Empowered women empower women. This is spot on when it comes to our predominantly male wine industry, where women are breaking stereotypes and shattering glass ceilings — for themselves and others. Earlier this year, we got to drink up that sheer tenaciousness at the ‘Women In Wine’ conference, which took place at the Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner, Oregon. 2023 is almost here (how?!?) and we’ve been doing some end-of-year reflection, to which these wonderful women have some unique insight.
One of the sessions addressed how generations connect with each other. With Anna Maria Ponzi moderating, the discussion featured an amazing lineup of panelists: Tiquette Bramlett, Pat Campbell, Laura Laing and Ximena Orrego. They are women of different ages and from wildly different walks of life. The unifying factor? They are women in wine, and are focussed on making the world better for future generations.
We spoke to these five successful women about life and career advice for young women seeking to start a career in the world of wine. As well, we asked them to share some thoughts about what they might tell their younger, impressionable selves.
Anna Maria Ponzi, author of ‘Pinot Girl’
For young women interested in pursuing any career in the wine industry, I strongly advise being well-prepared! Winemaking and viticulture are tough fields that require knowledge, nerves of steel, patience, resourcefulness and experience. No matter your role, be prepared to manage several tasks that will likely require physical strength and adaptability, especially in small wineries — drive a forklift, punch down a fermenter, schlep a case of wine upstairs in heels seconds before an important tasting, or help to clean up after an event. Nothing we women can’t do, but be prepared for the real ‘behind-the-scenes’ of this ‘glamorous’ business. I would tell my younger self to be well-educated on all levels of the wine business. To not take anything for granted, and to understand you will be expected to work twice as hard as the guys regardless of your talent and skill level. And, yes, I am fully aware that it is 2022. Additionally, collaborate and help others along the way and always consider how to make things better than when you arrived.
Tiquette Bramlett, Compris Vineyard
The advice I would give to the younger generation working in wine is to stay true to who you are. Coming into any industry you have a unique perspective. You are coming in with a fresh lens and curiosity, use that. Asking questions will not only help you learn but also give your team an opportunity to be intentional and think about the “why.” Those moments can be powerful, as it can often be the catalyst of change. What I would tell myself is to turn down the volume on the naysayers. It’s easy for people to tell you what you shouldn’t do, but the only one that knows what you are capable of is you. Yes, you may make some adjustments and discover that you need to take a different path, but that is all part of your story and what you will be able to pass on one day.
Pat Campbell, Elk Cove Vineyards
Winegrowing for me began with my love of food and wine –- especially Pinot Noir. I was driven to make sure Elk Cove had success in the early years. If I could go back in time I would work harder to lift other women in our industry. We were strong but rarely got credit for our hard work. Some of us remember the day when women were asked to step out of a photo (a photo that unfortunately looms large in the archives) at a major promotion of our industry. ‘Men only,’ it seemed. That would never happen today. To the younger generation, I would say — Follow your passion for wine whether it be winemaking, viticulture, sales, service or management. There are so many opportunities. Find mentors who believe in you, learn everything you can from them, and make sure they empower you. Most importantly, work hard and believe in yourself.
Laura Laing, Hazelfern Cellars
If I were to go back in time I would tell myself that it is all going to work out the way it should. Sometimes that lost opportunity or challenge is what is supposed to happen. Trust the journey and spend each day focused on today. It’s the sum of those days that build the life you want. Today, I’d tell passionate youngsters to just try everything. There are so many aspects of the wine industry and you never know what interest one of those fields might spark.
Ximena Orrego, Atticus Wine
My advice to the younger generation is to dream big and be ready to work hard and take risks. Find a mentor or two, who will help you, guide you and provide support. Make sure you get an education, formally and through internships. The more you know the more valuable you will be and the more options you will have on your journey. You may end up being a small business owner in which case it is great to have that overall knowledge — if anything, it will give you perspective and insight into the various sides of the business, and you may actually be surprised by what you discover is truly what gives you the most joy. If I could, I’d tell my younger self to remember to enjoy every single bit of your journey. Embrace the chaos, the imperfections, the ups and downs, and often celebrate, even the smallest things!
Photo courtesy of Andrea Lonas Photography