Here are some excerpts from the book Vino Voices, which includes sparks of wisdom whittled from women who bent their backs, tasted bankruptcy, abandoned careers, and jumped on a lifestyle of producing and marketing the wine they love – regardless its mass market appeal.

If you think wine is about glamour or snobbery or affectation or wealth – read the following, and think again. 

Pokolbin, Hunter Valley, Australia, 1923

Robin Drayton – Winemaker, Hunter Valley, Australia

Robin Drayton and her acres of vines

It’s quite a challenge because it is a male dominated industry.  But I like a challenge so I can handle it.  At the end of the day we’re all equal.  I don’t look at myself as being any different.  Yeah.  Just one of the boys, I suppose…There’s lots of wasted nights’ sleep because I don’t have a partner, so I take on 100 percent responsibility myself.  It can be quite nerve wracking.  There’s a lot of pressure on.  Leading up to vintage it’s always nail biting…I’m not a city girl.  So it’s the country life and open space.  Being a business owner is hard.  It’s certainly easier to work for someone else than for yourself…Mum and Dad were killed 15 years ago in a plane crash.  The plane was never recovered.  So I put up a little plaque down in the vineyard.  I chose that spot because Dad can look over the vineyard.  Hopefully he would have been very proud.  Because I’ve continued on.  That’s the most important thing.

Wine on Waiheke Island, New Zealand

Summer Bell – Winemaker for Stonyridge, Waiheke Island, New Zealand

Summer uncorks a masterpiece

I think as a woman it’s really important that you have a trade.  I don’t want to rely on anyone for anything.  I even looked at law and a few other things, but wine has always been something I enjoy.  Back on the farm when I was young I loved being outside…I mean, it’s hard work.  Vintage always is.  My busiest day last vintage I was bringing fruit in, managing all the ferments, plus I was pressing – being the only winemaker.  It was a huge day.  I look back now and say, man if you can make it through that day and then get up at five o’ clock in the morning and do it all again, you’re fine…Reward?  Having that tangible, amazing thing that you’ve made in your hand at the end of the day.

Sonoma Vines

Windee Smith – Owner of The Wine Shack, Sonoma, California

Windee’s wine store

The reward is that you get to make people happy every day.  You get to talk about what you love every day…It’s educating people; it brings people together; it’s a communal event.  People come weekly to see friends and talk to people.  It’s a new and different concept…It’s sort of a pilgrimage.  I woke up one day and thought, “Okay, I bought a house, I’m here, I’m unemployed.  What do I love, what do I want to do that would be cool?”  This is what happened with that thought pattern.

Sun glow in Stellenbosch

Marianne McKay – Oenology Lecturer in Stellenbosch, South Africa

Marianne in South Africa

I had a lovely salary, very glamorous looking at it from the outside.  I was flying all over the world meeting the heads of pharmaceutical companies in Europe and I was in charge of a team of validation scientists and big projects – and I bloody hated it.  I hated being in a different country every week.  I hated flying on stupid airplanes…. And then a friend of mine at UCT emailed me about Plumpton College, this little agricultural college, for an oenology lecturer…Much, much happier.  And I love teaching.  I’ve always loved teaching…Yes, that’s the reward…You watch these people who are so lacking in self confidence and so wanting to learn but so scared to ask questions.  And you watch them turn into confident people who can evaluate and critically analyze and think.  That’s what makes me happy.

Passing from Sonoma to Napa

Tiffany Tedesco Baumann – Winemaker and Business Co-Owner, Sonoma, California

Tiffany’s Front Yard Vineyard

The reward is knowing that we could produce something that’s drinkable…What do I like most?  That we have times like this.  That we have friends over and just being able to share it.  And seeing my kids out here in the morning that we harvest, picking grapes and helping and dumping them into the crusher and having them be a part of it…It was a load of fun.  Doing the bottling process ourselves was kind of cool.  It’s an excuse to have friends over.  Everyone gets to participate.

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  1. what a beautiful post.

    on another blog I follow in the comments section there developed a raging conversation denigrating wine, each commentator striving to out do the last.

    How much they miss, and misunderstand.

    1. Much appreciated Jim, as always. These people I met are hard working, pragmatic, and financially cautious. But they also know how to appreciate their free times, friends, food, and wine. When the internet first came out in force for the public, I remember visiting quite a few forums and being surprised to find so many commentators were critical of others, and of the world. When the situation spirals that way – it’s time to step aside, enjoy some natural beauty, and open a good bottle of vino with friends!

  2. I loved reading this while eating my breakfast. It’s such a great start to the day to gain an insight into other people’s interesting and inspirational lives – and I don’t even drink wine! 😉

    1. Thanks Kate! Glad you enjoyed. This is an appropriate post for you – a woman running her own consulting business, and fully enjoying it. I think we were drinking Worthington Creamflow when back in Durham.

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