By Kori ~ October 28th, 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.
Jill Noble, along with her husband Craig, founded Couvillion Winery. It is located ten miles north of Walla Walla, Washington, on 1,000 acres of family-owned wheat fields which Craig also farms. Their property neighbors Spring Valley Vineyard so Jill enrolled in the viticulture and enology program at Walla Walla Community College, in case anyone wanted to plant vineyards on their property. Jill was in the program’s inaugural class and soon found herself hooked. Instead of just learning about vineyards, she was inspired to create her own limited production wines. Upon completing the program, Jill worked alongside master vintners including Marie-Eve Gilla of Forgeron Cellars and John Abbott of Abeja Winery. Her first vintage was 2004, and the doors at Couvillion Winery were opened in 2006. The name “Couvillion” (Koo-vee-yon) is French-Canadian and honors the family name of a dear friend.
Couvillion Winery produces five wines: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a red blend called Equilibre. We first tasted their wines during Vintage Walla Walla in June and especially enjoyed the Equilibre. If you are in the Walla Walla area and would like to visit Couvillion, be sure to call ahead as their tasting room is open by appointment only.
In addition to being a winemaker, Jill is also a registered nurse, used to own a packing and shipping company in downtown Walla Walla, and, at one time, owned a clothing boutique. She is truly a well-rounded, diversely-qualified, and industrious female entrepreneur.
Recently, Jill was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule during harvest to answer some questions for me and our Wine Peeps readers.
Highlights from Q&A with Jill Noble:
Has being a woman been an advantage or a disadvantage in your wine journey? Please explain.
I haven’t felt any advantages or disadvantages to being a female, because you have the same challenges in this industry regardless. It’s pretty neutral.
Do you believe a woman has certain built-in traits than can make her a better winemaker or winery owner than a man? If so, please explain.
Some people just have super-palates — just like Lance Armstrong, who has super lungs — it’s not really a matter of gender. One male winemaker I know was able to identify that the muffins he was eating were prepared on a cutting board that had been used with onions days before.
What advice do you have for a woman wanting to get involved in the wine business today?
It’s a very physical job. As a woman, you really need to be strong…and don’t waste your money on manicures! You just don’t have time.
What are your thoughts about the Washington wine industry, in general?
I think we’re definitely getting some international and national recognition with all the different talents in this valley, which is exciting. We have unique terroir, which is really interesting.
In recent years the Washington wine industry has grown at a rapid rate. Do you expect that trend to continue?
I think it really depends on the economy.
What is your vision for the future of Couvillion Winery?
We’d like to maintain the highest quality at a less-than-$30 price range. We’re going to have our first estate reserve wines in the next two years. Number one, we still have to have fun.
Many thanks to Jill for sharing her story and thoughts with us. I wish her and Craig all the best and will be following their work and Couvillion Winery with great interest, and I hope that you will too.
(Photos from Couvillion Winery)
Filed under: American Wine, Interview, Washington State Wine, Women of Washington Wine