When I first started studying wine in my early 20’s, I searched to find a mentor I could not only learn from but also connect with. But my Sommelier courses were dominated by stuffy men in suits that I definitely didn’t connect with, and I struggled to fit in with this hyper-masculine culture. Believing this was the only way to learn all there was to know about wine though, I continued on, thinking it was just me that was the problem.
It wasn’t until I took a trip to the south of France that I saw what appeared to be a wine culture that revolved around a much more inclusive, almost matriarchal society. Almost every winery and wine shop I visited had a strong, out-spoken woman in a high position as a leader on both the winemaking and hospitality teams. They also made an effort to communicate with me, though we usually didn’t speak the same language, speaking at length and often asking my thoughts on their own wines, which, as a 22-year-old with almost no formed opinions of my own, completely floored me.
This encouraged me to keep up my search back home. Thankfully in the years since, I’ve been able to find numerous strong, passionate women mentors in many different facets of the wine industry. From Jeanne and Zasha at Lakeridge Winery, to Carri and Klaudia at Brix Wine Shop, and now Donna and the woman-led team at Winderlea, I’m grateful to be able to learn from and continue to cultivate an inclusive wine culture here in the Willamette Valley. -Allison Fields, Winderlea Compliance, Service & Club Administrator