Wine Entre Femme, a consortium of quality-minded female winemakers and winery owners from around the world will be meeting next week in the Napa Valley to share best practices and learn the latest in viticulture, winemaking and marketing techniques.
Wine Entre Femme has grown organically from its inception in 2007, with the first official meeting between Napa Valley and Bordeaux winemakers in January 2008. The group was organized by founder Sharon Harris, owner with her husband of Amici Cellars in Napa Valley. Having a second home in Bordeaux and knowing many people in the wine trade there, she recognized that women in Bordeaux were not being supported in the business and furthermore that women did not interact with each other the way women winemakers do in the Napa Valley. In Bordeaux, she says, there is no culture of women helping other women in part due to social hierarchies that don’t exist here or, per Pam Starr of Crocker & Starr, it may simply be that Bordeaux is generally a more ‘closed door’ environment where there is less sharing of information between chateaux and even less of the criticism that is necessary for change. Pam underscores the essence of Wine Entre Femme being that women ‘by nature’ share more openly and honestly. And so, Wine Entre Femme was borne out of the desire to reach out to other women and do what we do so well – help each other.
In organizing the inaugural meeting in 2008 in the Napa Valley and the reciprocal meeting in Bordeaux in 2009 Sharon said they reached out to women winemakers who were not only innovative with a desire to learn, but who also had the ‘esprit’ to share and to support each other in a non-competitive environment. These meetings consisted of three-four days of workshops, seminars and tours covering winemaking, vineyard management, comparative tastings and marketing in which both sides gained perspective. The Bordeaux women, who generally represent the top chateaux and therefore distribute their wines through merchants aka negociants, were fascinated by the Napa Valley practice of direct winery and internet sales. After visiting several chateaux and their terroirs, Pam Starr thought the Napa Valley could do a better job of describing its own unique appellations. Carissa Chappellet was impressed by the visit to Les Medocaines, a group of four strong female chateaux owners who have defied the status quo to unite in marketing their properties, wines and offering decidedly un-Bordeaux-like tourism programs such as cooking and food and wine pairing classes. While Napa Valley women are great at sharing information, they do not necessarily jointly market their wines like Les Medocaines. Carissa was inspired by the thought of Wine Entre Femme playing a similar role in helping the women market their wines.
After these meetings, the feedback from the Bordeaux women was that they were overwhelmed by the openness and friendliness of the Napa Valley women. And in small ways, it seems to be rubbing off. Sharon cites the example of Laure Compeyrot, family member of Chateau Sigalas Rabaud and Sandrine Garbay, head winemaker of Chateau d’Ychem since 1998, who are literally next door neighbors in Sauternes but who did not know each other until they met at Wine Entre Femme. Now, when Laure, the new generation at Sigalas Rabaud needs advice, she seeks out Sandrine.
Wine Entre Femme continues to grow and evolve organically with this year’s event expanding to include winemakers not only in Napa Valley and Bordeaux, but also Argentina, France, Japan, South Africa, Switzerland and Turkey.
At Wine Entre Femme, its not about mere connections, but of connecting with other women to make the best wine possible.