March 3rd, 2020

Tiny Travels: What women in wine are bringing to the table in McMinnville

It’s safe to say women are crushing it in Oregon wine. Where once it was a diverse workplace if a winery had one woman on staff, these days, roughly 30% of Oregon winemakers are women, and women work in every part of the once male-dominated wine industry.

Nasty Woman Wines Pantsuit Pinot noir paving the way through that glass ceiling.

What do women in Oregon bring to the table? It turns out, everything. In the past, it might have made sense to celebrate Women’s History Month in March by slapping together a list of women winemakers and calling it a day.  Right now, there can be no doubt that the influence of women in Oregon’s wine industry is something to be reckoned with a bit more seriously. So let’s look at a few standouts.

WINEMAKING:

Women might be olfactorially superior. 

Some studies note that women might have more olfactory cells, and may be better able to differentiate between types of wines, and that women’s enhanced olfactory talent might make them better tasters — and sniffers —  of wine. We can argue until the end times about that, but no one argues about the brilliance and sensitivity of winemaker Anna Matzinger, who has been building a brand under her family’s label Matzinger-Davies and whose extensive sensory training translates to wines with a poetic expression of place. Matzinger says she experienced an acute heightening of her olfactory sense around the births of her children. “I do think that women have a biological predisposition to smelling if they pay attention,” Matzinger says. “It’s a muscle you have to work.”  

Try it: Tastings available by appointment, and available at restaurants in McMinnville including Nick’s Italian Cafe

BRANDING:

Women understand what women want. 

When McMinnville winery owner Meg Murray launched Nasty Woman Wines in 2016, she knew she wanted to create a wine with impact — one that combined the talents of women entrepreneurs and voices along every moment of the supply chain. “I want my wine at the table where conversations about gender parity are going on,” Murray said. To stand out on crowded shelves, she sourced pink wine caps only available in Europe. She featured women on the label, charming brands like Pantsuit Pinot noir and Lady Bubbles brand, now favorites for women in leadership. The label creator? A local woman-owned graphic designer Nectar Graphics. The model on the label? The owner of a woman-owned McMinnville salon St. Rue. “Nasty Woman is greater than what’s in the bottle,” Murray says. “It’s about building something that goes beyond this one glass.” 

Try it: At Crescent Cafe, or pick up a bottle at Harvest Fresh, a women-owned grocery in downtown McMinnville.

SETTING:

Women give you the panoptic experience you didn’t know you wanted.

It’s a fact that women tend to have better peripheral vision than men, who are known to have better focused vision. How might this translate in wine? Well, perhaps being able to see the full picture might give them advantages in hosting. Remy Drabkin, longtime winemaker at Remy Wines, worked out of an industrial tasting room in McMinnville for years before moving her tasting operation to a 1900s farmhouse in the Red Hills. “In both places, I responded to the environment to create something true to me but unique to the place,” Drabkin said. Whereas her old tasting room and it’s R Bar played up the aesthetic of its location — close to a railroad — the new facility is set up to be homey: small spaces, blankets for getting cozy. There, Drabkin hosts regular small receptions and events shaped around her Italian varietal wines, including a dinner series where she designs and cooks the menu.  “We really want people to feel at home here,” Drabkin said.

Try it: Remy Wines, Dayton, or pick up a bottle at Harvest Fresh

TASTING IS BELIEVING:

If you want to pull together a Women in Winemaking itinerary, put these stops on your next visit to McMinnville:

Coleman Vineyards, McMinnville
Winemaker: Kim Coleman 

Day Wines, Dundee
Winemaker: Brianne Day

De Ponte Cellars, Dayton
Winemaker: Isabelle Dutartre 

Maysara Winery, McMinnville
Winemaker: Tahmena Momtazi

Stoller Family Estate, Dayton
Winemaker: Melissa Burr 

 Westrey Wine Company, McMinnville
Winemaker: Amy Wesselman 

Emily Grosvenor is the Editor of Oregon Home magazine. Follow her on Instagram @emilygrosvenor