By Leah McNally

Did you join us for the 2012 Women for WineSense Grand Event in Napa Valley May 4th -6th? This year’s line-up officially started with The Grand Tasting at Mondavi Winery on Friday Evening. Fifteen individual wineries, Volcanic Mineral Refresher of Ashland, Oregon and a selection of Washington wines presented by Washington winemaker, Judy Thoet were featured along hors d’oeuvres and chocolate. Grand Dame Margarite Mondavi welcomed us in conjunction with National President Rebecca E. Moore. The evening was mild and the wines were fantastic, and the colorful light-up rings, compliments of Stella and Dot Jewelry that came with the welcome bags made everything more glamorous.  There is nothing like a group of women, dressed to the nines with glasses of wines and twinkling lights on their fingers to set the mood.

Some members took advantage of Friday morning as well for pre-event tours and tastings and those lucky ones (who didn’t have to be at work like I did on Friday) visited some of the most exclusive wineries in the valley- Harlan Estate, Peter Michael, Rudd and Joseph Phelps. Saturday was devoted to more winery tours, and vintner dinners at Idell Family Vineyards of Sonoma, Linked Vineyards in Santa Rosa and Domaine Chandon in Yountville.

Sunday featured the Grand Event Educational Seminars. I attended three that focused on wine and food pairing, including a chocolate tasting and an overview of the wines of Texas. There were two panel discussions – Making Wine a Women’s World that focused on the new generation of millennial women winemakers and Career Ambitions/Career Transitions: Making Wine Your Industry.

My favorite moment of the day was the luncheon and an inspiring awards ceremony. The WWS Hall of Fame award went to Ramona Nicholson of Nicholson Ranch in Sonoma, who spoke to us about the challenges and rewards of raising a family and a winery at the same time. The Rising Star awards featured several notable women. Kathleen Inman is the winemaker and owner of Inman Family Wines in the Russian River Valley, and creates Pinot Noir from her vineyard and winery which is entirely powered by solar energy. Kathy Johnson and Stacy Lill created O Wines in Woodinville, Washington. O Wines gives 100% of its net profits to fund educational scholarships and mentor low income youth. We also recognized our own Professor Liz Thach of Sonoma State University, who was awarded the title Master of Wine in 2011- one of only seven women in the U.S. who hold that title. The Lifetime Achievement award recognized Lorraine Helms of Rochester, New York. With 30 years in the wine industry and as a certified Sommelier, Lorraine founded the Rochester WWS chapter and is currently the head of the Wine Education department at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Thank you to all the volunteers and sponsors who put so much effort into making The Grand Event a reality. You did a great job! If you didn’t attend this year, I hope you can make it in 2014 for the next Grand Event. Cheers!

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