Women of the Vine & Spirits Symposium Advances the Industry | Wine Enthusiast Magazine
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Women of the Vine & Spirits Symposium Works for Advancement of Women in the Industry

Wine Enthusiast Editor-in-Chief and Publisher Adam Strum addressed the 700-plus attendees at this year’s Women of the Vine & Spirits Global Symposium in Napa, visibly overcome with emotion while talking of his mother’s thwarted ambitions to work in the wine industry many years ago—when it was nearly unheard of for women to be employed in the wine industry—while the captivated audience listened on.

Deborah Brenner
Deborah Brenner / Photo courtesy Women of the Vine

Heartfelt emotion met hard data during the three-day event, now in its third year. Deborah Brenner, author of the book Women of the Vine: Inside the World of Women Who Make, Taste and Enjoy Wine, is the founder of the Women of the Vine & Spirits organization, of which Wine Enthusiast is proud to be a partner.

The symposium brought together women and men from around the globe representing all aspects of the wine industry, from sales, marketing and distribution, to production and publishing.

The event kicked off Monday, March 13 with a look back at the creation of the National Women’s History Project, founded in nearby Sonoma in 1980. The project prompted the foundation of Women’s History Month, recognized each year in March.

Returning speaker Maggie Henriquez, president and CEO of Krug Champagne, detailed her decades of leadership in many industries, urging the audience to never lose sight of their values no matter their position.

Day two included a speech entitled “Why Women? The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Driving Male Engagement,” by Jeffery Tobias Halter of YWomen, who expounded upon his years consulting corporations on gender relations. He won over the crowd by arriving on stage in a pair of shiny red pumps, underlining the differences in comfort that often exist between male and female fashion in the corporate world. Halter’s encouragement was for women to not only lean in, but for men to stand up as advocates well.

He was followed by Brandy Rand, president, U.S., of the International Wine and Spirits Research, who delved into a wealth of data on global trends in wine and spirits. She focused on female purchasing power and factors driving consumption in such categories as sparkling wine, rosé, craft beer and Irish whiskey.

Other highlights included the story of Susana Balbo, founder and owner of Susana Balbo Wines in Argentina. She detailed her tumultuous life as a woman in wine, and touched on her current position as a congresswoman for Mendoza.

Jeff Fromm, president of marketing consulting firm FutureCast, delved into the motivations of millennial women, with the pursuit of adventure being cited as a driving factor.

Wine Enthusiast Executive Editor Susan Kostrzewa moderated a panel on “Spirited Women, Taking the Lead,” bringing together Annette Alvarez-Peters, wine buyer for Costco Wholesale; Sara Floyd, MS, owner of Swirl Wine Brokers and Luli Wines; Gina Gallo, winemaker for E. & J. Gallo Winery; and Stephanie Macleod, master blender of John Dewar & Sons. It was a wide-reaching discussion on balancing life and work, mentoring, finding inspiration and overcoming obstacles.

The room became particularly quiet during an address by Dr. Makaziwe Mandela, eldest daughter of Nelson Mandela and CEO and founder of the House of Mandela, a producer of wines from South Africa. She spoke of the challenges black women in particular face, as well as the need for entrepreneurship to move forward.

The event concluded with a nod to women’s increasing interest in whiskey, and a farewell reception featuring whiskies from around the world.

The next symposium will take place in Napa on March 12–14, 2018. For more information, visit womenofthevine.com.