Women in Wine Spotlight: Remi Cohen

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 Remi, CEO, Domaine Carneros

Remi Cohen - Domaine Carneros and Gabriel-Glas

In 2020, Remi Cohen joined the Domaine Carneros family as CEO, taking over from illustrious founding winemaker and former CEO Eileen Crane and continuing the winery’s tradition of visionary female leadership. Remi has 20 years of wine industry experience and began her career on the winemaking and viticulture side before pursuing her MBA in finance to complement her master’s in viticulture from UC Davis. Remi spent the first 10 years of her career working in the Carneros AVA, with stints at Saintsbury, Bouchaine, and Merryvale and Starmont, culminating with her role as Vice President of Merryvale. Remi was most recently at Cliff Lede Vineyards, where she was promoted from Director of Winemaking and Vineyards to VP of Operations to COO. After ten years with Cliff Lede, Remi’s passion for Carneros has brought her full circle to Domaine Carneros, where she is especially focused on furthering the winery’s fastidious commitment to sustainability.

“When I met with Eileen Crane to learn more about her retirement and the search for her successor as CEO, I knew the position was the perfect fit for me. My career began in Carneros and I have always loved the people, the wines, and the beauty of the region.”


What is one piece of advice you give to women looking to make a career in wine?

Remi: “It is important for women to advocate for themselves in an industry that has been traditionally male-dominated. To that end, start by understanding where you add value, fulfill your responsibilities with excellence, and offer to help outside of the scope of your role so you can grow and be challenged. When you have accomplished all of those things, then it is appropriate to make sure your position and compensation are in line with your contributions and industry standards. Ideally, surround yourselves with mentors and supporters, but be confident in your skills so that you are your own best advocate.”


What would you like to see happen to help get more women involved in the industry?

Remi: “It is interesting that at the university level, there is parity between the number of men and women enrolled in viticulture and enology programs. In some cases, programs have more women enrolled than men so it demonstrates that women are interested and getting involved in the wine industry. 

The disparity occurs in the senior winemaking and senior management positions. In fact, a recent survey in October 2020 by Wine Business Monthly showed that 49% of assistant winemakers were women, whereas only 29% of winemaking directors are women. Even worse, only about 20% of winery general managers and CEOs are women. Other studies have shown this to be even less. 

It will require effort from the industry to encourage more women to advance to more senior positions within their companies and to be considered for top positions during the hiring process. This will involve companies institutionalizing diversity and inclusion along with mentorship opportunities. A lot of progress has been made in recent years bringing awareness to the lack of diversity in leadership positions in the industry, and more work needs to be done.”


As a female in the wine industry, have you dealt with gender-related challenges?

Remi: “Early in my career, there were occasional instances of gender discrimination, such as vendors or grape growers addressing the male intern rather than me, the vineyard manager. At the time when I entered the industry as a viticulturist, there were still far fewer women than men in that side of the business. Despite these things, I felt that the work towards gender equality in the industry had largely been done by women who came before me. There were women winemakers and viticulturists that I admired, and I personally met many women, such as Eileen, who truly were pioneers and among the first in their roles.

I thought it was already time for the conversation to shift from ‘she’s a great woman winemaker’ or ‘she’s a female CEO’ to ‘she’s a great winemaker’ or ‘she’s a great CEO’ without the qualifier. It wasn’t until later in my career that I really began to understand how significant the disparity continues to be, and perhaps that was because at the more entry-level positions there was more equality than there ever had been before. 

I have been very fortunate in my career to work with men who have become mentors and have supported my career advancement. That being said, I do think there have been some situations in the past as I have advanced at companies where I experienced a disparity in pay or title as it would relate to men who held a similar position. The same Wine Business Monthly survey showed that women CEOs earn on average 51% of the average male CEO salary. 

Now, I am fortunate to work at Domaine Carneros which has been dedicated to female leadership since its inception 33 years ago with Eileen Crane and continuing today with me. Our founding owners Champagne Taittinger believe in women leadership and have Vitalie Taittinger as their president. At Domaine Carneros, we have programs for open-book management and employee engagement, education, and mentorship, and the majority of management positions are held by women.”


Is there one woman, in the industry or outside of it, who has inspired you throughout your career?

Remi: “There are so many women that have inspired me throughout my career, it is difficult to choose just one. When I think back to the early days in the industry, I always admired Mary Maher. Mary is one of the best viticulturists in the valley, where she has been overseeing Harlan’s vineyards since 2001, and she spent many years prior as a viticulture consultant after a decade at Buena Vista. She is truly a pioneering woman in the Napa Valley wine industry. Mary has always been helpful and inclusive to me and other aspiring viticulturists, and she has mentored many talented young viticulturists. Sometimes the viticulturists of the valley are overlooked and more fanfare goes to the winemaker, but quality in the vineyard is the most important component of making great wine, and Mary has been responsible for sustainably growing some of Napa’s best wines.”

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We are excited to put the much-deserved spotlight on some 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.