The years have been sweet and mellow...a retrospective

Recently I was asked to speak at Copia’s Women in Wine symposium as I guess I’m considered to be a person with a few pearls of wisdom after 23 years in the wine business. The copy for the seminar said, “Hear fresh perspectives from the new generation and pearls of wisdom from the vintage gals” (I paraphrase). I loved that now at 44 I’m considered a vet. Ha! I certainly feel that way given the long and winding road of experience, travel, learnings, but one thing I shared with the group at hand that has kept my perspective fresh is curiosity and a sense of keeping a pulse on what’s next. What I loved about the gathering was that it encompassed two generations of women who had witnessed in their collective time a very exciting evolution for women in the business. Notable take aways from the seminar included acknowledging an increasing number of women in various wine industry positions from winery CEO to winemaker to marketer across the entire gamut. Those who helped pave the way such as Domaine Carneros winemaker Eileen Crane, St. Supery CEO Michaela Rodeno, Zelma Long among many others spoke of the novelty of taking on winemaking and senior positions in the 1970s and of the societal limitations they sometimes faced but overcame. I love to listen to pioneers talk because it really was unknown territory and it takes guts to navigate it guided by your instinct and talent. There are still challenges out there for younger people in the wine business, but it’s really important to acknowledge that they are standing on the shoulders of those who went before, and they will have their own unique challenges. Another person who presented a more contemporary perspective on the industry (as it relates to hospitality) was Shelley Lindgren of A16, she’s a wunderkind. I’ve always marveled at Shelley’s grace and determination wrapped in such a cool package. For someone so young she knows a lot about human nature, and is really working to break the stereotypes in the restaurant business of hard work, suffering and sacrifice and an intense hierarchy in most kitchens, she makes a very demanding job fun and really empowers her staff from the dishwasher to the top chef. She sets a high bar but gently guides everyone to understand her goals, I love it when young people show such wisdom and enthusiasm not to mention a strong work ethic. One thing Shelley said that I subscribe to is that there isn’t a substitute for putting in the time and work to build a body of knowledge: no shortcuts. Amen I say! From the start of my career with my serendipitous job as a wine steward at the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington, VA across from my alma mater Georgetown to great stints with Kobrand Corporation in New York, E. & J. Gallo in California and finally my own agency, it’s been an incredible opportunity to watch the U.S. and the globe become more wine savvy and curious. Also, to be in the business and have it be experiencing an all time growth is really truly amazing and gratifying to those who have worked to bring the incredible richness and lore of wine to more people! If we continue to listen to consumers and ask questions, we can’t help but all benefit.