There may be a large gender divide in many workplaces, but in the realm of wine, women have been steadily rising to the top. Not only do female consumers outnumber that of men, the number of female winemakers and sommeliers continue to rise every year. There are probably countless reasons as to why women are reigning supreme on the vineyard, but we’ll leave reasoning to the 10 talented ladies we recently spoke with. From California to Italy, from winemakers to sommeliers, these women’s stories are funny, touching, kismet, and inspirational. Plus, their favorite wines make a pretty amazing shopping list.
What started as a small feature is now a full-sized series, so make sure to stay tuned to learn about each and every one of these 10 women in wine. First up is Melissa Burr, winemaker with Stoller Family Estate.
Raised in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, Burr completed a Bachelor of Science degree and then went on to study winemaking and fermentation science at Oregon State University. She joined Stoller Family Estate in 2003 (just two years after the winery launched) as head winemaker and since, has had a hand in production increasing from only a few hundred cases to almost 17,000 as of last year. The winery was named the 2014 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest.
JustLuxe: What got you started in the industry?
Melissa Burr: I got started in the industry via medicine. I studied science to enter a graduate program for naturopathic medicine, developed an interest in wine, and decided to take my career to the wine industry instead of medicine.
JL: Who are some of your heroes?
MB: My mom, for real. She is an incredible woman. She is smart, practical, honest, open-minded, caring and funny, and she is who I look to for who I would like to be.
JL: Is there a female figure in the wine world whom you consider to be the most inspiring and/or influential?
MB: There are a few, but the closest to home (literally) is Lynn Penner-Ash. She has been in the industry for over 30 years, built a highly successful brand that she owns exclusively, and remains involved in every aspect. She also has a family and enjoys spending time with them.
JL: Considering more women tend to list wine as their favorite alcoholic drink compared to men, why do you think it has taken so long for women to break into the industry? How has the climate for females in the wine industry changed?
MB: It follows the evolution of how women have entered more into the work force in general over the last 50 years, breaking free from suppression.
JL: As a woman in the field, would you prefer to be “just another winemaker/sommelier” or do you find power in the attention gained from being a female in the industry?
MB: I prefer to not focus on being a woman winemaker, however I am proud to be in the industry working for a successful brand and I am happy if that provides inspiration for other women.
JL: What do you like the most about your wine/wine lists?
MB: I feel extremely lucky to be so close to the wine I make to where it can be for me like a time capsule. I can think about the harvest, the weather, and the people that went into the wine.
JL: Do you have a favorite wine?
MB: I enjoy many wines and don’t have one favorite, but I will say that the Stoller Reserve Pinot Noirs (any vintage) are very special, as they reflect the vineyard and vintage elegantly.
(Republished with the permission of JustLuxe.com)