Solano County’s Tolenas Winery co-owner wins North Bay Forty Under 40 award
Responsibilities with your company: As co-owner and head of winemaking I have the opportunity to make an impact from the start to the finish of our Tolenas experience.
I oversee the entire production process of creating wine, including grape harvesting, crushing, fermentation, aging, blending and bottling.
In a small family owned business like ours, owners wear many hats! In addition to wine making I am also in charge of all the marketing, packaging, product development, branding, sales, and wine club membership management.
On the weekends I get to enjoy pouring wines and sharing our Tolenas journey with our customers and wine club members. Every day is different and challenging, but compared to all my previous jobs, this one has become a lifestyle, not just a job.
How do you exemplify the spirit of being a top Forty Under 40 professional?
As the co-owner and award-winning winemaker of Tolenas Winery, I'm committed to capturing the spirit of Suisun's community and inspiring the next generation of winemakers.
Years with company: 5
Length of time in current position: 5
Number of companywide employees: 0
Number who report to you: 0
Greatest professional accomplishment: Scoring a Gold Medal in the International Women's Wine Competition for our wine, the Eclipse – White pinot noir.
Greatest professional challenge: Trusting my gut instinct--there have been so many times where others have influenced my decisions, despite my gut telling me otherwise.
As a professional in the industry, I have had to learn to trust that intuition. Some of the greatest wines, our Eclipse – a white pinot noir -- and our Lot 38 Dessert Wine were made out of a “crazy gut feeling.”
As a woman in the industry, it is intimidating to bring that female emotion and passion to the table. We (women) can sometimes feel the need to stifle that innovative and risk-taking part of our personality, and it has been the greatest challenge to show that, especially when it is not fully appreciated.
Best advice received: Happiness is a byproduct of accomplishing your goals and be yourself, there is no one else you can be!
Single most important event in your professional life in the last 12 months: In the last 12 months so many things have changed in our daily lives. My quick answer is surviving distance learning with our three young kids while at the same time having the best sales year so far in our business and launching a new wine that was featured in FORTUNE Magazine.
However, with all of that said, there is a story that keeps coming to my mind that really touched me personally. After a day of hosting guests at an outdoor wine tasting, one of the guests returned late in the afternoon. She asked to speak with me.
At first I was concerned she had a complaint, or something was not right with the wine she had purchased. Instead to my surprise, she shared with me that during her visit she had a true “ah-ha moment.”
She went on to say that as Cliff (my husband) and I shared our story of leaving our safe jobs as an engineer and a police officer to chase our dreams of farmers and winemakers she felt a huge weight being taken off her shoulders.
Our story inspired her to go after her dreams, something she had been putting on the back burner and something that had been nagging her during these crazy “COVID times.”
Sharing our story touched this guest in a way that allowed her the freedom to give herself permission to take the “different path,” to dare to dream and go after those opportunities we sometimes bury in our hearts.
If all I do day in and day out is inspire people to find happiness in life and the vehicle is TOLENAS wine, then I feel complete!
What’s the biggest change COVID-19, the restrictions and the economic impact has had on your work and personal life?
The biggest change COVID-19 has had on our business and my work as a wine maker and winery owner is the ability to have large events.
Wineries in our area have built up a following of wine club members that like to have wine club events and other regional events.
Without the ability to gather in these large formats we had to reinvent how we were going to get our members their wine as well as expose our wines to new customers.
We had to go to private seated tastings outside, with touchless payment methods, special one use wine glasses, and of course all of us and our staff taking extra precautions to remain socially distant and safe.
The changes were hard for us in the beginning, as we had not been open for tastings in the past and only really hosted large quarterly events.
As soon as we realized these events had to stop, we got busy brainstorming. We designed a “wine thru” curbside pickup system, we rebuilt our website to be able to book private reservations, and we even released a new wine club system called “Tolenas to You” where you get wine delivered to your door around the U.S. and it includes fun virtual events creating that feeling of community we all crave during this time.