Powerhouse Winemaker, Lauren Zimmerman
Celebrating Women in Maryland’s Wine Industry
Last month I attended a ceremony honoring the 2018 Governor’s Cup Competition winners. The Governor’s Cup Competition is Maryland’s wine competition recognizing the state’s best wines. Port of Leonardtown Winery was among the wineries of distinction honored at this reception. Port of Leonardtown Winery (Leonardtown, MD) won top honors – Best in Show for its Barbera Reserve 2015. Port of Leonardtown Winery didn’t stop there. Their wines took home –not one, not two, not three, but SEVEN gold medals in 2018. A first in Maryland winery history for a winery to win seven gold medals for seven of the eight wines entered in the competition.
Who? Who is the person behind this history making event and leaving lasting impressions on Maryland’s wine industry? It is powerhouse winemaker, Lauren Zimmerman. She is making finely crafted wines. She answered the question asked for centuries: “Is wine making a science or an art?” Her wines clearly demonstrate it is an art. Winemaking starts with the science of fermenting grapes, but Port of Leonardtown wines end with priceless art. In every glass is complexity, dimension, and passion that tells a story which only an artist could convey. Please do not mis-interrupt my statement to imply technical skill is missing, which is frequently hinted when people describe female winemakers. It is a given these wines are technically solid.
Lauren has been mastering her craft for 14 years. Her youthful appearance makes it hard to believe she has been in the industry for a stretch of time. She literally started as a child and developed a love for all aspects of wine.
Our chat with Lauren took place at the newly renovated Port of Leonardtown Winery tasting room. It is a great place to visit. Bring your friends, family, even your pet with you when you go wine tasting. There is a park directly across from the tasting room. The Winery is opened daily. We recorded the video in barrel room. Hence, why we are wearing the coats in the video. It was a special treat to be in the barrel room. Visitors do not often have a chance to enter the processing area.
Our chat with Lauren was a perfect way to begin the weekend. Please enjoy my chat with Lauren.
Stay tuned for more videos in March. We love to hear from you about who you think should be celebrated this month.
Enjoyed this blog? Great, receive more Vino 301 blogs twice a month. Subscribe to Vino 301’s email list and receive your very own copy of our blog. Subscribe here
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.