In 2006, Deborah Brenner wrote ‘Women of the Vine,’ to share collected stories of women in the wine industry. Today, this idea has grown into the Women of the Vine Alliance that supports and empowers women in the beverage alcohol industry worldwide. We asked Deborah to share her story and some of her insight into the wine world. We hope you enjoy this post!
Back in 2004, I took a trip to Napa and Sonoma in the hopes of finding a new career path far away from my corporate life in New York City. On that trip, I came to realize that women in the wine world were very under-recognized. Perhaps I identified with them because I, too, began my career at the end of the 1980s and spent the prior 20+ years in the male-dominated field of high-end technology.
My thirst for knowledge, to understand more about women in wine from their perspective, was the driving force for me to return home and begin interviewing many prominent women in the industry. It was from that point on that I felt compelled to tell their stories. This project became my book, Women of the Vine: Inside the World of Women who Make, Taste and Enjoy Wine.
After writing the book, I was hooked, believing that the only way I could champion their cause was to go into the business myself by creating, financing and selling a wine brand produced by notable women winemakers under a collective wine label.
But after hundreds of meetings, work-withs, in-store demos and wine dinners, plus money, blood, sweat and (a lot of) tears, I realized I was not accomplishing what I had set out to do. This business model was not bringing about my vision for Women of the Vine.
It was time to reinvent once again. I dusted off my notes and re-read all of the emails from women around the world who so kindly reached out to me after the release of my book. These women took time out of their very busy lives to share their passion and excitement for their careers and to ask how they could be part of Women of the Vine.
Their inquiries and support were the impetus for the first annual Women of the Vine Global Symposium held in Napa this past March, a first-of-its-kind summit where women from every facet of the wine industry came together to foster, celebrate and inspire leadership in the world of wine. The symposium sold out a month before it launched, with guests attending from Australia, Brazil, France, Hong Kong, and across the U.S.
I learned so much during the conference, and felt the satisfaction of having facilitated camaraderie, collaboration and confidence-building. A few of my take-aways included:
- As women, we do not need to be masculine to compete in the workforce. Confidence is strength of character based on life experience and continued success.
- Managers facilitate their team members’ success – they ensure they have what they need to be productive and successful – but a leader can be anyone on a team. Leadership is based on strengths, not titles.
- Balance between home and work life is elusive for most women, no matter their industry. We are multi-taskers and highly-effective people, after all! By coming together at an event like the Women of the Vine Global Symposium and sharing ideas, advice, and practical life experience, we become better at striking balance, identifying priorities, and establishing boundaries.
Since the first Global Symposium, I have worked closely with our advisory board to launch the Women of the Vine Alliance, a membership-based coalition (including several Men of the Vine!) that empowers and equips women in the alcohol beverage industry to advance their careers; supports gender-diverse leadership teams and talent development; and offers a place for women in the industry to connect, network, mentor and collaborate.
The next Women of the Vine Global Symposium is April 4-6, 2016, at the Meritage Resort in Napa. Every woman in the alcohol beverage industry – from tasting room staff, mixologists, distillers, to winemakers, publicists, operations, buyers, HR professionals, sommeliers and CEOs – has something to share and something to learn at this conference. I hope you’ll consider joining us. For tickets, please visit: www.WomenOfTheVine.com.
As a former executive and 20-year veteran of the television and film industries, Brenner was familiar with the disenchantment of working in a male-dominated industry. As she interviewed women in the wine industry for the book, her commitment to telling their stories galvanized the group as a force whose talents and collective experience could not be ignored. Brenner harnessed this energy and enthusiasm (which grew far beyond that of the subjects of her book) to organize Women of the Vine Alliance.