Events + News: Articles
February 14, 2001
A womanís place is in the wine-making business
By June Smith, Roudon-Smith Winery
Special to the Sentinel
There are more than 40 wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and Iím willing to bet in about every one of them, there is at least one talented, dedicated woman involved in its success.I call them WOW.The Women of Wine.Here are their stories:
Beth Ahlgren, Ahlgren Vineyard
In April of this year, Beth became chief executive officer and winemaker for her parentsí winery.What that really means is on any given day she could be driving a truck, hauling fruit, rolling and stacking barrels, negotiating contracts, marketing or dealing with brokers and sales people.Mom and Dad, Val and Dexter, are there for her in a supportive and teaching role.Her parents were home winemakers whose hobby grew so large they made it official in 1976 when they bonded their home winery in Boulder Creek. Through adolescence and adult life, Beth helped with all aspects, including the books.Prior to taking over his role in the winery, Beth had lived in Maine for 10 years, where she managed the East Coast marketing, raised two children and attended the University of Southern Maine. Out in the business world she worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield.Beth says the wine business relies on good relationships. It is one of the few businesses in which owners share information freely. Because it is traditionally a male-dominated field, it is different for women. She would love to have the camaraderie of other women winemakers, but almost all of the women are involved in sales, public relations or tasting rooms. However, she adds, "I have never felt the least bit slighted by any of the winemakers. They see that I am not a figurehead ... and they are happy to see that the Ahlgren tradition will carry on."
Beverly Bargetto, Bargetto Winery
Beverly Bargettoís family business has a built-in support system, including her two sons, Martin and John, daughter, Loretta, and nephew Tom. Beverly has a great sense of joy and pride watching each of these family members grow professionally and personally, and she compares this with the pride she experiences each day participating in an energizing and challenging business.The nurturing instinct of women brings a new perspective and quality to the industry, she says."Our attention to detail, patience and emotional stamina coincide well with the painstaking wine-making process and the many challenges each day brings," Beverly says. "Women are creators and their skills can bear rich fruit in an industry with solid roots. "The wine business mirrors family life. It is a satisfying lifestyle from vintage to vintage. It can bring joy and contentment as it embraces the facets of life."
Deborah Elissagaray, Bargetto Winery
Deborah says while it is a challenge to work in a male-dominated field, (equipment is designed for a manís size and strength) things have been changing during the past 10-15 years. Doors are opening, and more women are graduating with oenology degrees and being placed in upper production positions.The assistant winemaker has found Santa Cruz, the town and the appellation, to be open-minded and supportive. She says she is fortunate to begin her wine-making career here, under the tutelage of a few of the finest winemakers in the business. "I believe women have a lot to offer to all facets of the wine industry, any team that is balanced between the feminine and the masculine is an asset to the collective."Reliable sources tell us Deborah also is producing wine under her own label.
Sheryl Byington, Byington Winery
When the Byington family started its winery, special events was not part of the plan. Midway through construction, Sheryl approached her dad with the idea of maximizing the use of their beautiful property, especially the upper floor of the chateau, originally designed to be a getaway apartment for the family. Sheryl suggested they host private corporate dinners and weddings to provide another avenue to showcase the wines. "To be completely honest, I think I just wanted to become a part of this winery project," Sheryl says.Sherylís training had been in the medical field, and although she did not have a degree in hospitality, she had done a lot of entertaining in her home. She decided to entertain at the winery as she does in her home. The feeling of comfort her guests receive from this home environment sets Byington Winery apart from the typical banquet setting.The event side of the business has provided the cash flow needed to start and maintain the wine-making department. Because hosting these events is such a major part of the business, the aesthetic appeal of the facility is crucial, and Sheryl believes this talent is unique to a woman.Sheryl said they have never lost sight of the fact they are dedicated to making world-class wines. The events are a tool to help achieve that goal.
Cheryl Devlin, Devlin Wine Cellars
Cheryl Devlin is a perfect example of perpetual motion with the emphasis on marketing and sales. When son, Thomas, became a teen-ager, Cheryl saw she had time on her hands. Selling Devlin wine, lecturing at Cabrillo College and for UC Santa Cruz Extension, and doing research for the California Department of Agriculture apparently was not enough of a challenge.C. Devlin Premium Wine Marketing was born, creating a portfolio of international and local premium wines. "I really enjoy making the match between the right wine and the right client," says Cheryl.Husband, Chuck, who had been consulting for other wineries while making his wine, got an offer he couldnít refuse. He is making wine at Ste. Chapelle Winery in Idaho. The two do spend time together, since Cheryl travels a lot working with out-of-state distributors. She plans to start making Devlin wines again, with Chuck as her consultant.
Paule Crescini, Crescini Wines
After almost 20 years in the business, Crescini wines ceased operations at the end of 2000.Paule Crescini remembers the wonderful people who were loyal customers, especially the real estate group who put on a bocci ball tournament on their grounds every year.Oh yes, she also remembers what hard work it was. While her husband, Richard, tended to the wine-making chores, Paule kept the books, filed the federal and state forms and was involved in the bottling operation. She was on hand for wine-tasting events, and even though she was working part-time, managed to service 80 wholesale accounts.Crescini lost 40 percent of its wine in the 1989 earthquake. Shortly after Paule went to work full time as director of radiology at the Santa Cruz Medical Clinic. When it became apparent there would be no one to carry on the winery operation, Paule and Richard decided not to continue.Paule says she will continue to offer assistance to any Santa Cruz winery friends, because she enjoys the camaraderie.
Kathleen ĎKití Rebhahn, Glenwood Oaks Wines, Vinh-Rebhahn Vineyard
Kit Rebhahn is a fifth-generation family member living on land in the historic area of Glenwood in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In the 1840s, her motherís (writer Margaret Koch) family, the Martins, settled in this area and planted wine grapes. They owned a winery, which processed grapes into wine shipped by steam train to the San Francisco area. The train stopped at the Glenwood Depot and at the footbridge over Bean Creek to the winery. In the late 1800s, Pierceís disease destroyed the grapes in the region, and the land went fallow. Cattle and angora goats were raised later, and a few apple orchards planted.Today, the land has come full circle. Kit and husband, Val, have replanted four acres of chardonnay and pinot noir grapes and plan to add syrah in the future. Kit is the vineyard manager and teaches at Holy Cross School. "I inherited a love of the land from my dad, who was a Santa Cruz County farm advisor. The Glenwood Oaks label reflects our past history and our future hopes," she says. only; facilities are available for private evening functions. Handicapped accessible.