Today’s Women in Wine chat is with Linda King, a winemaker I met earlier this month at the American Wine Society conference in Buffalo. Linda generously agreed to respond to my emailed questions about her experiences in the United States.
How did you get into the wine business?
I had been a very serious amateur winemaker with numerous awards under my belt, so to speak. A winemaker that I knew well at a winery in Pennsylvania was leaving to take a position elsewhere and they offered me the job. I had a little experience with them beforehand because I was making some experimental sparkling wine for them.
What has been the hardest part of the wine business for you in terms of gender issues, if any?
In truth, I have never experienced any issue with gender as far as interacting with the male winemaking population. I have always felt completely accepted by all I met. I have always thought this was amazing. My biggest personal issue was that I am not as physically strong as a man and never have been.
What trends and changes have you seen since you started for female oenologists in particular? Were you among the first?
In fact I was the first female winemaker in each of the 3 states I have worked. There weren’t very many of us when I got into this business. What I see now is a huge influx of female winemakers. They say women have more sensitive palates and maybe that has a little something to do with it.
What do you see happening in American wine?
There is no question that wine in America just keeps getting better and better. The biggest improvement is in the East Coast wines. They now give California and, in fact, the entire world, a run for their money.
Where have you worked in the US and what grapes do you think do well in those areas?
My first winery was in Pennsylvania at a time when they did not believe that they could grow Vinifera grapes. So we made mostly hybrid and native grape wines. They have now discovered that they can grow most any Vinifera grape and are doing well with many varieties. This winery only grew one variety of grape, Seyval Blanc, from which I made a sparkling wine in the true methode champenoise style. They bought the rest of their grapes from a grower in Northeast PA.
My second winery was in Ohio. We proved that we could make world
class Riesling there and they have the international awards to prove it.
In addition, I made the first ice wine in Ohio and now there are several
wineries making awesome ice wine, mainly from Vidal Blanc and
Riesling grapes. This winery actually won “Best Ice Wine” in something
like 5 wine competitions in one year.
My third winery was in North Carolina, where I live now. though I am
retired from there and consulting. This is a young industry here. When
I came to North Carolina in 2002 to help start up this winery, there
were only 18 wineries in the state. There are now at least 180. Once
again, they did not believe they could grow Vinifera grapes. But
someone here had a vision and became the first to prove everyone
wrong. Now we have Vinifera grapes growing everywhere and all
manner of excellent wine. I think the jury is still out as to what is going
to be the best variety. We thought it might be Viogner for white, but,
while it makes wonderful, aromatic wine here, it is proving difficult to
grow and high maintenance. As far as red is concerned, Merlot is quite
good here and several people are making some great Petit Verdot. I
guess time will tell.
Where are women going to be in the industry in the next 10 years?
I am beginning to think that women may be in the majority in this
industry in 10 years. Every time I pick up the latest industry wine
magazine, I see more and more women being hired as winemakers,
winery managers, and wine sales representatives.
I loved her answers and learning so much about winemaking in other states in the United States that I am not familiar with. I also love her answer to the last question about one day soon women will be the majority in the industry. Thanks Linda!