Perspectives from Women at DWC

Women’s History Month is an opportunity to focus our attention on the contributions of women in our own industry and in society at large. It’s also an opportune time to inquire of the female identifying folks we work with about their perspectives and experiences.

Though archeological evidence shows that women have been involved in winemaking and innkeeping (where most wine was served in ancient Sumer around 5000 years ago), today only 13% of US wineries are owned by women. Gendered wage gaps persist in our industry, though both wage equity and representation of women across all winery roles has improved, in particular over the past 25 years.

You can read about some groundbreaking women in wine here, including the invention of the game changing riddling table or riddling rack by Madame Barb-Nicole Cliquot, the first female Master Sommelier (in 1987!) and the French Burgundy proponent who insisted on biodynamic practices until her region followed suit. Here are some perspectives from women who invest their time and skill at Damiani Wine Cellars.

Mardi Herman, Brandy Ahouse, Jenna Robarge

Wine Club Manager and Shipping Compliance Manager Brandy Ahouse notes that the areas of winery business where she works are those that women of an earlier generation normalized and made inroads in. She’s worked in male dominated spaces, with a degree in auto mechanics and experience in the shipping industry. Working in the DWC tasting room doesn’t present the same challenges as those spaces, in large part due to other women before her taking on leadership roles so that Brandy describes feeling accepted on a professional level in a pretty gender neutral way.

Katey Larwood and winemaking team.

Katey Larwood, Nancy Brown, Taylor Cartwright, Alex Doniger Bond

Winemaker Katey Larwood spoke to her wish that conversations around gender in the workplace happened in a much more intersectional way. She pointed to other underrepresented identities in the industry like people of color and gender queer or nonbinary identifying people. It’s been a career-long frustration for Larwood to be prompted by journalists to speak about being a woman winemaker, rather than being approached for insights about her skill and craft. She’s wary of the commodification of a “female empowerment piece” that’s really fluff dressed up for marketing purposes.

Nancy Brown

Nancy Brown

Nancy Brown, vineyard worker and mentee of owner Phil Davis describes the difference it made in her overall quality of life when she went from working indoors to being outside doing physical labor every day. She felt inspired by other women working on the farming and viticulture sides of the business, like colleague Taylor Cartwright, an experienced machine operator, when she moved to the area in 2014. Brown acknowledges the simultaneous respect for women of her mother’s generation who inhabited the role of mother and homemaker while feeling empowered to make a different choice in her own life.

Alex Doniger Bond and Christine Boehlke

Alex Doniger Bond and Christine Boehlke

Alex Doniger Bond, Assistant Winemaker, spoke to her favorite part of the job, which is the constant contact with cycles of varying tempos and energies. As someone living in a female body, with cycles as one of its anchoring qualities, Alex finds great reward in the challenge of presence each cycle of the winemaking process. There’s harvest, fast-paced, energizing, monitoring minute changes to make critical decisions about the when and how of bringing crops in. This marathon is followed by a slow wait and watch, careful observation during early fermentation. Each season presents itself in turn, each year unique but following a cyclical pattern that informs the work at hand.

We invite you to join us in the coming months, in conversation and celebration and we continue to explore deeper investigation of the nature of our Damiani team, what it means to support one another equitably and to share with our club members and community the insights we discover. 

May you learn something useful this Women’s History Month, and experience the varied perspectives and outlooks of women in wine.