Maryland’s Mighty Vanguard, Women Winemakers
March is women’s month. Many organizations are hosting events to recognize women in the wine industry. As recently as last week, Women of the Vine & Spirits Symposium Works for Advancement of Women in the Industry was held in Napa, California. Over 700 women and men gather to tell the stories of women in the industry.
Women are making noticeable advances in winemaking although the industry is still predominately led by men. Largely because vineyards are owned and operated by men especially in Old World and traditional wine producing countries, like France and New Zealand. Progressive regions, like California, are reporting an increase of women in winemaking. According to Wine Enthusiast Magazine 2016 article, “The 2015 graduating class from UC Davis’s enology and viticulture program was about half female, up from just one third in 1999.” This is exciting news, but the same article reported the number of top winemaking jobs growth did not ascend as quickly. The Women Winemakers of California Survey indicated “progress appears steady but slow” for ownership and lead winemakers.
Are Maryland women experiencing similar opportunities as the west coast? To help me answer this question, I consulted Catrina North, Winemaker at Crow Farm and Vineyard (Kennedyville, MD). Catrina answered a resounding “YES”. That was not the answer I was expecting. There over 70 wineries and vineyards in Maryland. There are only four women who are lead winemakers in Maryland. Old Westminster Winery, Port of Leonardtown Winery, and Knob Hall are the other vineyards in addition to Crow Farm and Vineyard. Four out of 72 does not appear extremely promising. How is this environment progressive?
Catrina explained Maryland is a new wine region. It is emerging, similar to how the New York’s Finger Lakes region was 10 years ago. Maryland is shaping its own path. The industry is not confined by tradition or does not have regulations limiting what types of grapes can be planted. Because of this, vineyard owners and winemakers are eager to try new and different vinifera to the region. They are also exploring new planting techniques. This brings Catrina back to why Maryland is as progressive as California. With an environment that is welcoming to setting new rules, it also embraces more women in leadership. Maryland has female vineyard owners, and women on winemakers’ staff.
Catrina’s baby face hides the fact she has been making wine for over 12 years. She studied winemaking in Australia in 2006. She was one of four women out of a class of 100. Her path to wine was direct. Unlike her male counterparts, who began careers in other industries and later pivoted to wine. Catrina’s career path began with studying the sciences to wine, similar to other female winemakers. This is notable because women are entering the business very early in their careers. Catrina and other women will have a longer and greater imprint on shaping the wine culture in Maryland.
This imprint is visible already. Lisa Hinton, Old Westminster Winery winemaker, uses pétillant-naturel method for making sparkling wines. Not a frequently used method in Maryland, but she is realizing success with it and trending in other markets. Port of Leonardtown Winery’s winemaker, Lauren Zimmerman talents have been recognized at many national and international wine competitions. Port of Leonardtown Winery as recently as this winter received several awards for its red wines at the East Meets West International Wine Competition.
Catrina enthusiasm for making wine is contagious. It is inspired by Crow Vineyard’s wine club members and the great team she works with. She is trying new techniques with the Vidal Blanc grape and I cannot wait to try it. This spirit shared by others and is spreading across Maryland. Thus, propelling the state to the forefront of the wine industry.