March 1st, 2024

The New Generation of Women in Wine

A rainbow frames the grape vines at Yamhill Valley Vineyards in the spring.
Photo courtesy of Yamhill Valley Vineyards.

The Oregon wine industry called my name in 2005. At the time, very few women served in positions of leadership, and those (now iconic!) names were often founders: Pat Dudley, Susan Sokol Blosser, Ginny Adelsheim, Diana Lett, and others. During my tenure in the Oregon wine industry, a younger generation began to add their outstanding contributions – Leigh Bartholomew and Anna Matzinger, to name a few.

Fast forward to 2023. Thanks to female industry leaders who stepped up as mentors and supporting organizations like Our Legacy Harvested, Women in Wine, Assemblage, and others who work tirelessly to support women and diverse communities in the wine industry, women make up a much larger percentage of the Oregon wine industry workforce than 20 years ago. 

Mentorship of all kinds has a profound effect on whether women join – and stay – in wine. 

Yamhill Valley Vineyards is my family’s business… needless to say I was introduced to the industry at a very early age,” says Jenny Burger, General Manager. “When I began working at the winery full time we had an incredible CPA, Marian Gormley-Pekkola, who wound up being so much more than solely an accountant for me. Marian became my go-to person… She was patient, thoughtful, honest, and so very encouraging. I think about her guidance and advice often.”

And it works. Casee Clark, Director of Consumer Sales at R. Stuart & Co. Winery, has this advice: “Never be afraid to network because our industry is built on collaboration. It’s beneficial to seek out a mentorship opportunity away from your company of someone you respect. Absorb information and try everything!”

The path to and within the wine industry isn’t always direct. “There are so many careers that are wine and food adjacent,” says Julia Bandy, Director of Consumer Sales at Soter Vineyards, who also staffs an elite culinary team. “I jumped into restaurants but quickly realized that was just a starting point to this incredible industry. Event planning, writing, production, farming… food and wine touch everything from science and chemistry, to history, sales, and marketing.”

Although the percentage of women who work in the Oregon wine industry is growing, gender pay disparity still exists. According to the 2022 Oregon Wine Labor Survey conducted by Dr. Jeff Peterson, a female executive winemaker can expect to only make $0.87 of what her male counterpart makes. And this gap widens when other factors such as race are also accounted for.

The Oregon wine industry still has work to do. And with the amazing young leaders currently at the helm encouraging all kinds of newcomers, we have a lot of new ideas to look forward to.

“Women are leading in the workforce in all aspects of wine, from the cellar to sales and there’s so many networking opportunities if you’re looking for them,” says Julia. “I think there’s never been a better time for women to step into the wine industry.”


For more information on local organizations supporting young leaders and diverse communities in the Oregon wine industry, check out:

Our Legacy Harvested: @ourlegacyharvested
Women in Wine: @womeninwineoregon
Acorn to Oak: @atoowine
Ahivoy: @ahivoyoregon
Assemblage Symposium: @assemblagesymposium
The Roots Fund: @rootsfund 

Kitri McGuire is a local writer, the founder of Scarlet Communications, and a former wine industry marketing director. In her free time, Kitri serves as President of the McMinnville Library Foundation and as Board Secretary of the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC).