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A Toast to Our Women Winemakers

March 8th is International Women’s Day, and we’re raising a glass to all the women in the wine industry who are making their mark and shaping the field for future generations.

This year’s theme is ‘Break the Bias’ – a call for gender equity and challenging biases, stereotypes, and discrimination. Like many other industries, women face multiple barriers to gender equality. However, despite these challenges, the number of women in the wine industry is growing. This year, we interviewed DeLille’s winemaking women about their experience and how we can uplift future women in the industry.

Assistant Winemaker Mari Rossi

Mari Rossi, Assistant Winemaker

How did you get into the wine industry?

My love for math and science initially drew me to enology & viticulture, but the combination of science, creativity, and physically handcrafting a product that brings people joy is what keeps me loving my job.

What are some of your goals? 

It is important to honor and acknowledge many of the traditions set before us in this industry; however, there is always room to improve, and as an industry, we need to evolve and start uplifting and including more voices in the wine conversation. I want to be a part of that change, and it is a priority to continue to actively make space for new voices. It is time to change the landscape.

What would you say to women considering a career in wine?

Come work harvest with us! I would say don’t be afraid to reach out to women already in the industry for guidance, support, and advice. We have a strong community within the industry, and it is important to feel heard and seen in whatever space you are entering. It is the best job in the world!

How do you think women can uplift each other in the winemaking community?

Women are great at building community, so continuing to bring everyone together is important. Seeking out new resources, stepping outside of the box, and making more room for other women…when you get a seat at the table, bring someone up with you!

Who are three inspirational women you look up to and why?

Erica Orr is definitely holding it down for the women here in Woodinville and in the industry as a whole. She is not only an incredible winemaker and owner of her own lab, but she also brings together the other women winemakers in Woodinville, creating a community and support system for us all.

Ikimi Dubose and Tahiirah Habibi both helped found The Roots Fund, which was created to empower communities of color by providing resources and financial support through educational scholarships, wine education, mentorship, and job placement. They are constantly working towards making a much-needed change in the wine industry.

Of course, the women who raised me to be who I am today: my mother, my sister, and my two grandmas. They are the strongest women I know, and they constantly make me want to be the best version of myself.

What is your favorite DeLille Cellars wine?

Harrison Hill and Chaleur Blanc are probably my two favorite DeLille wines to make.

Cellar Lead Sarah Jackson

Sarah Jackson, Cellar Lead

How did you get into the wine industry?

Like so many before me, I completely stumbled into the industry. My husband landed an internship with DeLille and started coming home from work happy and excited about his job, something I had never experienced before. Immediately jealous, I asked to tag along and luckily DeLille still needed help and hired me for the 2019 vintage. I haven’t looked back since.

What are some of your goals?

The industry is so expansive and full of opportunity. Right now, my goal is to learn and try new things every day, so that one day I could be as good of a mentor to others as the winemaking team at DeLille has been for me.

What would you say to women considering a career in wine?

Absolutely go for it. I’m blessed to work with several incredible, tough, smart women who inspire me every day. Women belong in this industry and have so much to offer both in and out of the cellar. Girls rock.

How do you think women can uplift each other in the winemaking community?

Sharing knowledge is everything. I’m lucky to call Mari Rossi, our assistant winemaker, a mentor. As more of us make it into positions of influence in the industry, it’s important to not just be visible representation, but also actively bring the next generation of women into the cellar and empower them to follow their winemaking dreams.

Who are three inspirational women you look up to and why?

Only three? I work with three women in the cellar at DeLille, Mari Rossi who has always advocated for me and is a well of knowledge, as well as Page Kafonek and Sophie Louallier who both impress me and give me strength daily through their grit, knowledge, and humor. But I can’t name women I look up to without mentioning my mother, a self-described “laborer” who worked in environmental education for young children and was the first person who made me realize that women are just as tough and capable as our male counterparts.

What is your favorite DeLille Cellars wine?

Only one?? The 2019 Riesling rocked my world. The bouquet on that beauty is intoxicating. I’m also a huge fan of our Métier.

Do you have a favorite memory at DeLille you would like to share?

Anyone who has worked a harvest will tell you it’s less the romantic ideal of sweeping vineyard vistas and thoughtful swirls and sips of wine, and longer, intense days spent scrubbing tanks, punching down caps, and getting generally filthy. However, for me, that first harvest I worked alongside my husband was as romantic as it gets. Tackling such an intense undertaking together was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had and showed me our strength both as individuals and a couple. I will forever be grateful that I got to share that transformative first harvest with my best friend.

Cellar Lead Page Kafonek

Page Kafonek, Cellar Lead

How did you get into the wine industry?

I was establishing myself in the hospitality industry and what makes every situation more hospitable? Wine! I began my studies as a Sommelier and my mentor suggested I try a harvest.  It was such a great experience that I shifted my course to production.

What are some of your goals? 

I’m still trying to find my footing. There are a few gaps between the wine industry and the hospitality industry that I’m filling in. For now, I’m just trying to learn as much from the winemakers at Delille as I can, there’s a lot of great talent here and I’m excited to see where both myself and the business go.

What would you say to women considering a career in wine?

Try a harvest! One of the best parts of harvest is working with a diverse team of career backgrounds, goals, personal interests, and skillsets.  There is no “right” way to get into this career.

How do you think women can uplift each other in the winemaking community?

Continue to help create a sense of community.  Promote outreach programs, hold events, and get your name out there. The more exposure we can shine on the women in wine the better!

Who are three inspirational women you look up to and why?

Prior to Delille, I had only worked with two other female interns.  They were both so headstrong and with a little ingenuity, never let a task outweigh them.  Seeing them continue to thrive in this industry has given me confidence in my own abilities.

What is your favorite DeLille Cellars wine?

Chaleur Blanc is the most hands-on white I’ve worked with.  Tasting that wine reminds me of stirring the lees in every barrel once a week and that’s what I love about being in production.  I love being able to taste the effort everyone puts into a great product.

Do you have a favorite memory at DeLille you would like to share?

The first day we used the new crush equipment this past harvest – Everyone was learning the equipment that day and it really showed where different experiences and backgrounds can come into play in the cellar. There is no “right” way to get there.

Cellar Hand Sophie Louaillier

Sophie Louaillier, Cellar Hand

How did you get into the wine industry?

I first got into the wine industry when I worked Harvest 2020 here at DeLille! Prior to that, I didn’t even know the wine industry was even an option for me, or that I would love it so much that I wanted to return. My second harvest was where things really cemented for me; not only did I feel more knowledgeable and at ease, but also I liked that I was consistently learning new things every day.

What are some of your goals? 

I think one of the amazing things about working in wine is that there are so many different ways to grow and move around the industry. As I enter my first year of officially being in the wine world, my goals right now are focused on learning as much as I can, and really understanding DeLille’s winemaking process throughout the year (not just during harvest).

What would you say to women considering a career in wine?

As someone who is still fresh on the scene, I would say the best way to consider a career in wine is to try a harvest! Harvest is really where you decide if you love making wine or not because it is so intense, fast-paced, and physical. You learn so much about the winemaking process during harvest, and it’s a great opportunity to see if you can envision yourself in the industry more long-term.

How do you think women can uplift each other in the winemaking community?

I feel there are so many ways women can support other women in the wine community! I think for women who are more established in wine, education and collaboration can be a great way to include and uplift women who want a future in wine. It is amazing to be working on a team that is majority women, and I think that is a direct result of intentional hiring – really allowing women to show up and prove that there needs to be more women in wine. It is also why I find myself looking up to Mari, our assistant winemaker, and oenologist. Her dedication to diversity both in and out of the wine community and her commitment to holding space for other women to join her in her successes is incredible.

Although she is not in the industry, I also look up immensely to my older sister Chloe. Her compassion, caring nature, and generosity challenges me to be a better person on the daily, and also makes her one of my favorite people. She is fun, adventurous, and fiercely loving. It makes me proud to be her sister and friend!

What is your favorite DeLille Cellars wine?

As we move into spring and summer, one of my favorite DeLille wines to drink is our Riesling! It’s been on my mind as of late and I can’t wait to catch those summer vibes.

Do you have a favorite memory at DeLille you would like to share?

I’ve had so many great memories over my short time here it’s hard to pick one! One from harvest ’21: we were adjusting to using all new crush equipment this year, as well as working in a new space, which also had new electrical wiring… We were in for quite a shock when we plugged in the crush line, dumped a bin of grapes, and realized the sorting table had the audacity to start shooting grapes backwards! Very intense and concerning in the moment, but kind of funny looking back on it!

Looking Forward: Women in Washington Wine

Although the percentage of women in winemaking is still relatively small, organizations such as The Alliance of Women in Washington Wine advocate for and inspire women in wine. DeLille Cellars is honored to be a founding donor of the Woodinville Wine Country Scholarship, supporting minority and under-represented students within the program who demonstrate a passion for and dedication to the wine-growing and winemaking craft, as well as a love of higher learning and continued wine education.

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