WWS News

We’re so thrilled to announce two new additions to the Napa-Sonoma WWS board! Tracy Lynne Parker and Stacy Su join us as Program Director and Events Director, respectively. Both are extremely well-experienced in event creation, planning, management and more. So expect the bar to be raised in our upcoming events. Read on for details on their backgrounds. Welcome aboard, ladies!

Stacy Su, WWS Events Director; Owner of Stacy’s Wine Tours

From Stacy: “Since becoming a member of Women for Winesense in 2010 I fell in love with this non-profit organization. It is such a wonderful opportunity for women in the wine industry to connect, share information and make life- long friends. My involvement with non-profit organizations for over the past 16 years will serve me well in Women for Winesense.
With my abilities to bring people together to work for the greater cause, set short and long term goals, implement annual calendars, coordinator large and small groups of people, working with budgets, contacts in the industry, marketing experience and understanding that a great event only is great by strategic planning, marketing and getting everyone involved has provided me with the skills needed to help lead the Events Team.”
Stacy currently offers palate-driven wine tours in Napa and Sonoma. Each client is interviewed; and then she sets up a custom wine tour based upon their palate preferences and the experience they’re looking to have.
Reach Stacy at Events_napa@womenforwinesense.org or cell: 707-322-3837.

Tracy Lynne Parker, WWS Program Director; Wine Club Coordinator for Foley Family Wines

Tracy Lynne is currently responsible for coordination of all aspects of a multi-brand wine club, including Kuleto Estate Wine Club and Chalk Hill Estate Wine Club. Her work includes everything from increasing customer service levels and member satisfaction to managing club wine shipments, events, databases and more.
Tracy Lynne has earned her Tasting Room Management and WSET Level 2 Intermediate Certifications, as well as trained in numerous wine education, marketing and hospitality programs throughout the local wine degree college programs (to whom our scholarship funds are awarded each year!) and specialty wine training firms, such as the WISE Academy.

Reach Tracy Lynne at Napa_Program_Director@womenforwinesense.org or cell: 415.305.9111.

Welcome aboard, Ladies! We’re looking forward to some fabulous events with you.

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!

Roundtables conjure images of high ideals, swords raised in pledge and lots of chain mail. Some of those characteristics from the ‘old days’ remain remarkably similar to ours today.

We do have high ideals and expectations in the conduct of our members. (“What happens around the round table stays at the round table!”) We raise filled wine glasses instead of raising swords. Our wardrobes at the table can vary dramatically, from direct off the crush pad to major wine event chic. (But you’ll not find any chain mail in sight.)

Similar to King Arthur’s Round Table, Women for WineSense’s round tables are steeped in a bit of mystery. Information shared at table is frequently labeled, “Not to leave this room!” Of course, this isn’t due to some NORAD missile defense system sensibility of ‘it’s us or them!’ It’s far more attributable to sense of sanctuary at the round table.

Like any industry, topics arise of a sensitive nature. Proprietary programs and knowledge are key to business success, from sales to viticulture. We’re here to help – not create a Cuban Missile Crisis!

On that note, I think you’ll understand when I say the following recap of one round table’s meeting would read like a heavily redacted document from the C.I.A. (the Big Brother agency—not the culinary training center Upvalley)!

Making Sense of a Sales Strategy for both DTT (Direct-to-Trade) and DTC (Direct-to-Consumer)

The Marketing/DTC Round Table was recently lucky enough to get Scott Forrest, National Sales Manager for Three Sticks Wines in Sonoma, to speak about developing and working various sales strategies both to the trade as well as to consumers. Scott brought his DTC specialist, Prema Behan, to the meeting as well to discuss some of the strategies she has employed for her target market.

While we didn’t have a round table, per se, at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, the discussion around the heavy, rectangular European table was lively. Scott indicated some of his first strategies upon joining Three Sticks was to determine which states to distribute to and how many cases to allot as target sales goals across the country. (This was concurrent to developing a direct-to-consumer strategy that dovetailed with the master plan.)

Though Three Sticks Wines is a relatively new label, Scott thought it was essential to make long-term plans (and subsequent action steps) to gain market penetration in key states early on in its development. Why? The marketplace gets more and more crowded. You can’t wait until your brand has a stellar reputation years down the road and wide visibility to begin pushing open the crack in the door.

Questions he put to the attending marketing and direct-to-consumer members included:

  1. If your goal is to sell 5,000 cases in Texas next year, how are you going to get there starting from zero case sales?
  2. How many accounts do you need in any given state to sell X number of cases there?
  3. What is your point of difference from the other brands that will help to gain distributor sales as well as restaurant sales?

Fortunately, he didn’t leave us with a cliff hanger. The questions weren’t intended to stump anyone or put them on the spot. Scott’s point was simply that it’s crucial to map out your strategy to distribution step-by-step. Start with your sales goals and then begin figuring out how you’ll attain them.

Build Solid Relationships with Distributors

From all the information Scott imparted about dealing with distribution management on down to their sales staff, it was clear he could have written a multi-volume manual on how to do it successfully. Therefore, highlights here will be extremely abbreviated.

Here are some of his recommendations and observations:

  1. It’s all about the relationships. Build them for the long-run. Nurture them frequently. This business runs of the strength of relationships from the top down.
  2. Do your homework and be very organized! Do all your research; know your competition; know their other accounts’ margins, markups and so on before you begin dialing for appointments.
  3. Above all, be courteous and respectful of their time. It’s possible you may be shut down on the first phone call simply because you called at the wrong time. Hone your approach at every step by asking if it’s a good time to talk or meet. Give them recognition for taking time out of their busy day.
  4. Don’t be discouraged. If you get shut down on the first try, work on how you can get that door back open. Perhaps you weren’t clear in your delivery of the Point of Difference.
  5. Remember distributors and their sales teams are driven by quotas. They’re focused entirely on numbers and often don’t get to sample products. You’ll have to think on your feet and quickly adapt to shifting attention spans.
  6. Think twice before promoting the most original and clever marketing idea you’ve ever come up with – they’ve heard it all before, truly.
  7. If you get to ride with sales staff or managers to retail or restaurant accounts, be very respectful of their time and space. If you’re getting into their car, remember you’re invading their space. Acknowledge their generosity. Turn off your phone completely. The best way to kill a relationship at this time would be accepting an outside phone call. (That includes shutting off all email on your smartphone.)
  8. Working with distributors can be similar to working with shifting sands. Just when you get good rapport going with one branch you could find the entire team has been replaced, and you must start from scratch. Surprises abound.

Scott emphasized focusing on the factors most important to distributors:

  1. What is the profit per case you are offering? An average profit per case can be $30 – $35. If your brand offers a much greater profit margin, make this crystal clear to management and the sales staff. Their attention will perk up.
  2. What are key points of differentiation between your brand and everyone else’s? If you try to convey your wine’s quality is superior to everyone else’s you are unlikely to make headway. (Everyone has great quality wine!)
  3. Can you offer sales incentives? If so, be creative and offer an ‘in demand’ carrot. Cash prizes may work, but often they don’t. Competition is stiff to create adequate drive for a prize. Can you consider offering a trip to wine country? Electronics?

Target Comparable Restaurant Accounts

Scott’s recounted experience made it very clear successful restaurant sales are a combination of skill, timing and resilience. (I should note that while I’ve reduced the discussion to a short list on each topic, there was a great deal of discussion between attendees, telling of amusing stories, and rounds of Q&A throughout.)

Restaurant sales are the wine business’ equivalent to getting your music played on the radio. Restaurants are a fabulous conduit through which much of the public first learns about a new wine. And once enjoyed, that consumer will be off to her local wine shop to purchase it for home consumption. Therefore, the ability to gain the right balance of restaurant sales in various geographic areas can shape public perception and sales volume in that area. Nurturing these accounts may be a critical component of your overall marketing strategy.

Scott’s own ideas on gaining restaurant wine list space were multi-faceted. Here are a few of his observations:

  1. Gaining space on a prestigious restaurant’s wine list may be a coup. But, if the list is pages long, it won’t result in many case sales. However, it may be possible to leverage that position to obtain other accounts in that geographic area.
  2. Determine your key competitor brands and your strategy to position yourself next to them. Scott mentioned several luxury wine brands (withheld so I don’t get in trouble with him) he specifically seeks out on restaurant wine lists to determine if he should pursue the account. If he finds them there, he works on tactics to get his brand on the same list.
  3. Do your homework (again)! Know a restaurant’s wine list and style. Will your wine pair well with their food? Do they offer similar brands as yours to their guests? What do you know about the restaurant’s relationship with their distributor? (You don’t want to walk into an ambush if they’ve just chewed out the account manager for a problem with replacing someone else’s corked wine.)
  4. Target short wine lists. Your sales volume will be much higher than on the ‘extensive’ wine lists.
  5. Have a meal there. Get to know some of the staff when possible. Take interest in what is or isn’t working for them so you can determine if you can help.

After our lengthy discussion it left little time for Prema to offer some of her winning DTC strategies. But several were built around key principles of hospitality: Thank your biggest customers generously. Prema mentioned carefully reviewing her DTC sales results for the year and sending Christmas gifts to her best customers (who were most grateful for her extra recognition of their patronage).

We could have gone on for hours with this round table discussion, but there are only so many hours in the day. A big ‘thank you’ and round of applause was given to Scott and Prema for their insights and expertise (and is repeated here)!

Post event I ran into several recent blog posts relating to DTT and DTC sales you may find of interest:

  • Franchise States provides an excellent summary of the effects of ‘premature distribution.’ Rather, the author recommends you do considerable homework on each state in which you wish to sell your wine and on each distributor you consider doing business with since it is often an undivorceable relationship.
  • In The Biggest Challenge to a Winery Jeff Miller discusses what happens when your broker decides to close up shop and how this affects sales and your relationship with one or more distributors.
  • Paul Mabray looks at wineries’ relationships with their customers (and exactly who are they?) in Direct Through Trade – Social Media Redefining The “Customer”.
  • Alder Yarrow has a few words to say on where wineries are missing marketing opportunities in Social Media and the Wine Industry: A New Era.
  • Wrapping it up, Leah Hennessy Matteson offers commentary on some very interesting fresh sales statistics from the Wine Market Council in Millennier, Millennial Wine Buying Behavior Mirrors High End Consumer. In her analysis find that wine reviews are important to consumers for determining what to buy to drink at home and that folks are more than willing to try new luxury brands.

Please add your observations and comments by clicking on “Leave a Comment” at the top of the article here or at the bottom with “Leave a Reply.

Our evening was a prime example of the wonderful benefits of participating in one of our professional roundtables. These meetings provide in-depth expertise on a specific topic either requested directly by the round table’s members or fit within the round table’s category of focus.

My participation in the HR Roundtable facilitated a job offer from Silver Oak only six days after my position was eliminated at Jackson Family Wines. I credit landing on my feet to my active participation on the roundtable which afforded me visibility as an HR professional and allowed me to build relationships with other winery colleagues and provided immediate access to networking when I personally needed it, and luckily, securing new employment.

Linda Higueras
Employee Relations
Silver Oak & Twomey Cellars

For all eleven roundtables each meeting provides ample opportunity to network with others working in the same field (or related field). Share ideas, brainstorm, and build new relationships to continue your career development.

We are currently looking for an Education Director to oversee the roundtables as well as our scholarship program. If you know anyone who may make a terrific match for this position and would like to dig deeper in their Women for WineSense participation, please contact Chris Mueller, Chapter President, for details.

Do you have some great stories about what you’ve learned at a recent roundtable meeting? We’d love to publish your blog post about the event. Please send them to Marcia Macomber, Communications Director.


They’re just two, little initials. But fewer than 300 people worldwide have earned the right to add these prestigious letters after their names. In fact, only 100 of them are outside of the U.K. And only seven of them are women.

A “Master of Wine” has truly reached the most towering of achievements in the wine industry. To earn the right to use the abbreviated form, “MW,” after one’s moniker, is a testament to untold hours of study and practical understanding of the art, science and business of wine.

Women for WineSense’s very own Dr. Liz Thach has earned the right to add the coveted letters after her name:

Dr. Liz Thach, MW

[Round of well-deserved applause and ovation!]

The Institute of Masters of Wine recently conveyed this esteemed qualification and title on Dr. Thach and will formally induct her into the institute in its annual awards ceremony and reception at Vintners’ Hall held in London in November of this year.

Dr. Liz Thach, MW

Dr. Liz Thach, MW

Are you curious about the rigors of the exam? The first part is four, separate exam papers on viticulture, winemaking and wine business. Then (presuming you progress) you’d face three blind tasting exams with no less than a dozen wines each. You’d have to write up extraordinarily detailed analyses of each of the wines tasted before moving on to phase three of the examination. Last up would be your dissertation.

We’ve reduced the exam requirements to a rather cursory summary above, but when the exams were first given in 1953, of the 21 candidates only six passed. While the exam has changed a bit over the years, the difficulty of achieving the honor remains highly challenging. The first female MW, Sarah Morphew Stephen, passed the exam and was awarded membership into the institute in 1970.

Dr. Thach, WWS’ outgoing Director of Education just this month, was also recently appointed Sonoma State’s Wine Business Institute’s Korbel Professor in Wine Business.

You can learn more about Dr. Thach’s milestone achievement here and her recent appointment to the Korbel Professorship here.

Congratulations, Dr. Liz Thach, MW!

Wondering how it all got started twenty-one years ago?

Here are a few comments from founders Michaela Rodeno and Julie Johnson: “We were in a conference in Sonoma and during a break there were three or four of us standing around complaining about all the negative press the wine industry was getting, and how frustrating it was that none of the wine industry organizations were doing anything about it,” said Rodeno. “Just then Julie and I looked at each other and said, ‘we could do something about it.'” Their first meeting, held at the Robert Mondavi Winery, drew some 80 people.

“Our main goal then was to set the record straight. The information that was coming out was all wrong, all negative,” said Rodeno. “And we all knew, intuitively, that it wasn’t correct. So we set out to get ourselves educated and started sharing what we found with policy makers and other people in the industry. And pretty soon, the people in the industry who had money and the resources started realizing that they weren’t going to be struck by lightning if they stood up for wine.”

Rodeno said the name Women for WineSense was picked because a lot of the negative press was directed toward women, but the moniker ended up with a deeper significance. “We didn’t realize it then, but it turned out to be a very powerful name. Naming ourselves was one of the hardest things we had to do.” Some in the group thought the name was too exclusionary, even though men were, and still are, welcome. “Right away we found it was a good name, it really sounded like a more powerful force than we really were. It was remarkable. It sounded like some powerful women’s organization.”

Twenty-one years later, there are now chapters across the country from Oregon to New York and from Virginia to Texas. Here’s a bit more background on our two founders:

Julie Johnson

Julie Johnson, WWS Co-Founder

Julie Johnson, WWS Co-Founder

Co-Founder of Women for WineSense,‘Wine-grower’ of Tres Sabores

Johnson has been recognized as one of the nation’s pioneer activists of socially-responsible winemaking and has been consulting in organic winemaking for the past three decades. In 1981, she, along with her first husband John Williams and partner Larry Turley, founded the environmentally-friendly Frog’s Leap Winery.

She moved to her 35-acre ranch on the western benchland of Rutherford in 1987. Zinfandel grapes were already planted on the property and were soon harvested for Frog’s Leap Winery, where she directed the sales and marketing programs while maintaining her career as a public health nurse until the arrival of her first child.

Along with Michaela Rodeno, CEO at Supery Winery, she established Women for WineSense in 1990. Additionally, she held a previous position as the President of Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) and is a member of Rutherford Dusty Society and Napa Valley Vintners. Her wines have been recognized by Robert Parker, Douglas Wilder of VinFolio, The Wine Enthusiast, James Gordon, The New York Times, as well as numerous others.

From 1999 through 2001 she was a Fellow in the California Agricultural Leadership Program. Meanwhile, the old barn at her Rutherford ranch had been converted into a small winery, Cabernet had been planted, and the vineyard had received certification as a California Certified Organic (CCOF) Farm.

Julie decided to change gears and develop her own label, using the distinctive estate fruit so close at hand: the Tres Sabores “Three tastes” project was born. In 2004, Julie released her first estate Cabernet Sauvignon: “Rutherford Perspective,” which joined her estate Zinfandel, Tres Sabores, Rutherford and her quaffing blend, ¿Porqué No? in the marketplace. In the spring of 2006, the first Tres Sabores white wine: Farina Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc was brought to market.

Currently, she’s taking great delight celebrating a renewed family life with husband Jon Engelskirger, consulting winemaker (and combined, their six children!). Ongoing, she is pursuing winemaking as a vocation, as well as advocating for her passions as a past President of Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP), and as a member of the Rutherford Dust Society, the Napa Valley Vintners, CCOF and Napa Zinfandel Trail. 

Michaela Rodeno

Michaela Rodeno, WWS Co-Founder

Michaela Rodeno, WWS Co-Founder

Co-Founder of Women for WineSense, former CEO of St. Supéry

Michaela Rodeno recently retired as St. Supéry’s CEO after 21 years. She had previously been the VP/Marketing for Domaine Chandon. She is one of the leading women in the California wine industry and a strong advocate for wine-related issues.

Rodeno co-founded Women for WineSense and served on the boards of California’s Wine Institute and the Napa Valley Vintners Association. She is a founding director and past chair of the Wine Market Council, served as chairman of the Meritage Association from 1999-2005, chaired the Napa Valley Wine Auction twice, and recently joined the board of the Napa Valley Destination Council.

A director of Silicon Valley Bank since 2001, Rodeno currently chairs its compensation committee. She is often invited to speak at conferences. She holds an MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and speaks fluent French. She and her family own Villa Ragazzi, a Napa Valley winery with a first vintage of 1988, and 60 acres of vineyards in the Napa Valley, where she lives with her attorney husband Gregory. Their two children are university graduates.