The Last of our WBC14 Posts. We Hope.

A vineyard visit, photo courtesy WBC 14.
A vineyard visit, photo courtesy WBC 14.

The Wine Bloggers Conference last July was indeed a rich experience, with good friends to be made, lots of great information and even more wonderful wines. But there was one problem – and we know we’re not the first to point it out. There was a serious lack of women winemakers represented. At a time when it seemed like every winery in the Santa Barbara region had some representation, why were the wineries owned by women mostly absent?

Now, it is possible that Cold Heaven Cellars (owner and winemaker Morgan Clendenen), Riverbench (winemaker Clarissa Nagy), Fiddlehead Cellars (owner and winemaker Kathy Joseph) and Rideau (owned by Iris Rideau) were all asked to participate and for whatever reason couldn’t. Heaven knows, we’ve had the devil’s own time trying to pin Ms. Clendenen down for an interview. It’s also possible that with so much going on, we didn’t see that there was more than the one Fiddlehead bottle at the one lunch floating around. But, even beyond WBC, when panel after panel at wine event after wine event feature nothing but White male winemakers, even when you know there are good women who could be there, you have to wonder what’s going on.

As our colleague and fellow attendee Alison Smith Marriott noted, this isn’t about being cranky and pointing fingers. We do want to acknowledge the excellent #MerlotMe panel that featured Marisa Taylor, winemaker at Rutherford Hill. Nor do we have anything against White guys – heck, Michael is one. Still, what about the local women, one of whom happens to be a woman of color, by the way?

The thing is, we know this kind of exclusion is not intentional or even conscious – and that’s the problem. Winemakers are a very jolly lot and as a rule do not see each other as competition. There’s always room for another winemaker at the table simply because consumers don’t stop drinking Brand A when they discover Brand B. But because the vast majority of winemakers are White males, very often we forget that there are women making fabulous wine, that there are people of color making fabulous wine. It simply doesn’t occur to us to ask.

Well, here at OddBallGrape.com, we’re asking and it is our goal to feature as many women and people of color in the wine biz as possible. We’re not going to ignore the guys – come on, when you’ve got Rick Longoria talking tannins, you don’t turn that down. But we want the emphasis here to be on the under-represented. Because the world isn’t going to remember that winemakers and wine lovers all come in different genders, colors, sizes, whatever, unless some of us who have a voice remind them. Fair enough?

8 thoughts on “The Last of our WBC14 Posts. We Hope.”

  1. Carol – It will get better. The winemaking programs at UCDavis, SLO, Sonoma State and Fresno State are getting more and more women enrolled. Also, while women buy over 75% of the wine in this country, it’s mostly mass-produced from the supermarket shelf. As we get more into the smaller wineries, more of us will get interested in making it and things will even out. Eventually.

  2. Wow! How eloquently stated. Women and people of color are vastly underrepresented. And I agree. I don’t think it’s intentional just “the way it has always been” kind of thing. One example is Ceja Vineyards in Napa, a Mexican-American owned winery. Maybe they’ll be available next year.

    1. We love Ceja. And not far up the road is Robledo – Another Hispanic family operation. Both are darned tasty

  3. Rideau was actually at the kick off event on Thursday night, although Iris herself wasn’t there unfortunately. Also, I recently learned that while Sunstone’s winemaker is a man, his mom Linda actually started the winery and set many of the environmental standards they’re so well known for. Too bad it took me a solo excursion to find all of this out!

    Cheers!

    Alison
    http://www.bonvivantdc.com/blog

    1. Both? They’re both very good. It just depends on what kind of tasting room experience you prefer. Ceja is brighter, more open and modern place. Robledo has you in the shadow of a barrel room with the ephemera of a lifetime in the valley.

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