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Oct 19, 2017

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Sharon Greer; Benedicte Rhyne; Ondine Chattan; Colleen Lewis
by Laura Holmes
Magazine Issue: U.S. Vol. 5.2

It's raining men: men in the cellar, men cleaning barrels, men in the vineyards, men sniffing a glass of wine by the fire. Everywhere you look, men men men men men. You'd think from reading other wine magazines that the only women in the wine industry are chained to their desks in forgotten cubicles somewhere. Well, I've got news for you.

Women are everywhere: making wine, testing wine, selling wine, designing wine materials, and all places in between. In this new column, we'll showcase women who're making a significant difference in the wine biz.

So suck it up, boys. 'Cause you know what they say: behind every good woman... is another one.

SHARON GREER
Trinchero Family Estates

Age: 30

What brings home the bacon: Graphic Artist for Trinchero Family Estates

Resides: Napa, CA

Favorite Music/Band: Let me pull up my MP3 list and refresh my memory

Favorite Food(s): A delicate blend of fine food and junk food

Favorite Drink(s): Gatorade, Almond Lattes and Sutter Home Shiraz.

Favorite winery/wine producer: Mumm Cuvee Napa.

Wine X: Explain what you do in 250 words or less:

Sharon Greer: What do I do? Wine marketing materials, store displays, creative brainstorming and supply my office-mates with candy. I do NOT do label design.

Wine X: What inspired you to work in the wine industry?

Sharon: I grew up in Napa. All the kids want to get out of this town, but the wine always brings them back.

Wine X: Do you feel being a woman in the industry is a blessing or a curse? Hinders or helps you?

Sharon: I don't know. Men do open doors for me.

Wine X: What's your favorite thing about working in the industry?

Sharon: Special treats and going to fun events.

Wine X: What's the worst thing about working in the industry?

Sharon: Deadlines.

Wine X: How often do you have a glass of wine?

Sharon: Four times a week.

Wine X: If you could drink one wine (or type of wine) for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Sharon: Billecart Salmon Champagne Rose. I'm quite fond of pink wine.

Wine X: What was your most embarrassing moment with wine?

Sharon: Being kicked off the V. Sattui picnic grounds for having a cooler full of Coors.

Wine X: How long does an open bottle last in your house?

Sharon: I only drink the little ones at home (Sutter Home's 187mls).

BENEDICTE RHYNE
Wine Country Consulting

Age: 37

What brings home the bacon: Wine Consultant, Wine Country Consulting

Resides: Fredericksburg, TX

Favorite Music/Band: The Coronados and Elton John

Favorite Food(s): Food prepared with seasonings that enhance the flavors rather than hide them.

Favorite Drink(s): Champagne any time of the day.

Favorite winery/wine producer: Mas de Gourgonnier, Provence, France (my cousin's winery)

Wine X: Explain what you do in 250 words or less:

Benedicte: My husband and I moved to Texas in May 2002 and started Wine Country Consulting. Our company offers winemaking consulting and lab services to the wine industry in Texas and beyond. Building up the business here in Texas has been very rewarding. My goals are to help the Texas wine industry reach international status in quality, and to educate people on how to enjoy wine as part of their meals -- the way I was brought up to do so in France. Prior to moving to Texas, I worked for 10 years at Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma, California. I was in charge of quality control for all the wines. I managed the lab with two assistants and, as part of the winemaking team, tasted wines every day to evaluate their evolution and assess any problems. I studied lab results for any helpful hints and communicated with the cellar crew to arrange any adjustments that needed to be made. I assisted the winemaker with the blending of wines, especially Bordeaux-style wines such as Pickberry, Rancho Salina and Pentimento.

Wine X: What inspired you to work in the wine industry?

Benedicte: Wine combines many different passions I have in life, such as agriculture, science, food, traveling, cultural interchanges, and festive celebrations with friends and family.

Wine X: Do you feel being a woman in the industry is a blessing or a curse? Hinders or helps you?

Benedicte: The politically correct answer to this question would be that it doesn't matter whether you're a woman or a man, as every individual has something to offer -- a talent, an idea, a vision. The politically incorrect answer would be that being a woman in wine production can be helpful because it requires good mothering by guiding the fruit from the vines to the bottle. Also, for many centuries women have been more exposed to aromas and flavors through cooking and cosmetics. This has given them an almost instinctive sense of recognizing smells and aromas that's been transferred from generation to generation. So in conclusion, it's a real help to be a woman!!

Wine X: What's your favorite thing about working in the industry?

Benedicte: It's a very open-minded industry that allows everybody to interact and exchange ideas to better products and methods.

Wine X: What's the worst thing about working in the industry?

Benedicte: Encountering wines that've been so manipulated that they shouldn't be called wine.

Wine X: How often do you have a glass of wine?

Benedicte: Every day with supper.

Wine X: If you could drink one wine (or type of wine) for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Benedicte: If it can only be one it would have to be Champagne -- my favorite drink!

Wine X: What was your most embarrassing moment with wine?

Benedicte: It was in 1986 when I was working for a winery in Morgon, Beaujolais, France, when I accidentally pumped a tank into another one that was already full. There was fermenting Gamay all over the cellar.

Wine X: How long does an open bottle last in your house?

Benedicte: No more than 24 hours.

ONDINE CHATTAN
Geyser Peak Winery

Age: 30

What brings home the bacon: Assistant Winemaker, Geyser Peak Winery

Resides: Healdsburg, CA

Favorite Music/Band: Dave Matthews

Favorite Food(s): Cheese, Thai, Indian and Spanish

Favorite Drink(s): Red Burgundy, Rhones, Sonoma zinfandel, tangerine juice

Favorite winery/wine producer/region: Chambolle Musigny or Chateau Chante Perdrix in Chateauneuf du Pape. Ridge Vineyards is up there too.

Wine X: Explain what you do in 250 words or less:

Ondine: I assist in coordinating and producing Geyser Peak and Canyon Road wines. My duties include all aspects of production, from conceptualizing new products to seeking new grape sources to daily monitoring and tasting of all fermentations, to making blending and aging decisions. A large part of my job is coordinating movement of wines around our facility and maintaining the integrity of the blends. There's considerable overlap of responsibility in a winery of our size, so no two days are ever the same.

Wine X: What inspired you to work in the wine industry?

Ondine: The practically perfect blend of science, creativity and communication. I'm strongly analytical but my softer (dare I say feminine?) side favors the arts, so I knew I'd never be happy as a research chemist or working in biotech. The opportunity to meet consumers who enjoy my wine is also highly appealing.

Wine X: Do you feel being a woman in the industry is a blessing or a curse? Hinders or helps you?

Ondine: I definitely don't think it ever helps to be a woman in this industry. And at times it seems to be a handicap because people judge you immediately by your sex. Within the industry there's still a lot of sexism. I frequently get asked which tasting room I work in, and when my husband helps me with events most people talk exclusively to him, even when he tells them I'm the winemaker. But I've had the good fortune to work for three modern, gracious wineries, all of which treated me as an individual and not as a "woman."

Wine X: What's your favorite thing about working in the industry?

Ondine: Being so closely tied to the earth and seasons. The annual cycle of dormancy, growth, maturity, harvest and production is so tangibly satisfying. It's humbling and desperately romantic in a traditional sense.

Wine X: What's the worst thing about working in the industry?

Ondine: It's a tie between being told, "You're too pretty to be a winemaker," and being asked, "Did you study this or marry into it?" Men never get these.

Wine X: How often do you have a glass of wine?

Ondine: Five or six days a week.

Wine X: If you could drink one wine (or type of wine) for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Ondine: It would have to be red Burgundy. When I find a good producer I'm positively rapt. It's true that bad Burgundy is among the worst of wines, but good and especially great Burgundies are unparalleled (at least to my taste). Burgundy is also a treasure trove of small producers, so the variety of styles and appellations from Dijon to Macon is more than enough to keep my palate satisfied.

Wine X: What was your most embarrassing moment with wine?

Ondine: My very first job was with Cline Cellars in Sonoma. At the time Cline was a small, struggling winery trying to jump into the big time. We had several gorgeous old oak uprights for aging red wine and all were fitted with ancient butterfly valves. With these types of valves it's necessary to push a button down and turn the valve at the same time. Every week I had to pull samples from these tanks to run malolactic analysis. I always had trouble with the valves because they were so tight, but I was finally getting the hang of it. On this particular day I had collected all but one sample and was feeling rather confident in my new familiarity with the valves. The final tank, a zinfandel known as Big Break, had a particularly stubborn valve. I pressed down on the button and yanked the valve open where it firmly locked into place at a 45-degree angle. A delicious blast of zinfandel blew my sample-collecting beaker at least 20 feet across the room and soaked me from head to toe. As I struggled to try to close the valve the spray continued to soak me and because my hands were so slippery with wine I couldn't get the valve closed. I finally gave up and yelled for help. I lost at least 40 gallons of stellar zin. It took more than a week to get the red stains out of my skin.

Wine X: How long does an open bottle last in your house?

Ondine: That depends on what it is. Sauvignon blanc lasts an hour. Zinfandel about two. Cabernet lasts a few days. Port a week or more.

COLLEEN LEWIS
King Estate

Age: 35

What brings home the bacon: Northwest Regional Manager, King Estate

Resides: Eugene, OR

Favorite Music/Band: Depends on what I'm doing!

Favorite Food(s): Italian

Favorite Drink(s): Pinot noir/Champagne

Favorite winery/wine producer: Billecart Salmon Brut Rose

Wine X: Explain what you do in 250 words or less:

Colleen: I'm northwest regional manager for King Estate Winery in Eugene, Oregon. I cover Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Alaska, Hawaii and Arizona. I manage a distributor network of around 20 different wholesalers. I also help out around the winery (being the local regional, this goes hand-in-hand). Most of the time, though, I'm on the road.

Wine X: What inspired you to work in the wine industry?

Colleen: I was working for Kraft Foods. An acquaintance who purchased a local winery asked if I'd like to do marketing and sales for her. Let's see, cheese or wine? It wasn't a hard choice!

Wine X: Do you feel being a woman in the industry is a blessing or a curse? Hinders or helps you?

Colleen: Both. There are a few "good ol' boys" who make you work twice as hard as the next to prove yourself. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't think it opened a few doors.

Wine X: What's your favorite thing about working in the industry?

Colleen: Challenge! I learn something new every day!

Wine X: What's the worst thing about working in the industry?

Colleen: New item forms!

Wine X: How often do you have a glass of wine?

Colleen: Almost every day.

Wine X: If you could drink one wine (or type of wine) for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Colleen: Pinot. I love how different pinot noir is from vintage, region, producer.

Wine X: What was your most embarrassing moment with wine?

Colleen: I was at a show in San Francisco. One trade member was "over served." He spilled red wine on my table. I said, "No big deal, at least you didn't spill it on me." (I was wearing a white suit.) He took what was left in his glass and threw it on me. The jerk didn't even get thrown out. I'd like to meet him again!

Wine X: How long does an open bottle last in your house?

Colleen: Depends on how many friends are over. Typically two days, unless it's exceptional.

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