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Valentine on Wine

Linda Pierro

WHAT STRUCK ME MOST when we started Hudson Valley Wine Magazine almost six years ago was the number of women who are involved in the region’s wine culture. To my surprise, my list of female contacts at the wineries outnumbered the list of my male contacts. These women, I soon learned, were not involved peripherally at their winery, but in some cases were owners, co-owners, winemakers—in key managerial and decision-making roles.

It seems the Hudson Valley is on par with the upward worldwide trend. The number of women in the male-dominated industry of wine growing and winemaking is on the rise. In California, nearly 20% of all winemakers are women. Even in the very traditional regions of France, women have catapulted their wineries into world prominence, through inheritances, sheer will power, and their expertise in operations, marketing, and finance.

A closer look inside the wine industry in the U.S., U.K., France, Italy, Australia, and New Zealand finds women in leading roles as estate owners, sommeliers, wine writers, innovators, and educators. Although the “glass ceiling” has not been shattered, women are increasingly present in a profession that as a whole continues to be dominated by men, bringing a fresh entrepreneurial spirit and passion, from field to glass.

So where are the women in the Hudson Valley? And who are behind the familiar faces we often see in the tasting room, in the vineyards, or pouring their wines at regional events? These women, I’ve learned, are dynamic, innovative, professionals who juggle business, family, farm-life, and in some cases demanding full-time careers, to play significant roles in their wineries. They are adept at keeping the business running smoothly, trouble-shooting, planning, marketing, and of course, tasting and making wine.

But they are also quick to point out that collaboration with their male counterparts is key. They contend that what makes their wineries successful is having a husband or partner whose strengths lie in areas of expertise other than their own, along with mutual respect for the other’s decisions.

Here we meet just a few of these familiar female faces, and find out how they found their way into the Hudson Valley wine industry.

 

Pat Baldwin:

Co-owner | Baldwin Vineyards

Pat_Baldwin co-owner Baldwin VineyardsPAT BALDWIN is no stranger to good wine. After all, it was back in May 1974, during a whirlwind trip through Europe with her husband Jack, that they stumbled upon a Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the small town of St. Dizier, about two hours outside of Paris. One sip of the “red velvet,” as she calls it, turned both Pat and Jack into wine lovers, and eventually into wine makers.

Returning home with this newfound appreciation, Pat immediately commissioned a carpenter to build a 500-bottle wine cellar in their New Jersey-based home. The following year, she started the “Outstanding New Chapter” of “Les Amis du Vins” (Friends of Wine), inviting wine experts such as Peter Sichel and Marcia Mondavi to the meetings.

After a visit to Mark Miller’s Benmarl Winery in 1981, Pat suggested to her husband that, “This would be a nice way to live.” By that winter they had found a suitable vineyard site in Pine Bush (see Meet the Winemakers on page 22). Despite a 130- mile round-trip commute from New Jersey to Pine Bush each day to tend to the baby vines that they planted on the property (Chardonnay and Merlot) while the paperwork was finalized, Pat contends that this was just part of her daily routine.

“While Jack was off at ‘work,’ I would make breakfast, then send our 12-year-old daughter off to school, drive 65 miles to Pine Bush to oversee the plumbers, electricians and carpenters who were converting the 200-year-old dairy barn into our winery. Or I’d be in the vineyard, weeding or spraying for as long as I could, before driving back to New Jersey in time for the school bus to bring our daughter home. All without having access to the house or other conveniences at the property yet!”

“Pioneering” seems to come naturally for Pat. With Jack still working full-time, Pat was the face of the winery, and usually the only woman in the room at wine-related meetings in the early days. “Most of my daily dealings in the wine industry back then were with men, but they treated me with respect, and we got along very well.”

In 1985, the Baldwins encountered a combination of good timing and good luck. A friend dropped by with a sample of a 65- year-old elderberry wine, which intrigued the Baldwins to try making fruit wine. Starting with a small batch of fresh strawberries from a local grower, they made their first wine using 100% fresh fruit, without any liquid to dilute the intense aromas and flavors of the strawberries. They processed the wine the same way they would make their Chardonnay. The wine was awarded a Gold Medal when it was first released in 1985—the first premium fruit wine on the East Coast.

“We like to think that we pioneered the premium fruit wine market, which has now become a staple for most wineries on the East Coast,” remarks Pat. Since then, they have added Red Raspberry and Black Raspberry wines to their list—receiving Gold and Double Gold medal wins for all three fruit wines ever since.

Decisions are always made jointly by the Baldwins, but with Pat’s financial background, wholesaling their wines and filing the winery licenses and paperwork are her responsibilities, as are face-to-face sales. Her advice to women starting out in the industry: “Be prepared for years of very hard work and very long hours, handling a dozen different situations each and every day. But, in the end, there’s a tremendously gratifying feeling to being one of the true pioneers”

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SUE GOOLD MILLER:

Owner, Manager, Winemaker Brookview Station Winery

Sue Goold Miller Owner, Manager, Winemaker Brookview Station WinerySUE GOOLD MILLER has lived in the Hudson Valley for most of her six decades, the last of the Goold Family to live at and manage the century-old Goold Orchards started by her grandparents, James and Bertha Goold. Sue is constantly on the go. She’s the “idea person” behind the operation, and juggles the full-time demands of a retail farm store, bakery, and tasting room—all located under the same roof—with her husband Ed. Together, they balance the demands of family life at their home nearby, with Ed taking the lead out in the apple orchard and vineyard.

Growing up in the apple and cider industry, Sue knew it was possible to make wine—her brother John first made champagne from their cider in the early ’70s. But it took a friend who made a batch of apple wine from their cider in 2004, to encourage her to add winemaking to her already full plate. Her husband Ed agreed and, together with a good business plan and grant funding, they got started, launching the Brookview Station brand with Whistle Stop White. She maintains this was “our first best decision.”

The winery has allowed the retail farm store to transition to a year-round business. Not only did the wine and hard cider extend the retail business from a seasonal to a yearround business, their new venture was further acknowledged when Whistle Stop White won the Cornell Cup for “Best Wine of the Hudson Valley” within six months of being released. Since then, they’ve added 11 more award-winning wines to their well-rounded tasting sheet, and are now getting ready to introduce their first estate-grown grape wine.

Sue has no plans for slowing down and is quick to share credit for the success of Brookview Station and its rapid expansion. “Typically, I will come up with a concept for a new product, its name and new label. Ed then implements the process, making each new wine,” Sue offers. “We also have key staff who develop ideas and manage integral parts of the day-to-day winery business.”

“It’s not always easy to be taken seriously in the apple or wine industry for anyone. However, I think growing up in a maledominated agricultural industry has made the wine business a natural transition for me. I think it has also made peers a bit more accepting,” she concluded. Sue doesn’t believe in giving up either. And she’s quick to point out the sign over her office door says it all…“Well-behaved women rarely make history.”

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Paula Cereghino:

Co-owner, Winemaker | Cereghino Smith

BashaKill Vineyards: Taking Cues From the LandWINEMAKING RUNS DEEP in Paula Cereghino’s roots. Back in 1911, her grandfather, Joseph Cereghino, founded a cooperative farm in Tacoma, Washington, and along with other Italian- and Japanese- American farmers, brought red Zinfandel grapes in from California to produce barrels of wine for their families. That wine, Paula remembers fondly, “was on the table with dinner every Sunday and became my benchmark wine and inspiration.”

It’s those fond memories, and a degree in art and philosophy, that fostered Paula’s desire to try her hand at winemaking one day. “Creativity and the ‘art of wine’ loomed large, drawing me, and I suspect, many women, to winemaking,” Paula notes. At the time, Paula was working for two of the most well-known wine retailers in New York City, Sherry Lehmann and Le Du’s Wines. She observed first-hand the changing attitudes of the shops’ wine buyers and clientele, with more classic wines being featured from around the world—and many being made by women.

After a family trip to Northern Italy, and the gift of a book on winemaking from her husband Fred to further inspire her, Paula made their first vintage in her Lower East Side apartment in Manhattan in 1999. In 2003, after 30 years in Manhattan, and after four vintages in their apartment, Paula and Fred decided to move their “operation” to the Hudson Valley. Their plan to source grapes from both the east and west coasts would define their bi-coastal brand. A decision, Paula says, “which Grandpa Cereghino would have approved.”

At Cereghino Smith, winemaking is a shared experience. Whether in the vineyard or the barrel room, the work is done by both partners. Fortunately Fred, a touring musician, also enjoys the balancing act, hammering out the details regarding which grapes to source for each vintage, and helping to create their award-winning blends. “A good blend sometimes feels like a painting to me,” says Paula, “the palette being color, aroma, mouth-feel, and the balance of lushness and bright acidity.”

Anyone who witnesses Paula work in their “wine lab” will realize that her process for making wine, from almost any varietal, is much more calculated than dabbling with paint on canvas. Paula is a walking encyclopedia of wine knowledge with a palate just as sharp, and understands the nuances of the techniques needed by all different types of grapes to achieve her desired outcome. Her winemaking notebook, jammed with years of sampling notes, calculations, and formulas may be channeling the viniculture which runs deep into her roots, but a barreltasting at Cereghino Smith is a true “art meets science” experience.

Like a fine painting, Cereghino Smith is always a work in progress, but their dedication to the craft has paid off. To date, Cereghino Smith has been recognized as a Double Gold winner for their Petite Sirah. Rosato, their dry rosé, and Eaten by Bears, a blend of five varietals, are poured at the Culinary Institute of America’s restaurants. “All in all,” Paula remarks, “I’ve never felt limited in making the best wine I can.”

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Michele Hull

Co-owner, Manager | Applewood Winery

BashaKill Vineyards: Taking Cues From the LandMICHELE HULL grew up in New York City with a curiosity for learning “what goes on behind the scenes.” At an early age she was caught up in the romance of exotic foods, wine and travel as an avid reader of Gourmet and Food & Wine. Cooking came easily, as did event planning, a career she discovered while helping to plan her sister’s wedding. Her talent for planning events and menus came naturally too, and she was fortunate to land a position at Windows on the World restaurant in the early ’80s.

“It was indeed a privilege to taste and learn from Kevin Zraly, who had a way of conducting his famous Wine Course that was fun and easy to understand. During the time I worked at Windows, we had many tastings with the chefs and sommeliers, so I was constantly learning how to perfect the art of wine and food pairing…. I felt like I had ‘arrived’ where I was supposed to be.”

It was during this time Michele met her future husband Jonathan, as the story goes, smitten on one of their first dates during a seven course meal at Cellars in the Sky—one of the first wine pairing menus on the scene.

Shortly after the couple married, a New York Times article about a winery in Vermont which produced apple wine spurred the Hulls to leave the city and try their hand at winemaking. With Jonathan eager to get back to his roots at Applewood Orchard where he grew up, they dove in. A few years later, when the winery opened its doors in 1994, Michele again found herself in her natural element— fully in charge of the tasting room—this time in the rural setting of Warwick, and as a mother of a two-year-old son.

Today, Michele continues to supervise and manage the tasting room and café. She plans and executes events, books the entertainment, and handles press and social media for Applewood Winery. She and Jonathan discuss all major issues and plans for the winery before making any joint decisions, but it’s Michele’s palate which develops new wines and products—after all, she knows her tasting room clientele and what they like.

Michele is ready to handle their expansion since the recent introduction of the Naked Flock line of ciders which has taken consumers by storm. Her credo: “Just believe in yourself and follow your passion—never stop learning, and listen to your customers.”

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MaryEllen_Glorie

Co-owner, President | Glorie Farm Winery

BashaKill Vineyards: Taking Cues From the LandBEING OF IRISH-AMERICAN decent, MaryEllen Glorie’s experience with wine was practically nil until she met her husband Doug. The thought of owning a winery in the Hudson Valley wasn’t on her radar either. But as MaryEllen, a Montgomery, N.Y. native, believes, “…life is a journey with twists and turns.”

Within five months of being married, an unexpected layoff for Doug meant that MaryEllen would be the breadwinner for the family for a while, working as a freelance sign language interpreter for the deaf. This allowed her husband the support, and freedom, to follow his life’s dream—from being a part-time “gentleman farmer,” to operating a full-fledged farm, with cattle, pigs, and chickens, a 20-acre tree fruit orchard—and a vineyard.

Amid managing the house and farm, caretaking elderly parents, and the interpreting work —a juggling act that left little time for much else—they worked to make the farm profitable. In 2001, they produced an excess crop of Seyval Blanc that yielded grapes on the vines even after selling to their usual customers. They worked out a deal with a local winemaker to barter fruit and firewood in exchange for turning the excess Seyval Blanc into wine.

“We had some fun with it, creating a label and giving it to family and friends who in turn tasted it and then asked, ‘This is really good. Could we buy some?’”. That was all the impetus Doug needed to start a winery. So with an already overflowing plate, MaryEllen decided to “run with it” and figure out a way to “tuck” this new venture to their already full lives.

By April of 2004, the Glories were in the wine business. MaryEllen added a multitude of winery chores to her daily functions—from scheduling staff and group visits, to developing new labels and keeping up with inventory and the paperwork associated with the winery. MaryEllen recently retired from interpreting to focus on operating the business full-time, which has fostered a different creative outlet— interpreting what blends of wine will be best-sellers on their tasting roster. MaryEllen’s hands-on experience working in all aspects of the business has helped her develop a keen palate to help produce Glorie’s signature blends, like Jumpin Jazz, Rumple Pumpkin, and her favorite, Red Monkey.

This year MaryEllen added the additional role of president of the Shawangunk Wine Trail to her list of tasks. “Each day priority items pop to the top of the task list, and I just run with it. My days end whenever the list is all checked off, or my energy runs out, whichever comes first. And then tomorrow, repeat.”

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Kim Wagner

Co-owner | Stoutridge Vineyard

BashaKill Vineyards: Taking Cues From the LandKIM WAGNER was introduced to wine by her friends in college, despite the fact she grew up on Long Island, with one of the hottest wine regions just beginning to burgeon in her own “backyard.” Having college friends with families who grew grapes and made wine in the Finger Lakes may have been fortuitous for Kim. She is intuitive by nature, believes in the big-picture view, and in doing things the right way. Her undergraduate path led from Cornell, then on to Texas A&M University and Harvard for post-graduate degrees in Animal Science and Biochemistry. Kim landed a high-powered job as a management consultant at a large corporation in Manhattan, a career that still has her traveling the world over, at the drop of a hat.

Kim met her husband Steve Osborn while at Cornell, when he was just beginning his lifelong professional career in the wine industry. Intuitively, she knew she met her match. The two turned a dream of “putting up a couple of vines” on a small piece of property to working with a builder to create a state-of-the-art gravity winery as a commercial venture. By sticking to their long-term vision and sustainable approach, Kim and Steve have created a unique winery, by opting to build it without cutting any corners, or by compromising any of their beliefs.

“Bizarre circumstances,” as Kim likes to call them? Perhaps not. Kim grew up the oldest of three girls, the only female in computer club, and with a mother who always encouraged her to “do anything you want to do,” without paying attention to gender barriers. So like most women in business, she quickly learned to navigate the nuances of how to be successful and develop a thick skin.

For Kim, the financial and compliance paperwork aspects of a winery—taxes, government reporting, bills, and invoices—are a necessary part of her function. But it’s the manufacturing aspects of operating a winery she finds most enjoyable. Since she’s not encumbered by too much “wine knowledge,” she intuitively knows what she and her customers will like.

Being on the road most of the business week makes the winery mostly a weekend effort for Kim. On a typical “winery day” you’ll find both Kim and Steve in the tasting room, serving customers. On occasion there will also be work for her “day job” which needs to get squeezed in, so it’s not unusual for Kim to have two computers next to the register— one for the winery and one for her job. “In between customers,” Kim says, “I just keep chipping away at the pile of work. Luckily I’m pretty good at managing fragmentation, and it all somehow manages to get done.”

Kim has the ability to juggle her demanding career as well as focusing on back office activities at the winery, because “having a partner that is completely aligned on business philosophy, company strategy, and general risk tolerance makes it easier.” “We’re both comfortable making decisions,” she continues. “That, combined with trust and respect for each other’s capabilities, allows us to divide and conquer. Besides, we’re both too busy to have any waste and redundancy creep into our business processes.”

Hudson Valley Wine magazine Summer 2014 issue

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