Recorded weekly at The Panel Wine Lounge in Sonoma, California, WINE WOMEN Radio features members of the nonprofit, professional organization that’s focused on providing the tools, guidance and creativity for its members to attain wine industry prominence.
Wine Women – Rachel Van Til & Laura Pauli, Pt2
Would men have the same courage women have shown (coming forward and speaking about sexual harassment) if they believed their jobs and careers might be ended by going public?
That is one of the lingering questions the hosts and guests discuss in part 2 of our conversation with Rachel Van Til and Laura Pauli. For decades, women have “kept mum” about bad behavior on the part of male colleagues, boss and business owners. In Hollywood, it took the outing of Harvey Weinstein’s behavior to gain momentum for the #MeToo movement. Is the wine industry ready for the same?
Will women have to continue for umpteenth more years with hostile work environments, such as those that led to the New York Times’ explosive expose, “The Wine World’s Most Elite Circle Has a Sexual Harassment Problem,” by Julia Moskin, published on October 29th. In her detailed story, not one, not two, but 21 women reported to the Times being sexually harassed, manipulated or assaulted by male master sommeliers.
In this show, hear from Laura Pauli, Chef and Sommelier here in San Francisco with Cucina Testa Rosa, and Rachel Van Til, Wine Club Manager and Lead Sommelier at The Clubs at Houston Oaks in Houston, Texas, on their recommendations for a safe and productive work environment and what they’d like to see change in the industry. [EP60]
Wine Women – Rachel van Til & Laura Pauli pt1
“Do they even know their behavior is wholly unacceptable, unprofessional, and often threatening?”
This topic became the underlying theme to our lengthy discussion with sommeliers Laura Pauli and Rachel Van Til on this week’s show, a two-parter that will conclude next week. It’s a reference to the hostile work environment (for women) that led to the New York Times’ explosive expose, “The Wine World’s Most Elite Circle Has a Sexual Harassment Problem,” by Julia Moskin, published on October 29th.
In her detailed story, not one, not two, but 21 women reported to the Times being sexually harassed, manipulated or assaulted by male master sommeliers. As the hosts read the story several weeks ago, we were struck by its similarity to the equally explosive allegations leveled at Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein just two years earlier by some of Hollywood’s most high profile actresses.
In this episode, we depart from our usually fun and upbeat topics to tackle this serious, ongoing problem. Why do some men in the wine industry demand sexual favors from women in the industry in exchange for advancement in some form? Why have women put up with it for so long? Our guests, each of whom have dealt with inappropriate behavior from male colleagues (as have all the hosts), recount these experiences as well as offer insights on what measures could be taken to reduce the bad behavior and ensure more minorities, women and persons of color, have equal opportunities to their white, male counterparts.’
In this show, hear how Laura Pauli, Chef and Sommelier here in San Francisco with Cucina Testa Rosa, considered a business trip with a male colleague that would have provided valuable networking introductions and connection, only to learn later the colleague’s offer wasn’t on the up ‘n’ up. This was one of several experiences Chef Pauli felt she had been manipulated by male colleagues to do things that were not necessarily “work related.”
Rachel Van Til is the Wine Club Manager and Lead Sommelier at The Clubs at Houston Oaks in Houston, Texas. She is one of the 21 women sommeliers whose story was told in the Times’ story as well as in other publications that began following up on the allegations.
Tune in to learn about higher education opportunities in the wine industry; the steps being taken by the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS-A) to prevent future sexual misconduct allegations; and whether or not these women believe it’s even possible for the CMS-A to recover from these abuses. After all, if men and other persons in powerful positions aren’t even aware their behavior is unacceptable within the industry, how will they even know they much change? [EP59]
Wine Women – Nicole Marchesi, Far Niente Winery
Nicole Marchesi began studying towards a major in biology as an undergraduate at the University of California, Davis. But after being assigned to write an article about the Department of Viticulture and Enology for the school newspaper, The Aggie, her interest was sparked to pursue a career in wine. She quickly changed majors and went on to complete her bachelor’s degree in Viticulture & Enology at UC Davis in 2003. [EP58]
After graduation, she honed her winemaking skills in Sonoma and New Zealand before joining Far Niente in 2005 as its enologist. She was promoted soon thereafter to assistant winemaker, and in 2009, she became only the fourth winemaker in the over 30-year history of the winery. During her tenure, Nicole has gained a deep understanding of Far Niente’s estate vineyards, working with the sites and individual blocks to bring forth the discrete character of each. Ultimately, she strives to create wines of elegance and depth that capture both place and vintage, while staying true to the Far Niente house style.
We loved hearing Nicole’s stories during the show about how she got into wine and about Far Niente’s fascinating history. While sipping the stunning Far Niente 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, we learned Far Niente was founded in Oakville, California, in 1885 by John Benson, a forty-niner of the California gold rush and uncle of the famous American impressionist painter, Winslow Homer. It prospered until the onset of Prohibition in 1919. The gates closed, but the magic never truly disappeared from the property.
Sixty years later, Gil Nickel bought and restored the winery and neighboring vineyard. This three-year-long labor of love put the label back on the map — and on the National Register of Historic Places. He preserved the Far Niente name — an Italian phrase which romantically translated means ‘without a care.’ Nickel hoped to recapture a bygone era when life was indeed without a care.
The historic wine caves also go back to the late 1800s. A stone archway was constructed in the winery cellar in 1885, with plans to create extensive wine caves. With the onset of Prohibition, these wine caves never came to fruition. The cold rock sat neglected for 60 years until 1980, after the completion of the winery building restoration. Many believed that wine caves existed beyond the rock wall since European winemakers aged their wines in those types of naturally cool environments. So, Gil Nickel hired an engineer to find out. After a daring dynamite blast, they learned that no caves existed. But undaunted and true to his vision that “the best bottle of wine has yet to be made,” Gil pursued the first cave for Far Niente.
The Far Niente Napa Valley wine caves would become the first to be constructed in North America since the turn of the century, spawning a new industry in California wine country.
Over the next 20 years, the winery conducted four more expansions of the caves, bringing the total area to 40,000 square feet. The stunning beauty of the caves, which hold the winery’s treasure trove of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay vintages gently aging in 100% French oak, is a testament to the excellence and never-ending attention to detail that Far Niente brings to its magnificent wines and winery.
Tune in to learn more about Nicole Marchesi, Far Niente and her favorite food and wine pairing dish.
Wine Women – Gianna Kelly, Galerie Wines
Gianna Kelly grew up in Sonoma County, where she was introduced to wine at an early age—sitting on her father’s knee as he made wine list selections for their family restaurant. We had much fun talking with Gianna and learning about her winemaking for Galerie Wines, Portraits of Place, in Napa Valley.
She graduated from Santa Clara University with a degree in Chemistry, then initially pursued a career in research that started at the IBM Almaden Research Center. She quickly found that polymers weren’t as alluring as vineyards, and she redirected her chemistry skills to the wine industry as a chemist for Enologix in her hometown of Sonoma. A post as enologist for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars followed, where she fell in love with Bordeaux varieties and honed her winemaking skills by working with Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. More recently, Gianna served as assistant winemaker for St. Francis Winery, working with a wide variety of vineyard sources.
In 2018, Gianna joined the team at Cardinale as an assistant winemaker, and in 2019 she became head winemaker for Galerie wines, known for distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc wines from Napa Valley and Knights Valley.
“Making Galerie wines gives me the chance to unite my passion for Bordeaux varieties with my curiosity for the way different vineyard sites express their own unique personalities,” says Gianna. “I enjoy the challenge of developing each small vineyard lot in the cellar and then choosing from a satisfying number of options when it comes time to blend. This helps me create balanced wines that showcase the delightful distinctions between two exceptional wine regions.”
Gianna is no stranger to balance; in addition to nurturing Galerie wines, she’s also raising three small children at home in Sonoma. She loves cooking and entertaining, and her favorite wines combine high quality with an approachability that’s easy to share with others.
During the show we tasted Galerie’s beautiful 2018 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc Naissance. This flagship wine layers the citrus and mineral notes of the Loire Valley with the peach and tropical fruit characteristics of Napa Valley. The hosts and Gianna were thinking of savory apple dishes to pair with this lovely wine during the show. Yum!
It was also fascinating to learn about the brand’s label development, which is animated on their website. Each label in the Galerie collection exhibits a different section of a luminous grapevine watercolor by Malia Pettit, highlighting the individuality of each wine as well as their shared parentage. Using her breath to render the vine’s branches, the artist blew the paint to move it across the page. She punctuated the delicate vine shoots with individual droplets of paint that spattered naturally with their own momentum. This elegant incorporation of physical and human intention captures the essence of Galerie—each label a distinctive expression of nature and the artist’s technique.
Learn more at https://www.galeriewines.com/
Wine Women – Executive Chef Rachel Haggstrom
How many executive chefs do you know who studied with an emphasis in criminal justice? Nope! It’s not part of any culinary curriculum. But before Executive Chef Rachel Haggstrom became, well, a chef, she considered a career in criminal justice. Lucky for all of us she chose a career working in the hospitality industry!
The WWRH crew was thrilled to have the opportunity to talk with the Executive Chef of JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery, in Paso Robles, to hear how Chef Rachel found her career path and found the perfect environment to spread her culinary wings at JUSTIN.
Located in Paso Robles, California, JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery was founded in 1981 and is known for crafting world-class wines using Bordeaux grape varieties, including the iconic ISOSCELES blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.
The vineyard estate, located at 11680 Chimney Rock Road, features a Tasting Room, luxury five-star accommodations at the JUST Inn, and a restaurant—making it one of the only wineries on the Central Coast to offer all three options.
In September 2018, a new second location, the JUSTIN Downtown Tasting Room, opened, introducing an expansive wine-tasting bar, lounge, and a full dining room that’s situated prominently on the square along Downtown City Park in the heart of Paso Robles. In addition to its stellar hospitality, JUSTIN consistently receives top honors around the world, establishing itself as a leader in new-world Bordeaux-style winemaking.
JUSTIN wines are available through fine-wine retailers and restaurants throughout the United States, or directly from the winery via JUSTIN’s Tasting Rooms, online store, or to members of the exclusive JUSTIN Wine Society wine club. To discover more about JUSTIN, visit https://www.justinwine.com/
Tune in to learn more about Chef Rachel’s fascinating career path, which took her from a focus on criminal justice to earning her Master of Science, focused in Management of Hospitality and Tourism from the University of Gothenburg. We had a lot of fun learning from the “other side of the aisle” what it’s like to develop the ideal pairing with new wines.
Learn more at: Instagram (@JUSTINwine) and Facebook (@JUSTINwinery).
Wine Women – Sierra Zeiter, Oak Farm Vineyards
Sierra Zeiter immediately impressed us with her passion and strong instincts. We were a little surprised to hear that she told her parents she wanted to be a winemaker long before she was of drinking age! (She does not come from a wine business family!) But she knew it was the career path that she wanted to pursue. As the conversation evolved, we learned Sierra’s always had strong intuition and direction which have served her exceptionally well.
Tune in to learn about Sierra’s award-winning wines and background. She was born and raised in Stockton, California. She graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, majoring in Wine and Viticulture with a concentration in Enology. Of course, she made the usual winemaker stops along her career path to intern and work as an assistant winemaker.
Best of all, she had the smarts to jump on board with Oak Farm Vineyards in Lodi, California, and learn from a generous mentor who eventually turned over all winemaking duties to her – all while in her early 20’s!
Oak Farm Vineyards is a family owned and operated estate winery that was originally home to William DeVries and his wife Cornelia Crowe, which William purchased in 1860. At the time, the Lodi area was called “Elkhorn Township.” DeVries was a wheat farmer, raised cattle, and even became a Justice of the Peace.
The beautiful colonial style home (shown on the website) was built by William in 1876. The property has been largely renovated with great attention to its heritage. The ranch was known throughout the San Joaquin Valley as one of the most magnificent and beautiful pieces of property within the state. DeVries was an enthusiastic lover of trees, particularly of oaks, and on the home ranch, he never allowed a tree to be cut unless it was a menace. Today, many of the property’s enormous oaks still stand, along with the DeVries family burial plot.
Fast forward a few decades: The Panella family arrived in the region in 1936 and began an agricultural journey that ultimately culminated with the purchase of Oak Farm in 2004. As a third generation California Farmer, Dan Panella reveled in undertaking the task of replanting the property’s 60 acres of vineyards in 2012 to fulfill the vast potential of Lodi. Dan leads a talented team of agricultural specialists to build a diverse portfolio of wines made from estate fruit and selectively sourced grapes.
As we heard this historic story, Sierra tasted us through her Oak Farm Vineyards 2019 Rosé, Silvaspoons Vineyards, a project she shepherded through from inception to winning Best in Class at the 2020 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Not a bad start (wink, wink) for her first solo line extension project!
The Oak Farm Vineyards 2018 Zinfandel, Mohr-Fry Ranches – Block 417 Vineyard, made from vines planted back in 1945, was another stunner in Sierra’s portfolio. With only 467 cases made, it’s sure to go fast!
Listen in to learn about Sierra’s journey and her success as Winemaker at Oak Farm Vineyards in Lodi.