• Wendy, the Wine Writer

My Inspiration ~ Women In Wine

Cheers to Women's History Month!

For my inaugural article, I want to take this opportunity during Women’s History Month to tell you a little about me, to share my inspiration for pursuing a wine-related business, and why writing about wine is my passion.

When I was about 25 years old, I discovered wine. At first my tastes tended toward lighter, fruitier varietals, but when I was invited to travel to San Francisco and the Wine Country of California, I dove in to learn more, taste more and enjoy more. That trip opened my eyes to the wonderful world of wine.

Over the years, I have visited various wine regions around the world, attended numerous large wine tastings, and even poured at several wine events. As a result, my thirst for all things wine has grown.

Behind the pleasurable experience of drinking a glass of wine there’s a business, an agricultural family, and precise science combined with gut-instinct. Pairing all of these ingredients with the right weather, perfect soil, and a bit of luck, a bottle of grape juice can transform an ordinary moment into an extraordinary event.

I found I was fascinated to learn about:

  • vineyard maintenance

  • bio-dynamic and organic practices

  • bud break

  • pruning

  • inter-cropping

  • harvest

  • crush

  • blending (which is much more difficult than you’d think)

  • storing

  • sampling

  • bottling

  • releasing the finished vintage, and

  • so much more

Over the past 20+ years, I credit several women who inspired me to further my wine education and enhanced my joy of drinking wine. Let me introduce you…

A True Wine Pioneer - Margo Van Staaveren

During one of my first trips to California, I was lucky enough to meet one of the pioneering women in the California Wine Scene—Margo Van Staaveren. Currently the winemaker and General Manager at Chateau St. Jean, Sonoma, CA., she was the assistant winemaker when we met.

Margo was named Winemaker of the Year by Wine Enthusiast in 2008, and she has been instrumental in the Cinq Cépages blend since its initial vintage in 1990. My husband and I collected nine vintages of Cinq Cepages including the 1996 vintage named Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator.

One of Margo’s specialties is the art of blending. During my visit to CSJ, I was able to participate in a blending competition which is when I learned how truly difficult it is to make a spectacular blend. This lady is down to earth, genuine and truly gifted.

My Virtual Inspiration - Andrea Immer Robinson

Another extraordinary woman who sparked my passion for wine is Andrea Immer Robinson. Although I have never met her, I have great respect for how she became one of only 18 women Master Sommeliers in the world at the time of her accomplishment. Andrea is also a chef, a TV personality, and an author. She was the first woman to be named “Best Sommelier” by the Sommelier Society of America in 1997. I first “met” Andrea through her television program Simply Wine on the Fine Living Network in 2003.

I’m inspired by Andrea’s major accomplishments at such a young age, her passion for food and wine, her engaging personality, and the fact that she hails from Southern Indiana which makes her a Midwestern girl like me. Andrea is the one who taught me about the amazing pairing of popcorn, truffle oil and French Champagne. A combination I enjoy as often as I can.

Speaking Of France - Sandrine Garbay

Sandrine Garbay, the Chief Winemaker and Cellar Master for Chateau d’Yquem is proof that women are not only great Super Tasters, they are also super wine makers. Sandrine has faced many challenges as a woman who first became chief winemaker when she was only 31 years old. Her bold and forward-thinking vision forms the basis for the world’s most famous sweet wines.

Like Sandrine, I believe excellent wines can be cellared, and savored over decades, and we also agree that you can just drink it and enjoy it now. For me, one of life’s greatest joys is sharing an exceptional bottle of wine with friends and family and the memories which are made together. Plus, we share a certain sense of style—it takes a bold woman to sport a short hair cut.

Local Girl Wins Again, This Time With Wine - Danica Patrick

Hailing from Beloit, Wisconsin, a small town only a few miles from my former home in Northern Illinois, I have followed Danica Patrick’s career for years. She is the most famous female race car driver in the world, a promotional spokesperson for, and now she holds the title of proprietor at Somnium Wines located on Howell Mountain in Napa, California.

Danica is the only woman to win an IndyCar Series race (Japan 2008). She also owns her own athleisure collection of clothing called Warrior (named after her experience with Native American mythology cultures), but what I admire most is how she challenged the naysayers and succeeded in a male-dominated sport. Now she has reinvented herself to expand her influence in the business world just like I have done in my writing business.

A Star On The Rise - Jelena Lelas

Two years ago I was incredibly lucky to meet a young lady from Serbia working on a Caribbean Cruise. At that time, Jelena Lelas was an assistant wine steward aboard NCL’s Sun. Today, NCL has realized the potential of this 29 year-old by promoting her to Cellar Master aboard their newest, and biggest ship—The Bliss. She currently heads up “The Cellars - A Michael Mondovi Family Wine Bar.”

In the past two years, Jelena studied at the Court of Master Sommeliers in Europe, and became one of only 3 certified sommeliers (Level 2) for NCL. Through hard work, a great attitude, exceptional people skills (in a language which is not her native tongue) she is rapidly rising through the ranks of NCL and being courted by outside wineries and wine producers.

Jelena educates and entertains her guests, while making wine approachable to the novice and more sophisticated drinkers alike. She inspires me to create wine copy which does the same. She also has an uncanny ability to pair the best wine with each dish on the menu. This is a skill I called upon many times during our two cruises together, and one I am still perfecting in my personal life.

Now It’s My Turn

Studies show that women buy and drink the majority of wine in North America. However, the wine industry remains a mostly male-dominated business. These innovative women are breaking down barriers and lending their feminine edge to wine production and education.

My goal is to join their ranks and accept their challenges by sharing the amazing elixir known as wine through my writing. Cheers to you all!

Santé... Salud... Skål... Salute... Saúde

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