If you aren’t familiar, now you know. There are two months in 2021 where wine enthusiasts can celebrate their love of Washington State Wine—March and August. So, in preparation to celebrate the upcoming wine month in 2021, it’s prime time to celebrate the strides that the Washington State Wine scene has made over the year—in uplifting lesser-known voices and building the community.
The Washington State Wine Commission has statistics that state that of Washington’s over 1,050 wineries, only 11 percent are female-owned while 18 percent have women in ownership or winemaking roles. Yet women make up over half of Washington wine consumers, so why the discrepancy and what to do about it? In March 2021, and after 18 months of preparation, the Alliance of Women in Washington Wine (AWWA) was launched as a non-profit, and their Board of Directors announced. Helmed by President Tiffany Britton of Brainstorm Cellars and Vice-President Casey Cobble of Goose Ridge Winery, AWWA has an all-female board of women across all areas of the wine industry. They have grown to over 300 community members who provide: volunteering in their local communities, education and seminar training, scholarships, mentorship programs for new winemakers, and job opportunities. Their goal is to build up their community and foster a safe space to bring more women into the industry fold.
For those looking to support both BIPOC- and women-owned wineries, Frichette Winery is located in the Red Mountain AVA. Owner Shae Frichette, a South Carolina native and former actress, met her husband, Greg, and they moved to Washington State ready to take on a new project—and wine seemed just right. So, they tag-teamed the project and released their first vintage in 2013. They are now a 2,000-case winery and produce seven different varieties of wine. Shae is also winemaker of her own brand, Sashay Wines under the Frichette portfolio. While you’re visiting the Red Mountain area, other women-owned wineries to visit are Hamilton Cellars, owned by Stacie Hamilton, and her husband, Russ, Hedges Cellar by Ann-Marie Hedges, and her husband, Tom, Terra Blanca run by ReNae and Keith Pilgrim.
In Walla Walla, DAMA Wines was founded by Mary Derby, and she partnered with Judith Shulman in 2012. Women run the show at DAMA and are represented everywhere from the vineyards to the tasting room. They also make their single-varietal wines and blends with the empowerment of female consumers in mind. SMAK Wines is also exclusively women-owned by Fiona Mak and focuses on Provencal-style rosés. Ashley Trout is the winemaker at Vital Wines in Walla Walla and was also featured as a Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40. Not only is she paving the way for women in her profession, but Vital itself is sustained through donations of services or materials so that 100 percent of the proceeds can go to SOS clinic, a non-profit healthcare clinic in Walla Walla. She is also owner and winemaker at sister winery Brook & Bull.
Near Woodinville, WA, Mari Womack is the owner and winemaker at Damsel Cellars. Mari has been working in Washington State in the wine industry since 2010 in restaurants, at tasting rooms, and as an assistant winemaker for Darby Winery. She launched Damsel in 2014, focusing on Rhône-varietal blends and wines and her website clearly states her approach that “not all damsels are distress.” So, it seems she was on to something all along. Other women-owned wineries in Columbia Valley include Adrice, owned by Julie Bulrice, and winemaker Pamela Adkins. Lisa Warr-King Packer is also owner and winemaker of Warr-King Winery, making low-intervention wines of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec. In nearby Snohomish, WA, Kasia Winery is where Kasia Kim, a Polish native, came to the area to create her artisan-style wines, including Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and rosé.
And women are running the show in all areas of the state. From Bainbridge Cellars in Puget Sound to Chinook in Yakima Valley, to Karma Vineyards in Lake Chelan AVA, the list doesn’t stop there. There are certainly no damsels in distress in the Washington State wine world, and we can only hope that with support and work, the 8 percent number of women wine professionals has nowhere else to go but up. To learn more about the Alliance of Women in Washington, visit their website at awwawine.org. To visit or learn more about these wineries, head to washingtonstatewine.org.