California North Coast winemakers pass the baton to their daughters
There was a time when the notion of young women running wine companies was the kind of cockamamie thinking that would be the punchline at a local dive bar. It would be more of a nightmare for the old-timers than a vision for the future.
Mercifully that time is long gone.
Instead in 2019 we live in an era when women hold jobs at every level of the wine business - especially those wine labels that are still family owned. In some of these cases, women work right alongside their fathers - the men who, in one way or another, taught them the craft and inspired them to get involved. In honor of Father's Day, we celebrate five of these father/daughter duos and offer a close look at how these pairs manage to make family work at work.
Fathers & Daughters Cellars, Boonville
Technically speaking, there are two fathers and three daughters involved in the winemaking at this relatively nascent label in Anderson Valley. The fathers are 79-year-old Kurt Schoeneman and 60-year-old Guy Pacurar, while the daughters are Sarah Schoeneman, Taylor Pacurar, and Ella Pacurar.
The family tree is bit complicated with Sarah, 49, playing three roles: the daughter of Kurt, the wife of Guy and the mother of Ella.
Back in 2012, when Sarah was pregnant with Ella, she and Guy decided they wanted to make wine from her family's land - the venerated Ferrington Vineyard in Boonville. Traditionally the family had sold all its fruit, but the lovebirds asked Kurt for some pinot noir grapes to seed their venture. They harvested the fruit with newborn Ella in a baby backpack and crushed it themselves. Later, they hired local winemaker Phil Baxter to work his magic. The result? A pinot that told their story, bottled with a label of a father and a young girl in silhouette.
Since then, F&D has added other varieties to the lineup, including a rosé, a sauvignon blanc, a gewürztraminer, a cider, and a petillant-naturel (because Sarah is obsessed with bubbles). Today the winery makes about 500 cases a year and hosts tastings by appointment.
Guy, who also owns the Brewery Gulch Inn in Mendocino, sees the wine as a passion play that pays homage to the “special bond between fathers and their daughters.”
“I still look to my dad for approval but now I also have his respect,” she says. “It's nice to acknowledge we've grown to be equals.” fanddcellars.com
Dry Creek Vineyard, Healdsburg
Dave Stare is quite literally the grandfather of modern Dry Creek Valley. Stare was the first to open a new winery in the valley after Prohibition, and one of the first to plant sauvignon blanc in the region. He also was one of the first male winery owners in Northern California to invite his daughter to help run the family business, and Kim Stare Wallace is now the current president.
Stare Wallace, 56, never thought she'd play a role at the winery. Sure, she remembers playing Barbies in the cellar as a girl and working the bottling line as a teenager, but she studied design and merchandising and dreamed of being in the fashion industry. Then, in the early 1990s, everything changed. Stare Wallace was living in San Francisco at the time and her dad needed help selling wine to accounts there. She took the gig -reluctantly at first - and grew to love it, eventually catapulting herself into a position where she has become the face of the brand.
“As the winery grew and expanded, so did my roles,” she says. “My dad always encouraged me and never stood in the way.”
Stare, 79, retired in 2006 but still lives on the property and can be spotted at the winery in between banjo practice (seriously, he plays in a band) and his various travels around the world. He also still serves as chairman of the board. At a recent board meeting, he kept his chairman's report short and sweet.
“My report is that I'm proud of Kim,” he reportedly said. “She's doing a great job.” drycreekvineyard.com
Emeritus Vineyards, Sebastopol
Growing up in the shadow of a Wine Country legend, Mari Jones figured she'd end up in the family wine business, but never thought she'd end up running it. Yet here she is, chief operating officer of Emeritus Vineyards at age 31.
“When I started in 2012, I just did things without telling him,” Mari says of her dad, vintner Brice Jones. “One of the biggest lessons I'd say I've learned is that it's easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission.”
For her father, the decision to promote Mari was one he didn't have to make.
“I'd give her a job and people would keep telling me, ‘Move her up, move her up,'” he says. “It got to a point where I didn't even really have a choice.”