Recognized every year on March 8, International Women’s Day honors the contributions and achievements of women in our world. The 2021 theme #ChooseToChallenge, highlights the importance of challenging biases and misconceptions in the interest of creating a more inclusive and gender-equal world. A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change…
All March long, through Q&A spotlights, weekly Instagram Live tastings, and donating 10% of our online sales to Women of the Vine, join us in celebrating and acknowledging some of the incredible female winemakers, winery owners, and professionals working in the industry today.
Meet Anne-Marie, Owner, Hedges Family Estate
From an early age, Anne-Marie had a sense for adventure. Growing up with stories about the second world war, tales of the French resistance, and visits from a British soldier saved by her grandfather from being captured by the enemy, it is no wonder that she wanted to see the world.
After high school, she attended college in England, Germany, and Mexico. It was in Mexico that she met her future husband—Tom Hedges. They were married in 1976 in Champagne, France in a 12th-century church. The international challenge had begun…
Accent in hand, she adapted to new food but still loved a good coq-au-vin. She tried her beer but her taste for good wine was too strong. Her grandfather, Marcel Dupont, Chevalier du Tastevin, had made sure of that.
Tom’s work in international trade resulted in 11 moves for the family in 10 years—from the west coast of the United States to the east. From the west coast of Canada to the east, from warm Arizona where son Christophe was born to exotic Buenos Aires where daughter Sarah was born. Finally, in 1986 Anne-Marie and Tom settled in Washington state to start Hedges Cellars.
Anne-Marie stayed behind closed doors doing bookkeeping and sales support while Tom looked for banks and customers. The transition from Finishing School in Paris in 1976 to performing an accounting role in the States was a bit of a stretch. Anne-Marie decided to go back to school and graduated with an AA degree in accounting.
Anne-Marie still handles some of the vineyard accounting and numerous other administrative tasks necessary for a small business owner. She is active in various non-profit organizations in the state of Washington. Anne-Marie is also a willing ambassador for Hedges Family Estate, the Red Mountain AVA, and the Washington state wine industry. Her accent is still there, her french sense of style never left, her food preference is still old world but her taste for wine is distinctly American—Hedges Red Mountain. Naturellement!
What is one piece of advice you give to women looking to make a career in Wine?
Anne-Marie: “Be passionate about the product and don’t get discouraged as you start to learn about wine. The more you learn, the more there is to learn. Complex grape varietals, numerous clones per varietals, complex growing conditions, intricate regions and sub-regions, wine-growing style, winemaking know-how, old world, new world, organic, biodynamic, wine critics, wine journalists, wine reviews, wholesale, retail sales, winery management and tastings and more tastings…etc, etc, etc,… Only by writing this last sentence, I feel overwhelmed. Wine is a very complex beverage that on the surface might appear simple, after all, it is but fermented grape juice, but deep down is really very complicated to understand and your success will depend on your own dedication to learning what an amazing beverage it is.
Don’t think about the romance of wine until after the work is done. Unfortunately, the wine business, behind the scenes, is like any other business and success will only come with hard work and dedication to the product and the people who help make and sell this product.”
What would you like to see happen to help get more women involved in the industry?
Anne-Marie: “The 21st century is a perfect time for ladies to get in the wine industry. More wine programs are available to all wishing to learn, and many vineyards and wineries are willing to take students part-time either, in the winemaking part of the business or the retail/sales/accounting side of the business. The only requisite might be the willingness to accept to start from the ground up. Winegrowing, winemaking, wine selling, wine marketing, wine accounting are all great positions for ladies who are willing to get the education and are not afraid of physical work, especially if one is hired by a small business.”
As a female in the wine industry, have you dealt with gender-related challenges?
Anne-Marie: “My husband and I started our wine business thirty-five years ago and I must be honest in saying that yes, it took a while for people in the industry to acknowledge that it was not a one-man show. However, those were the times, and I don’t think people really meant to hurt me. After all, he was the face of the winery while I was buried in my office juggling the money…Ha, the good old days! Had I been a winemaker, I believe it would have been easier to “fit in”.”
Is there one woman, in the industry or outside of it, who has inspired you throughout your career:
Anne-Marie: “There are actually two women. The first being my mother, who had her own clothing manufacturing business in France. She showed me that hard work is not something to be afraid of because the rewards are amazing. I even enjoyed spending time at the factory and if I were not busy with schoolwork my favorite time was to help with payroll. In those days it was cash in an envelope and I loved counting the money to put in each envelope; strange kid I suppose!
The other lady is Madame Clicquot who after her husband’s death convinced her father-in-law to give her a chance in running the business. Not a small task for a young lady of 27 years. She started at the very bottom as an apprentice and later launched her own wine company: Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin. What an inspiration to any young lady worried about roadblocks to success. If you want it, believe in yourself, work hard and follow your passion in whatever industry your heart desires, you are in charge of your own destiny. Nobody else can do it for you!”
We are excited to put the much-deserved spotlight on these incredible female winemakers, winery owners, and professionals working in the industry today. Click here to meet them and learn more about their craft and the wines they produce.