FARGO - The impression of the wine grape growing and winemaking industry as being a fun-loving and romantic, lifelong experience is an illusion. It takes planning, smart capital investment and backing, willingness to work hard, trying to outguess nature's eccentricities, while recognizing and overcoming your own foibles.
A glimpse at the wine industry today reveals there are high numbers of competent women meeting the demands and exceeding the expectations of their male compatriots in the business.
For the limited space allowed, I will hit the tip of this cadre, relating what I know about particular women via communication and dealing with them in and about the wine-making business.
My first impressions of feminine competency came with my introduction to Tami Bredeson, president of the dynamic Carlos Creek Winery in Alexandria, Minn. I've had the advantage of taking my class to visit her winery for 10 years; I have been witness to the progress they have made as business operators, as well as how to make and market wines.
Andrea Immer-Robinson caught my attention with her publication "Great Wine Made Simple." The book is an easy read, and it's nicely instructional without being too pedantic, making it a great selection to give to someone who shows an interest in wine. She is also a master sommelier, which puts her in very rare company in the wine world. Another nicety: she shows no signs of snobbery in her videos or writing.
Karen MacNeil must have begun learning about wine as her first language. From my viewpoint, she is one of the best and most versatile wine communicators on this planet. Her updated book, the "Wine Bible" says it all. She has a weekly Wine Blog Intel that is loaded with easily digestible wine info, and she even answers questions from readers in North Dakota. Karen is a wine research scientist with both feet solidly on the ground, as she researched her book directly, not lifting information from available literature. She has mastered the English language like no one else I've ever read, coming up with her own unique descriptors of wine evaluation.
Then there is Barbara Banke, chairman and proprietor of Jackson Family Wines, who took the reins after her husband, Jess Jackson, passed. She has proven to the world at large that she is very capable of heading up a dynamic winery, known for their premium chardonnay. JFW is now the nation's largest seller of "premium" wines, defined as $15 a bottle and up, with $604 million in 2013 revenues. Its brands include La Crema, Cambria and several other labels, in addition to the Kendall-Jackson flagship. Need I say more?
I have to commend a local influence on wine enjoyment in our area; certified sommelier Jean Taylor offers spritely, educational and totally interesting presentations that have captivated hundreds with her obvious love of wine.