Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Women of the Vine

So I wanted to wait to post this blog because I wanted to give you a recap of last night's Women of the Vine Cellars tasting and tell you about some of the most compelling reading I've done in the last few years.  

My friend Deborah, who is also a member of the NYC Chapter of Women for WineSense, changed her life a few years back by writing and publishing a fantastic non-fiction book called Women of the Vine.  In it, she profiled 21 women in wine, including Master Sommelier Andrea Immer Robinson, Stephanie Browne, founder of Divas Uncorked and a host of women winemakers.  In the beginning, she talks a bit about wine basics in a tone that is easy to sip and savor, and then she launches into compelling profiles of phenomenal women who have each carved themselves a niche in the male dominated wine world.  After all, we are responsible for at least 65% of all the wine purchases that take place in the US (think, who is usually responsible for shopping for the household?)
  and in my opinion, we write the most interesting wine books!  If you haven't read one already, read this one!  

So last night's event was at Fred's, the restaurant on the top floor of Barney's New York on Madison and 61st in Manhattan.  This was a fabulous venue!  Marketta Formeaux, one of the winemakers Deborah wrote about, was on hand to talk to us about the line and specifically the wines she made, the Sauvignon Blanc and the Cabernet Sauvignon, in the line.  She is a lovely, friendly French woman with a fantastic story and the Midas touch - the wines were good as gold!  She explained that 25% percent of her Sauvignon Blanc is fermented in oak (not normal for this grape variety) which I thought was a nice touch and added some weight in the mouth and some delicious spicy notes to the overall flavor, which was characterized  by crisp, fresh fruit.  There is also a Tempranillo, a Zinfandel and a beautifully made Chardonnay and more in the line.  All the links I've provided here will help you find out where to buy them.  Also, keep up with my blog and you will find more opportunities to taste the wines, meet the author and winemakers  and get your copy of Women of the Vine autographed.  

Another amazing story of a woman in wine is that of Susan Sokol Blosser, of the eponymous winery in Dundee Hills appellation in Oregon's Pinot Noir wine country.  She endured a 
turbulent marriage, the birth and upbringing of three children, aging parents, political changes - she even once ran for a local polictical office - and she later on took over the winery as her husband phased himself out.  They are apart now, but Sokol Blosser is going strong, and her book, At Home in the Vineyard, chronicles all of this in an honest voice that makes her so compelling.  Last year, I met Susan, who founded Oregon's first Women for WineSense chapter years ago, at the Women for WineSense Grand Event in Napa.  She was accompanied by her lovely daughter, who was just about as pregnant as I was at the time.  

Last but not least, much closer to home for me, is the story of Louisa Hargrave.  She and her husband Alex planted Long Island's very first vineyard in 1973 amid apple and potato farms.  They really did what they did against many odds - the locals thought they were crazy, the administrators at Cornell University's viticulture reasearch program saught to sabotage them, and she too was pregnant during the planting of the vineyards.  She was out in the field nonetheless putting the vines down in unfriendly weather.  The vineyards are still there, under the stewardship of Anna Marie Borghese and her husband, though Louisa, now a journalist, has since moved on.  But here is yet another compelling story of a woman who went through the fire for her passion and created a legacy in wine.  Where there were once potatoes, a burgeoning wine country now flourishes on the North Fork of Long Island.  The Vineyard is a must read for those of you who are seeking inspiration for starting a new business of any kind.  

So what's the difference between men and women when it comes to wine?  Here are some differences that I've discovered over the years: 
1. Women are indeed from Venus when it comes to wine - we talk about it in like it-don't like it terms, and sometimes can't explain why, but can definitely tell you how it makes us feel (typical, huh?).  We are also good at accomodating other people's perceptions.  

Men talk about wine in definite terms, for them there is right and wrong in discussing the flavor profile of a wine and what makes it taste the way it tastes.  And much like in sports, they like stats. 

2. Which brings me to my next point.  Men invented the 100pt rating system of wine and for the most part, they rely on these kinds of stats to help them decide what to buy, and even what to like (men inside the industry are a bit exception to this rule).  Most wine collectors are men, who buy wine not to enjoy, but to display on racks like trophies and trade like stocks (can't hate on that, investment grade wine performs amazingly as an asset class!).  

Women buy wine to enjoy in the short term, and share with their friends.  In general, they will buy and try what their friends suggest and seek recommendations from their girls.  

3. They say women's palates are better than men's.  (They're probably right!)

4.  Women tend to be less confident about affirming what they like and don't like if they think they don't know anything about wine. 

Ladies and gents, please take my poll below.  I'd like to know more about how wine fits into your life.  Also, your comments are very welcome (again, typical :) 

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