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 Sarah, Head Winemaker, Hedges Family Estate
Sarah was born in Buenos Aires and spent her early years traveling the globe with her family. In 1986 her parents settled in Seattle to start Hedges Cellars. A vineyard was planted in 1990 in Eastern Washington, Red Mountain area. In the summer Sarah along with her brother Christophe, worked in the vineyard and in later years at the new winery built on that same location. Sarah’s love for the industry soon would turn into a career choice. She attended the University of San Diego and graduated with a degree in business and philosophy. She later attended UC Santa Barbara to study chemistry and at the same time worked for Santa Barbara winery managing the tasting room and helping with harvest. From 2003 to 2005 she worked for Preston Vineyards in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, doing wine production work
In 2005, she decided to move back home and start working for the family winery. She joined the winery full-time in 2006 as Assistant Winemaker and two years later had completed her certificate degree in enology from Washington State University and started the label Goedhart Family with her husband. After her uncle and mentor retired in 2015, Sarah became head winemaker.
Sarah’s love for fermentation doesn’t stop with wine. She bakes rustic bread in the wood-fired oven using a starter she created with our biodynamic grapes. You can also find yogurt and sauerkraut crocks bubbling away in her kitchen. She loves to cook, garden, and keeps it all in check with daily yoga. She also has a deep love for animals big and small. She lives in Richland, Washington with her husband, Brent, their sons Lucas and Trevor, their dogs Otto, Shadow, and Jackson, their 4 chickens, and a turtle named Cowboy. Her favorite wine is whichever wine she is drinking with good friends.
What is one piece of advice you give to women looking to make a career in Wine?
Sarah: “My one piece of advice would be to start anywhere you can and do the dirty work in all areas. Work in the tasting room, work in sales, work in a cellar, work in the vineyard. Learn as much as you can. It will make help you understand a very complex industry and all of its nuances. Also, understand that you can never learn it all. Each year you work in the industry is an opportunity to learn more and to grow in a field that has historic roots and a bright innovative future. I have grown up in this industry and been employed by the industry for 18 years, I still feel like I have more to learn every day. Also, don’t be discouraged by the hurdles. Work hard, follow your passion and remember that women have a unique perspective on wine; they can multitask especially well and that is very helpful in this industry.”
What would you like to see happen to help get more women involved in the industry?
Sarah: “I think more communication is needed about this industry being very accepting of taking on interns and employees with very little experience. It’s one of the few industries where hands-on experience can go much farther than a degree and a lot of women don’t realize that. Jump in and work a harvest, get a tasting room job and learn as you work, offer to help in a vineyard one day a week. A foot in the door goes a very long way in the wine world. A lot of people think I got a degree in winemaking and are surprised to find out my degree is in Business. However, I got a job in a tasting room during school, then I work at another winery doing harvest, traveled to France to work hospitality for a winery, and then finally landed back at the family winery and worked in the cellar while going back to school to learn winemaking. This is a great time to be a female in wine and the industry needs to let them know!”
As a female in the wine industry, have you dealt with gender-related challenges?
Sarah: “Yes. I think it’s tough to be a female in the production world. It is much better now than it used to be. Every winery I trained at had a male winemaker and male production staff. You just have to work harder, be stronger, complain less, do whatever needs to be done and management will start to see that you are a worthwhile employee. I run into issues on the sales side as well, there is a long history of distributors having a “good old boys” club. Some would prefer to be in the market with my dad or my brother, but I tough it out, power through, and show them that I have a lot to bring to the table. It’s challenging, yet very rewarding when you surpass everyone’s expectations. I also deal with this being “the daughter” of the owners. People think I just walked into the job, when in fact, I worked really hard to get where I am. Family business usually requires that you work more because the fate of the business affects the future of your family.”
Is there one woman, in the industry or outside of it, who has inspired you throughout your career?
Sarah: “I have a couple of women who inspired me. Number one is my mom. She started in a wine world that was very male-dominated at the time. She started a business from scratch, worked every day, and was a very good mother. She taught me that honesty, perseverance, and having to be tough are what it takes to make it, not only as a business owner of a winery but also as a woman in the workforce! She didn’t do the glamourous work and did whatever it took to grow her business into a success and she is still working hard today. She taught me to stick with things, even if it’s not the most fun part of the job, and to follow-through 100% in whatever you start.
The other one is Maria Menounos. She grew up learning work ethic and never giving up on your dreams. She is constantly trying to grow, improve herself and help others along the way. She also inspires me to keep learning about my current industry, and also everything else I am passionate about. As I am growing my career in wine, I am also learning more and pursuing my passion for bread baking, gardening, health and fitness, and writing. Not only was she a successful TV anchor at a young age, but she has also written books on guides to life, health, and fitness and now has a podcast about finances, relationships, spirituality, health, and all things to learn more and become a better human. She never stops growing and that is inspirational.”
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.