Though March is recognized as International Women’s Month, we look forward to celebrating women in the wine industry that deserve the spotlight all year round. This group has a wide range of experiences working in the traditionally male-dominated field, but all have seen the industry become more inclusive as years pass. They have paved their own paths and persevered, opening the door for other women. Meet six inspiring women from Benson’s portfolio of clients that have made their mark on the industry.
Should you be interested in interviewing any of these women, contact email@example.com to schedule a conversation with one of them.
Sharon Fenchak, VP Winemaker – Biltmore Winery
The face of Biltmore Winery in Asheville, NC, Sharon Fenchak joined the Biltmore team more than 20 years ago working her way to becoming head winemaker. While Asheville is the same latitude as Gibraltar in the Mediterranean, the climate of North Carolina is not as predictable, making it better growing conditions for grapes like Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. Since hundreds of thousands of visitors enjoy visiting the estate, Sharon works with more than 50 wine SKUs and sources the fruit for those products. With a big task at hand and hundreds of thousands of visitors to satisfy, the team has grown with the addition of two teammates: Shruthi Dhoopati, Assistant Winemaker, and Ginolly Rodriguez-Brunkhorst, Laboratory Technician. Sharon recalled interviewing dozens of applicants for the positions and chose based on merit – they just happen to be women! Sharon is happy to be a mentor to them, providing an opportunity for them to grow. Get to know Sharon Fenchak and Biltmore Winery by watching this video.
Linda Trotta, Director of North Coast Winemaking – WX Brands
With a career spanning three decades and four continents, Linda Trotta joined WX Brands as winemaker for Reata, Silver Spur, Double Lariat and Whiplash in 2017. Today, she makes a number of wines within the WX Brands national brand portfolio including Bread & Butter Wines. When starting her career more than 30 years ago, she initially wanted to go into viticulture. However, there were no women role models for her at the time, so she chose winemaking where mentors like Zelma Long were blazing trails for other women to come up the ranks. She has held leadership roles with Women for Winesense, the Washington Wine Technical Group and with Wine Women, an organization that champions the advancement of women’s careers in wine.
Megan McCollough, Winemaker – Smith & Hook
Megan McCollough joined Hahn Family Wines in 2011 as an enologist and worked her way up to Winemaker in 2017 focusing on the Smith & Hook label’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Blend. She has grown with the family-owned winery by working on the winery’s different brands and winemaking teams. Although most of her colleagues are males, she recalled seeing a strong female presence while at Cal Poly SLO and thinks the industry is working to becoming more inclusive. As winemaker for Smith & Hook, she has quickly become a true expert of California’s Central Coast and continues to set an example for other young winemakers in California. To hear more from Megan, by watching this webinar on Paso Robles.
Maddalena Riboli and Susan Doyle, VP Vineyards & Winemaking – Riboli Family Wines
A history of women at the helm starts with Maddalena Riboli, who started working with her family’s winery in 1946. She is credited with opening one of the first tasting rooms in Los Angeles in 1947 and using her instincts to attract customers through various company-owned tasting rooms and her own restaurant, Maddalena Restaurant. She also pushed for investing in land in Rutherford and Monterey County since she understood that quality wine must be made from quality vines. At that time, a label named after her was created and since then has evolved into a multi-product brand with grapes grown in Paso Robles. Today, leadership at Riboli Family Wines still includes Maddalena with the help of Susan Doyle who was recently appointed as VP of Vineyards & Winemaking. Her role is a critical asset to the company’s future growth as she oversees the group’s overall performance and logistics across the board.
Terri Balletto, Owner, Vice President – Balletto Vineyards
From the start, Terri Balletto has helped John Balletto grow both the vegetable business and the Balletto Vineyards wine brand. While John applies his farming skills to the vineyards, Terri oversees many of the winery’s back-office operations. All the jobs behind the scenes that make the winery run efficiently fall under her purview. Terri’s involvement doesn’t stop with the administrative duties, however. For the 2005 vintage, Terri suggested creating a Chardonnay that was fermented in stainless steel and not aged in oak barrels. The inspiration led to the “Teresa’s Unoaked” Chardonnay, a wine that is pure and expressive of Russian River Valley Chardonnay that is still a signature of the Balletto Vineyards portfolio of wines today.