Moms deserve so much credit. In most cases they are the ones who spend endless hours raising the next generation and with working moms the load becomes increasingly strenuous. But how about working moms in the wine industry? Does the industry that provides the adult population with some of the greatest libations on earth serve up additional challenges? Alison Crowe, winemaker for Garnet Vineyards and consulting winemaker for additional projects, explains, “The uncertain hours of Mother Nature can wreak havoc on a family’s schedule. Harvest is usually quite unpredictable and everyone has to be extra flexible, kids and parents alike. Since my two boys are so small, I sometimes can take them with me to the vineyards to teach them about the growing season and the natural world, but the daily reality is that it’s tough to juggle activities, to get them ready for daycare, and to get them fed and put to bed.”
Wine industry professionals are also called upon to host winery events, dinners and trade sales calls, which sometimes happen at night and on weekends. Crowe says, “The late nights are definitely an extra challenge of the job and means sometimes I don’t see the kids until they wake up the next day. I’m lucky I have a very supportive spouse as well as in-laws who live nearby; we’ve pieced together a system that seems to work.”
Though “wine country living” may seem like a fantasy to many of us, the reality is perhaps different for the working moms of the wine business. Crowe admits, “Living in Napa you are surrounded by an incredible array of some of the finest food in the world. Just like any parent, however, you have to model the balanced food choices you want your kids to make. Juice is watered down, sweets are limited, but great organic produce, cheese and wine (for the grown-ups) are definitely part of the “treats” that bring a lot of pleasure and enjoyment to gatherings. Lessons about wine, history and cooking are just as important to teach and model for our kids as the numbers around nutrition.” Children often emulate their parents and wine adds another twist to busy career moms. It is not just about having a busy mom, but one who deals in a beverage with and health and social ramifications.
One of the busiest and respected working moms in the wine biz is Dr. Valery Uhl. Besides growing grapes and being a serious student of the industry, she is knee deep in the wine judging circuit as an accomplished wine taster and the Director of the North of the Gate Wine Competition (NOTG). Valery, a physician and surgeon since 1985, gave birth to her son Tristan in 1997 while obtaining her Viticulture Management degree at Santa Rosa Junior College. She took one day off a week from her thriving oncology (cancer) practice San Francisco bay area and drove 60 miles north to take classes from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Recounting the dual career journey, Valery included her son in her global wine travels. Tristan has been to every continent, except Antarctica. Over the years, both mom and son enjoyed working together in the family’s wine business ventures, including their prized T n T Vineyards in the Russian River Valley. As a mom, Valery’s top priority has been to include her son in her wine adventures whenever possible.
I first met Michaela Rodeno at Domaine Chandon when we were both young, and I was so impressed by her kindness and professionalism. She carried herself with great ease and she still managed take excellent care of her family. Michaela, a winery professional of 40 years, comments, “Our children were born in the 1980’s in a time where there were growing social concerns about alcohol. So being in the wine industry, it was important that our son, John, and daughter, Kate, were not excluded from our world. We taught out kids to be our wine waiters (at age 5). Dinner was our only time to be together, so the kids would open and pour the wine, then decamp after eating to leave Gregory and me alone (in peace) to finish the wine and catch up, talk, relax. They were very proud of their skills with corkscrew and pouring adeptness. As a result, they both enjoy a healthy attitude towards wine.” Michaela spent 15 years at Domaine Chandon as Vice President of Marketing and 21 years as CEO at Saint Supery. Please check out her newly published book, From Bubbles to Boardrooms in two volumes. The link is amzn.to/16eT6Xv. She is now running the family winery Villa Ragazzi.
The challenges of any industry can be incredible. In the wine industry, working moms have the added burden that centers on the subject at hand: “Wine.” What say you? Let us salute all the working moms in the wine industry.