Gina King

Domaine Somm Inc. - Founder & CEO
San Francisco, CA

    Inspired by Women Winemakers

    March 25, 2013

    Whether you’re a wine newbie, enthusiast, or aficionado, the beauty of the world of wine is its distinctive yet universal appeal.  Wine has a way of bringing people together and providing opportunities to share some truly magical experiences. In this spirit, I invite you to join me on this fun journey of exploration!

    March is Women’s History Month, so in celebration, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight a few incredible women winemakers who make beautiful wines and provide inspiration through their craft. Great winemaking requires a talent of bringing science and art together in perfect harmony. Each of these women has a very different background, but there is an underlying passion and purpose that drive these women to do what they love: craft meaningful, distinctive, expressive wines. As I sat down to write about these women, so much of what they embody resonated with me as an entrepreneur. Here are some key takeaways that I gleaned from them...

    *Be true to yourself and create your own expression. Learn as much as you can from others in your field and leverage that collective knowledge, but believe in yourself and the passion you bring to your craft.

    *Strive to achieve balance. Exercise restraint when necessary, respect the forces in play, and adapt to what nature throws at you.

    *It takes real care. When you’re creating something meaningful, take great care of the delicate, risky, and challenging parts of the process. It’s hard work, but what comes out of it is truly rewarding.

    *Do what you love and share with others!

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    Vanessa Wong -  Peay Vineyards

    Vanessa Wong, a native of San Francisco, was introduced to the wine business through wine retail and catering at the ripe old age of 14. Her early exposure to wine led her to pursue studies in viticulture and enology at UC Davis and upon completion of her degree; Vanessa worked at various acclaimed wineries in the Napa Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Australia to explore the diversity of winemaking. Vanessa has been the winemaker at Peay Vineyards since 2001. Peay Vineyards is a family operation with her husband, Nick Peay, responsible for grape growing and his brother, Andy Peay responsible for sales and marketing. The estate vineyards are located on the extreme Sonoma Coast and the Peays are very focused on farming grapes to achieve a true expression of the unique climate and soil of a site. Vanessa’s experience working in a variety of wine regions and exposure to diversity of winemaking really shows in her wines. Her wines are complex and truly arresting. They’re the kind of wines that stop you dead in your tracks and make you wonder what it is that you just took a sip of!

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    Arianna Occhipinti -  Occhipinti, Tami

    Arianna Occhipinti is a young tour de force from Sicily, a region that has traditionally been associated with bulk wines and not the distinctive, high quality wines that Ari produces. Ari showed her first vintage in 2004 at an Italian wine fair at the age of 21 and has quickly become a prominent figure to a new generation of wine lovers. Her rise has been meteoric and her passion for natural winemaking has taken hold in the industry. Natural winemaking refers to minimal intervention and manipulation during the winemaking process so that the finished wine is an honest expression of its terroir. In order to do this successfully, the grapes have to be incredibly healthy, so Ari farms organically and tends to her vines with a great deal of care and attention. For Ari, this natural approach is a necessity for the wines to truly convey their sense of place. By crafting wines in her homeland of Sicily, she hopes to demonstrate the beauty of being attached to a sense of place to young people who leave Sicily in search for something better.  Fortunately for those of us in the trade, Ari makes frequent visits to the U.S. and readily shares her passion. Anyone who has met Ari knows that there’s a certain fire in her belly. Apparently she has been asked why she doesn’t belong to the association in Italy called “Le Donne del Vino” (“Women of Wine”). Her response? As soon as they create an association called “Gli Uomini del Vino” (“Men of Wine”), she’ll join. Pow!

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    Véronique Drouhin-Boss  - Domaine Drouhin, Maison Drouhin

    Véronique Drouhin-Boss, mother of three and head winemaker for both Maison Drouhin in Burgundy and Domaine Drouhin in Oregon, represents the 4th generation of winemakers in one of the 3 largest wine producing families in Burgundy. The family’s roots are deep in France with 13th century cellars under the streets of Beaune, so it was a surprise when Véronique’s father, Robert Drouhin, invested in planting grapes in Oregon during the 1980s. This visionary move created a rare opportunity for Véronique to manage winemaking on 2 different continents. She has developed a reputation for crafting sublime pinot noir and chardonnay with an elegant, pure, sensual, and refined sensibility. Year over year, Véronique tries to capture the essence of what nature has provided, rather than trying to dictate a particular style. That said, her wines are never big or brawny. Rather, they’re just strong enough to have the capacity to age gracefully. The Drouhin family was one of the first to do away with pesticides in Burgundy and have moved toward organic and biodynamic farming. Their focus on terroir and philosophy of honoring the true expression of the sites is a common denominator between their two estates. It’s incredible how Véronique has put the Willamette Valley in Oregon on the map for world-class pinot noir while managing to raise three children! 

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