California Women in Wine Move into the Marketplace"Men prefer beer; women prefer wine," according to the 2006 Adams Wine Handbook. That has been the trend for more than a decade and likely beyond although wine continues to gain in popularity among both sexes. Women make up 52 percent of the adult population and purchase 57 percent of the wine consumed in the United States.1 They represent a huge market with great purchasing power that until recently has been overlooked. According to experts, women are less influenced by wine ratings, as they tend to judge the entire product. Although the wine quality is important to women, so are the label design, the bottle shape and the philosophy of the winery. A greater marketing awareness toward women consumers is emerging as a trend in the 21st century. This has been brought about partly by women themselves gaining stature in the industry. They inherently recognize that women comprise a major market, representing more than 50 percent of all wine purchasing decisions. It makes good business sense to make sure that communication messages have appeal to women.
Milestones of Women in the California Wine Industry:Women have always been an integral part of the California wine industry. Traditionally, they inherited their positions from husbands or fathers, however beginning in the 1960s, women started to become prominent winemakers, to own wineries and to assume management positions based on their own qualifications, often independent of family heritage. Their advancement mirrors the growth of the California wine industry in general. From the late 19th century to the present, there has been a pioneering aspect to women's increasing visibility in the wine industry. The first woman winemaker in California, Josephine Tychson, was 31 years old when she founded her winery in 1886, after the tragic death of her husband. Kate Warfield was known as "the leading vineyardist from Glen Ellen,"2 when she took over her late husband's Ten Oaks Vineyard in 1877. Isabelle Simi Haigh assumed management of her family's winery as a young woman after her father's death. Internationally famous actress and noted Victorian beauty, Lillie Langtry purchased 4,200 acres of land in Guenoc Valley in 1888 with the goal of making the "greatest claret in the country." She even brought her own French winemaker from Bordeaux, France. These notable women set the stage for all those that have followed. America's first woman winemaker to graduate in enology from a university, Maryann Graf, came on the scene in the sixties. She joined Simi Winery in 1973, during the height of the revival in the California wine industry, which had been in hiatus since the early 20th century due to Prohibition (1919-1933) and World War II. In 1975, only about 5 percent of the students enrolled in viticulture and enology courses were women. By the early 1990s, that ratio had increased significantly. "According to historian William Heintz, 10 percent of California's winemakers were women in 1890," said Eileen Crane, another woman winemaker who began her career in the 1970s and is now managing director and winemaker at Domain Carneros. "In 1990, my personal research indicated that the figure for the number of women winemakers was again about 10 percent. Today, I estimate that women constitute about 15-20 percent of the winemakers in California." In addition to an expanding number of women winemakers in California, there has been an increasing prominence of highly visible women making ultra luxury premium wines. This new breed of women winemakers emerged in the mid-1990s, when the high tech boom created intense demand for high-end products. Although the economy has softened, many of these wines continue to garner attention and in some instances, cult status. Women have been making inroads in the commercial world for a generation, and the wine industry reflects this change in women's role in society. A watershed year was 1998, when Dianne Nury, president of Vie-Del Company in Fresno, became the first woman chairman of Wine Institute since its establishment in 1934. In the same year, two other prominent wine industry trade associations in California also elected women as board presidents for the first time: Napa Valley Vintners and Sonoma County Wineries Association. Women have put a new face on the industry, taking lead roles in sales, marketing, hospitality and distribution. There are also increasing numbers of women sommeliers, traditionally a position held by men. Women have proven they can succeed in all areas of the wine business through hard work and dedication. In a tribute to the history of women in wine, a new book, released in the first part of 2006, entitled "100 Women in Wine: Journeys and Inspiration in Wine and Life" by Gregory Walter (Carneros Press), captures stories and accomplishments that haven't yet been told about women in all aspects of the wine business. Governor Schwarzenegger has proclaimed September 2006 as the official "California Wine Celebration." Wineries throughout the state will be hosting events and activities during the annual harvest to celebrate this recognition in September and October. Retailers in California, including Safeway, will put a special focus on the state's wines. For a schedule of events and additional information, please visit the California Wine Month web site. 1Source: Adams Wine Handbook 2006
2Source: Charles L. Sullivan, A Companion to California Wine, University of California Press