The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2013

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I t's not often that winemakers can welcome a large-ish group of visitors to Napa Valley at harvest time—there's just too much work to be done, and not much time to do it. Nevertheless, the folks at Treasury Wine Estates made it happen for a lucky group of industry pros, and some entrepreneurial women from Southern Wine & Spirits took full advantage. The SWSers call themselves Women in Wine, and they banded together in March to mentor one another and increase their knowledge and expertise in the beverage world. Plus, they get to compare notes and be mutually supportive as they work their way up the management ranks. And they've gotten enthusiastic support from the company. "I noticed that there was a lack of strong women to make an impact and represent another side of SWS," says Loulie De La Torre, who got the group going along with Nikki Bazzo and Michelle Smith. "It's amazing to see how many other women from across the country are doing and working towards the same goal." So that's what brought the group Treasury's event in Napa Valley for two stupendously gorgeous—and exceedingly illuminating—days in wine country. They spent the first day traversing some of Napa's back roads, visiting Beringer's fields and learning how the viticulturists and winemakers assess their product, so that the group would be better able to tell customers about the brand's heritage and characteristics. Will Drayton, Treasury's Napa viticulturist, gathered the group around him in the Bale Lane vineyards and explained one of the ways technology has made its presence felt in the vineyards: Workers now use iPads to record information about the grapes—their color, taste, tannins, intensity and other factors. The exercise wasn't just academic. Everyone tasted the fruit and the group graded the overall outlook for the field. Then it was on to Beringer's Knight's Valley vineyard, where the group was sent to pick berries from specific positions on the vine. One group picked fruit from the east side of the vines, another picked on the west side and the last plucked grapes from random positions. Then the bags of berries were mashed, and the sugar content was measured. When the results came back with sugar levels between 24 and 26 Brix, Beringer winemaker Laurie Hook feigned horror, as if she had to start picking the fruit immediately. But although harvest time was near, "We don't say, 'Today's the day!'" she laughed, because that would tend to alarm everyone. Beringer Knight's Valley Meritage. "We try to take a more measured approach." The approach the SWS women are taking is measured, too. "We're trying to continue to grow with the company," Bazzo says. "We've found that there are not a lot of women managers, and we're very likeminded." All of the 20 or so women in the group are from Southern California, but they're hoping to reach out to Northern California next as they continue to expand. "We're growing our education and having fun while doing so," Bazzo says. Above: Nikki Bazzo, Nancy Brad, Jisethe Donovan and Lexi Carnes (front to back) of the SWS Women in Wine group walk in Beringer's Knights Valley Vineyard. Andrea Christianson (rear) of the SWS operation in Texas, talked with the women about their new mentoring group. Below: SWS's Women in Wine Michelle Smith, Nikki Bazzo and Kristen Johnson take a group shot in Beringer's Bale Lane vineyard. november 2013  /  the tasting panel  /  1 15 TP1113_109-156.indd 115 10/24/13 9:16 AM

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