Women & Wine: A new perspective

A lovely gathering of inspiring women

A lovely gathering of inspiring women

Every now and again we have experiences in life that either support or challenge our own unique point of view. Most experiences do neither and are therefore not particularly noteworthy. On March 22nd, Julie Brosterman of Women & Wine and Wine Valet hosted a get-together at her home to honor five women who are blazing trails in the wine industry. Aside from having a beautiful home and being a fantastic cook, Julie has an amazing set of friends and acquaintances… and I walked away with a new amendment to my point of view. Doing business with women is great… even when the relationship is predicated on fellow womanhood.

You know how we always talk about how men and women are different? And it always sounds like a cop-out for us not understanding each other? Well, it’s true. Women and men ARE different… in a good way. We learn different things from each other and it’s so important to remember that. Businesses, relationships, and even the way we make wine benefits from a well-rounded perspective that includes women and men.

I’m really trying to not make generalizations here (well, not more than usual at least), but after wading through a man-filled techie business world for so long, it was incredibly refreshing to discover the differences in the way women talk about their businesses. The passion level is the same, but the expression of that passion is rooted in more in the human part of the experience, the friendships, the struggles, the triumphs… and less in the numbers, the “success,” or the technical details.

Here’s what I learned from these women who kindly opened up their worlds to me, and 30-something other women, to share their passion for … wine!

Julie Brosterman, Women & Wine and Wine Valet
A venerable host and generous spirit

I’m so glad I finally got a chance to meet Julie Brosterman. I have a soft spot for women entrepreneurs (gee, I wonder why) and a personal connection to her store Wine Valet. Julie is an impressive social networker and plugged in to the wine world from multiple angles making her a fantastic connector (think The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell). But she’s also generous and talented, open and honest, and very very hard working. If you have a reason to do business with Julie, you should… if you just want to be part of a network of women who love wine, she’s got you covered there, too…

Karen Cakebread, Ziata Wines (Buy)
A brave one who thinks it’s worth trying

I love how Karen talks about her “project.” As if launching a winery, and all of the work that goes into it, could be encapsulated by such an ordinary word. What it reflects most is her humility considering what she has accomplished in what must be acknowledged as one of the most difficult climates ever in which to launch a new business.

Karen’s “project” is a lovely pair of wines that tasted as good when I had them in the giant, cold, clammy seaside Fort Mason Center in San Francisco as they did in the warm Hollywood home of Julie Brosterman. Karen demonstrates an impeccable taste level not just in her wines but in decisions including the naming of her winery after her mother and the commission of exquisite wine labels that perhaps only a print designer would go gaga over.

P.S. Yes, her last name is from that Cakebread. But she wanted to do something different and share her point of view with “friends, family, and other wine lovers.”

Cathy Corison, Corison Winery (Buy)
One who sees, and knows the importance of, the details

It takes someone with keen vision to recognize an idea within herself and bring that vision to life. After almost 30 years of making wine for others, Cathy transformed the “wine inside me that needed to be made” from an internal notion to an incredible wine. From the precise location of her vineyards, to the specific (down to the forest) source of her oak, to letting “the vineyards speak,” Cathy has found a way to give all of us something from inside her.

Each year Cathy crafts two Cabernet Sauvignons at her Rutherford winery in Napa Valley, California. She brought two of these to Julie’s soiree and one of them was such an incredible experience I sat down alone with it to savor it (and take notes).

My experience with the 2001 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon
(Note: I try not to use prose to describe the wines I drink because it’s nearly meaningless to anyone else, but this wine was special and I found myself unable to access the experience with out flowery language.)

Beautiful black pepper, purple and black fruits, smoky on the nose. Silky tannins, pleasant bite, graceful finish. Lively, deep Cabernet, roundness. Light minerality or chalkiness. Red fruit in the finish.

Julie Johnson, Tres Sabores Winery (Buy)
Loves her life, and it shows

It’s always interesting to meet someone who you already know a little about. Even more so when that person warmly opens up, exudes friendliness and happiness, and welcomes in new people with a big smile and joyous eyes. Or maybe Julie just likes a party!

Caution! Julie comes with show-and-tell props that can be mistaken for snacks! She brought a Ziploc sandwich baggy filled with the organic (of the carbon-based kind, not the Whole Foods kind, though it’s probably that, too) fertilizer they use at the vineyard. The stuff looks like trail mix but it’s kind of neat to think the vines can get their nutrients the same way we do. No, I didn’t taste it.

Related anecdote: Several months ago I purchased a bottle of wine for Arianna’s birthday and the wine shop I bought it from saw me buying an expensive (by my standards) Zinfandel so tried to sell me on others. Being a oeno-neophyte I had not yet heard of The Prisoner, but no amount of reputation conveyed to me by a salesperson is going to convince me to shell out that kind of cash. After a stern “that’s outside my price range” they suggested I try a wine they referred to as “The Little Prisoner.” This was Tres Sbores’ ¿POR QUÉ NO? I think the store is doing themselves a disservice by pushing The Prisoner (I found it ruined the expensive meaty meal I drank it with) and considering ¿POR QUÉ NO? to be similar.

Paula Kornell, Oakville Ranch (Buy)
Connected to the land

Paula was born and raised in the Napa Valley… an upbringing I’m more than a tad bit jealous of. From childhood she recognized the Napa Valley as an extraordinary place to be protected, revered, and enjoyed. She brings that love of the Napa Valley to her post at Oakville Ranch, where you can taste how the wines reflect the company’s dedication to “giving back to this land.” Paula is a warm and lovely woman who not only manages a fantastic winery, but also has a long history of charitable work for a variety of causes and does everything to support her love of life, community, and land. I can’t wait to visit her at the winery and see first hand where all the magic happens.

Kelly McElearney, Ehlers Estate Winery (Buy)
Dedicated to something bigger

In the days when too many wineries to count are competing for your taste buds and your wine budget, it’s getting harder to tell the difference between wines (and equally hard to remember the difference). Some wineries are offering us better reasons to buy their wines than just “it’s a Napa Valley Cab that got 91 points from The Wine Spectator.” Among them, Ehler Estate is a non-profit winery where 100% “of the proceeds from the sale of these wines go to support the Leducq Foundation, a highly regarded, not-for-profit foundation dedicated to funding international cardiovascular research.”

What’s even cooler about this winery is Kelly. Kelly comes from a well-known Napa wine family. You may have heard of them… the Duckhorns? Rather than take a leadership role in her family’s legacy, Kelly is putting her knowledge and passion to work supporting a winery with much larger goals. What’s not to love about that?

P.S. I think her Mom sounds pretty neat, too.

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Jess' Wine Tasting Notes

Add a Comment