Vineyard Shot


Accolades for Forgeron Cellars

Women Winemakers of Walla Walla

Marie-Eve Gilla says "My '06 Chardonnay represents the limitless opportunities to develop a unique style for white wines here in Washington state. The style is a cross between Burgundy & New World, full & ripe with a nice mineral nuance."

 Braiden Rex-Johnson, Seattle Times, November 9, 2008


The Walla Walla women of wine gathered at Forgeron Cellars this fall to talk about making wine in one of the world’s hottest wine regions, the Walla Walla Valley. 


In early June 2008, over caramelized-onion frittatas, crawfish scrambles & a refreshing rosé at 26brix Restaurant, I sat down with 8 women to talk about making wine in one of the world's hottest wine regions - the Walla Walla Valley.

The players included Virginie Bourgue, Cadaretta & Lullaby; Debbie Hansen, Cougar Crest Winery; Mary Derby & Dawn Kammer, DaMa Wines; Marie-Eve Gilla, Forgeron Cellars; Lynne Chamberlain, JLC Winery & Spofford Station; Verdie Morrison, Morrison Lane; & Denise Slattery, Trio Vintners.

Responding to my questions via e-mail were 7 other Walla Walla-based winemakers &/or winery owners: Anna Schafer, àMaurice Cellars; Annette Bergevin & Amber Lane, Bergevin Lane Vineyards; Nina Buty Foster, Buty Winery; Jill Noble, Couvillion; Ashley Trout, Flying Trout Wines; & Holly Turner, Three Rivers Winery.

We quickly established that times have changed (for the better) for women in the industry. Gilla recalled having to "fight tooth & nails" to get into the winemaking-degree program at Dijon University in Burgundy, France, at a time when women weren't even allowed in the barrel room. "Women are now freely accepted for the same studies, thank God!"

When asked about the physical task of winemaking, Hansen said she thought it was fairly gender-neutral. "But more than anything, industry attitudes, family-life conflict & spousal support (or the lack of) make the differences between how males/females are able to do the job."

Chamberlain added, "There's no difference; we are all schlepping."

Kammer said her husband, Jack, a mortgage broker, "gets pulled in for heavy lifting & fetching cases of wine."

"Can't forget the forklift," Turner said. "Where would we be without it?"

As for differences in styles, Gilla said, "Men look for the numbers & lab analysis. Women are more confident. If we like it, it's good."

When asked about the balance between work & their personal lives, Schafer shot back, "The barrels are my babies!"

Bourgue replied, "Winemaking is very consuming; you have to take some time for yourself so you can give back 120%."

Noble took another tack. "My children are No. 1, & one of the big keys is that they have been very supportive."

On the subject of equal pay for equal work, many of the women admitted they don't take a salary (yet), a few estimated they earn about 30% less than their male counterparts, & others said their pay was equal.

But the question that provoked the most response was simply: Why do you do it?

To which Morrison answered, "I want to give my children the chance to continue the vineyard & winery if they want to." Husband Dean's family "lived & farmed where the vineyard is, & I like being part of that tradition & adding to it."

Both Bergevin & Lane said they do it because it's a way of life, & fun every day.

Trout's passion was obvious: "Because I couldn't do anything else. You get dirty, stained, blistered & smelly & change into a black-tie dress & discuss the biophysical properties of molecules' wavelengths while drinking your craft. Better than a cubicle."

Finally, why Walla Walla?

"There is no other place we could have done this. Walla Walla is a perfect setting to be able to think outside the box," Derby said.

To which Slattery chimed in, "The bar is very high here. To play here you have to really play well."

Read the entire "Women winemakers of Walla Walla are working the dirt and pushing the bar with passion" here.

Braiden Rex-Johnson, Seattle Times, November 9, 2008