me and know that I’ve done my best to be honest and kind.
- Build it better. When I recently learned my winery was being displaced after 12 years, I committed to not just saving my company (again) but building a better one. Our winery will be the first structure in the United States (that we know of) and only third in the world that’s made from net-zero carbon concrete. Innovate!