Women of Washington Wine: Bergevin Lane

By Kori ~ May 4th, 2009.

Today’s post is the first in a new series featuring the Women of Washington Wine. In an industry once dominated by men, more and more women are joining the ranks as winery owners, vineyard owners, and winemakers. Being a woman myself, I am fascinated by these women and what they have done and continue to do. Through this series, I hope to introduce you to some of the brightest female faces in the Washington wine industry.

Annette Bergevin and Amber LaneAnnette Bergevin and Amber Lane, along with Annette’s father Gary, founded Bergevin Lane Vineyards in 2001. Located in downtown Walla Walla, Washington, Bergevin Lane officially opened its doors in 2003 in a 20,000 square foot facility. Their current production level is 7,500 cases per year but they have the capacity to increase production significantly in the future.

Recently, I had the pleasure to meet Annette Bergevin during the Taste Washington weekend. She was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for me and our Wine Peeps readers.

Highlights from Q&A with Annette Bergevin:

How did you first get involved in the wine business?
I was living in the Bay Area and traveled home to Walla Walla often. When I came home we would get in my dad’s car and we could visit all of the wineries in an afternoon. Today it takes at least four days to visit all the wineries! I was looking for a way to move back home and my dad was involved in the business and it was a very easy decision.

What were the steps that led to where you are now?
We put one foot in front of the other and Ka-pow! First we put together our business and marketing plans. It was like we were standing on the edge of a high dive and we just jumped. Once we were mid-air there was no turning back. We sold our home, bought a new home in Walla Walla, put our business plan in action, put together our fruit contracts, found a home for our production facility and then came crush. The same day as our last bit of juice from crush went into barrel I had a new little girl! Needless to say, there was a lot of action going on in 2002!

Has being a woman been an advantage or a disadvantage in your wine journey? Please explain.
We focus on our wine, making really good wine and coming up with ways to have fun as we work really hard to sell our wine. We have some advantages just because there are not a lot of women winery owners and/or winemakers out there so we are selected for fun “women focused” events. When we’re out picking up fruit, we strap the bins down ourselves; we drive the forklift and lift our own cases. I’m not sure if we are taken as seriously as men but we believe that is changing.

Bergevin LaneDo you believe a woman has certain built-in traits than can make her a better winery owner than a man? If so, please explain.
We think a good winery owner, man or woman, is committed to excellence, is energetic, enjoys working with people, is entrepreneurial and is self motivated. We do not see it as one being better than the other. We believe it is good to have balance in life so having women in the wine industry adds a little “balance”! We do run across folks at wine tastings who are surprised that we own the winery. They will say, “So, do you work in the tasting room?” or something like that. We typically answer, “yes, and we answer phones, and if needed we sweep floors…then it is kind of fun to add, and we manage the entire operation as well.” We work hard and it is kind of cool to be able to say it is “our baby!” To give credit where credit is due, we have a wonderful team at Bergevin Lane from our back office to our production team that helps us do what we do!

Do you use the fact that you are a woman to promote your wines? If so, how?
We do like to include in our marketing materials that we are women managed. It can help set us apart from other wineries. We hope to be an example for young women out there who are interested in getting into areas that for many, many years have been predominately male dominated.

What advice do you have for a woman wanting to get involved in the wine business today?
Have a strong business and marketing plan. If you are starting a winery have your funding in place and prepare yourself to work super hard. Surround yourself with knowledgeable industry folks. Know your strengths and weaknesses and make sure your team includes folks who can compliment your weaknesses. Go for it!

In recent years the Washington wine industry has grown at a rapid rate. Do you expect that trend to continue?
That’s a really good question because we would have thought that the growth would level out somewhat during these crazy economical times however we keep hearing about folks jumping on board. Wineries will have to have good distribution channels to move all the wine out there.

What is your vision for the future of Bergevin Lane Vineyards?
The sky is the limit. We look forward to making better and better wines.  We’ll work hard to maintain market driven growth and we hope to have that super high scoring wine. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the wine critic score, although we wouldn’t complain, but we want to make “that bottle of wine” that stays on your mind, that you continue to think about for years after trying it. The one that makes you close your eyes, roll your head back and smile and makes you think wow and say, “Remember that Bergevin Lane Wine we enjoyed, if only we had one more bottle….”

(Photos from Bergevin Lane)

Filed under: American Wine, Interview, Washington State Wine, Women of Washington Wine

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