Women of Washington Wine: Anna Schafer of àMaurice Cellars

By Kori ~ July 1st, 2009.

Today’s post is part of a 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.

Winemaker Anna Schafer of àMaurice CellarsAnna Schafer, winemaker for àMaurice Cellars in Walla Walla, Washington, is a young, energetic face in the Washington wine industry. The Schafer family founded àMaurice Cellars and planted their 13 acre estate vineyard in 2006. The winery name, àMaurice, which means “to Maurice” in French pays homage to Anna’s grandfather. As one of the founders, Anna has been involved with àMaurice since the beginning. To further her winemaking knowledge, Anna works harvest in Argentina as well. Of the àMaurice wines I’ve tasted, my favorite is the Malbec which is no surprise given Anna’s Argentine ties.

I had the pleasure to meet Anna Schafer during Taste Washington in April and then we visited àMaurice on our recent trip to Walla Walla. Anna 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 Anna Schafer:

How did you first get involved in the wine business?
As a family we shared wine from an early age. We always talked about starting to make some and then our words became actions. We started making wine way before there were any grapes involved.

What were the steps that led to where you are now?
Mentors and listening to people. I think we are all our best teachers. There are too many lifetimes I would have to live to know everything I want to about wine. Learning from each other is the best way to at least attempt it.

Has being a woman been an advantage or a disadvantage in your wine journey? Please explain.
I think of it as an advantage except when I am trying to lift something. The manual labor aspect of winemaking is what deters most young women from pursuing it I think. It is a dirty job, but I like working with my hands. I only think being a woman is an advantage just because it makes me different.  Anything that stands out is good.

Do you believe a woman has certain built-in traits than can make her a better winemaker than a man? If so, please explain.
No, but some studies suggest we have more taste buds.

Do you use the fact that you are a woman to promote your wines? If so, how?
Not really, I hope the wine talks more than I do.

Winemaker Anna Schafer working hard at àMaurice CellarsWhat advice do you have for a woman wanting to get involved in the wine business today?
Use your knees!! I am seeing some amazing young female winemakers coming thru the ranks. I am employing one of them this harvest. If not in the winemaking side there are so many other facets to the industry. We need more female sommeliers!

What are your thoughts about the Washington wine industry, in general?
The industry is growing. Everything we do as a winemaker can have a result which shows three, four, ten years later. We, as an industry, need to hold up the standards that have been made by our founding winemakers and honor them by making good, deliberate, conscientious decisions.

In recent years the Washington wine industry has grown at a rapid rate. Do you expect that trend to continue?
I think water is the major issue; we have more “rights” to the water than water. The state needs to look at that pretty closely. In terms of the economy, wine is a delayed return with lots of initial capital investment. We will see if people are still willing to invest like that in the near future.

I understand that you also work harvest in Argentina for winemaker Paul Hobbs’s Viña Cobos. How did that arrangement come about and what have you learned from that experience?
I have a friend who was friends with a friend of Paul’s partners in Mendoza.  The family I live with in Mendoza is involved closely with Alta Vista and Norton as well as sell their 150 hectare vineyard’s fruit to Chandon and Salentine. I think about Argentina daily in my winemaking; if it was not something I picked up from Paul, it was another winery. Argentines are so passionate and have a way to express it so clearly; it is hard not to fall in love with winemaking down there.

What is your vision for the future of àMaurice Cellars?
We will keep making wines that we like to drink and stay around 3,500 cases. We have our estate now which is a dream. The fruit really is spectacular, I am amazed each time I try it. Our Estate Viognier, “the Sparrow” [was] released [last week]!!!

Many thanks to Anna for sharing her story and thoughts with us. I wish her and the Schafer family all the best and will be following her work and wines with great interest, and I hope that you will too.

(Photos from àMaurice Cellars Facebook page)

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

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