Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk
June 2, 2011
Rightly or wrongly, I always consider wine in feminine terms.Perhaps it is the smooth shape of a wine bottle, the sensuous sensation of the first sip or the inspiration that gazing into a beautiful glass of wine can provide. Whatever it is, I always seem to talk about wine as though it were a woman.That got me to thinking recently about the topic of “Women in Wine” – a lofty title that no doubt imbues a non-gender-specific subject with elements of politics, sexuality and other hot-button issues.But that is not the point. Rather this is to celebrate the growing prominence of women in an historically male-dominated field. Today, women are participating in all facets of the wine world, not only making vast contributions but also changing the culture with their participation.Perhaps my favorite vineyard memory took place a few summers ago on a trip to Burgundy. I love to run in vineyards, and on this spring morning I had the good fortune of using the backroads and trails of the Cte de Nuits for my running track. It was early, and though the day would eventually warm to the 90s, the morning was cool and damp as the fog evaporated from the tree-lined hills.As I ran through La Tche, one of the world’s most beautiful and significant vineyards, I spied, perhaps a half-mile ahead, an enormous horse walking between the rows of vines. I turned to run towards the steed and, as I got closer, I saw that it was a plow horse. The horse was being drawn by a beautiful dark-haired woman who was working so hard that her shirt and shorts were already soaked with through with sweat on this foggy morning. I slowed and tried to strike up a conversation, but alas, like a farmer who had crops to bring in, or alternately, a French woman who had no use for an American jogger in her vineyard, she gave me only one withering look, saying without words that I was no longer welcome in La Tche. Point taken.I tell the tale because it has always defined for me the role of a woman winemaker. There she was, solitary in the early morning sun, tilling her soil and caring for her vines as only she could. It was a maternal scene that, to this day, plays in my mind whenever I think of Burgundy.There are many women playing important roles in the American wine scene as well. Ann Colgin, who will pour her cult Cabernet from her eponymous vineyard at the Food & Wine Classic, comes to mind, as does Gina Gallo, the female scion of one of America’s most significant wine families. But beyond winemakers, women are significant contributors in wine journalism and criticism. Lettie Teague writes a terrific column in the Wall Street Journal; Mary Ann Worobiec wields great power as the Napa Tasting Coordinator for The Wine Spectator; and Andrea Immer Robinson and Jancis Robinson write exceptional books and blogs on wine.And female sommeliers have become so prevalent that it is no longer an anomaly to have a woman come to your table to talk Tempranillo or Trebbiano. Belinda Chang just won the James Beard Award for “Outstanding Wine Service” this past May and the Court of Master Sommeliers has welcomed four new female members in the last three classes.And of course there are women in the business of wine. The Catherine Store in Carbondale is female owned. A group out of the Napa Valley called The Wine Sisterhood produces and markets a number of wines targeted directly to women with names like “promisQous Red” and “Middle Sister Drama Queen Pinot Grigio.” The sales copy for the Drama Queen reads “If you love drama this wine is the perfect match, with aromas of apples, pears, and a touch of lemongrass. See you in the gossip columns!” Clearly they have tapped into something.Perhaps there is something inherently sexist in my thinking of wines in female terms. So be it. But there is nothing sexist about my appreciation for the continued growth in the number of women entering the wine world in all its varied facets. It’s about time.
Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and a black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at email@example.com.