By Kori ~ September 27th, 2010.
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.
Lance Baer founded Baer Winery in 2000. After he passed away in 2007, his sister Lisa and father Les took over the winery and have continued Lance’s legacy. Today, Lisa Baer is the face of the winery. With the help of consulting winemaker/oenologist Erica Orr, Lisa strives to make wines that would meet her brother’s standards. Baer Winery sources fruit exclusively from Stillwater Creek Vineyard, located in the Frenchman Hills on the Royal Slope of Washington State’s Columbia Valley. Located in the warehouse district in Woodinville, Washington, Baer Winery produces 2,000 cases per year.
Recently, Lisa 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 Lisa Baer:
How did you first get involved in the wine business?
My brother, Lance Baer, got me interested in wine (first through tasting groups) and so when he decided to start his own winery in 2000, I worked along with him. I have a marketing background and so my initial input was in that area.
What were the steps that led to where you are now?
Our small boutique winery is family owned and operated, and so I was lucky enough to be involved from its inception. The winery was founded by my brother, who had the wine expertise (he was the Assistant Winemaker at DeLille at the time), and so I learned winemaking mostly from him, hands-on, but also through taking classes through UC Davis and Central Washington University. My brother passed away in 2007, which left me as the face of Baer Winery, and me and my father unexpectedly running the winery, rather than just working for my brother. It was important for us to continue his legacy, but only if we could still produce wine of the same high standard, not just something with our name on the label. While my learning curve has greatly increased, we do work with a Consulting Winemaker/Oenologist, Erica Orr, who is invaluable to our program.
Has being a woman been an advantage or a disadvantage in your wine journey?
I think neither. The wine community in Woodinville and Washington State is very accepting of any individual, based on what they bring to the table and how their wine tastes and not whether they are male or female. I do feel limited sometimes about the physical jobs at the winery, but this has given me an opportunity for positive personal growth to keep up as much as I can. I never dreamed when I was 10 years old that someday I would be learning to drive a forklift. It’s not yet my great talent, but it’s important for me to keep giving it my best effort.
What advice do you have for a woman wanting to get involved in the wine business today?
Spend as much time as you can at a winery either volunteering or working there to first learn what it’s really about and to get some experience. It will be a good learning experience and prospective employers will take you more seriously. It is common, and not just for women, for someone to think they want to make wine, but then their interest soon fades after the first day or so of barrel washing and equipment sterilizing. Many internships with local students last just a day or so. So, find out where your interest lies, and then be serious about it.
What are your thoughts about the Washington wine industry, in general?
Wine is now made in all 50 states of the U.S., but there are quite a few where maybe that’s not such a good idea. In Washington, however, we’re blessed with an ideal climate for growing wine grapes, and talented individuals to make those grapes into delicious wine. I was amazed when we started our winery that we could do that. I thought a winery had to be some big, fancy Chateau that was in the family for years and years, yet in Washington it is still possible to start a small winery and make great wine.
In recent years the Washington wine industry has grown at a rapid rate. Do you expect that trend to continue?
It’s an exciting time in the Washington wine industry with the huge growth we are experiencing, and there has been much less fallout than I expected. The growth has given us a critical mass, whereby the local population is now much more aware of the wine industry in their backyard, so I think that has resulted in increased sales for Washington wineries. Still, I wonder if there will be a point at which there is saturation and some wineries that don’t make it.
What is your vision for the future of Baer Winery?
From the beginning, our plan was to grow to a production of about 2,000 cases per year, which we have now done. We want to stay at that level to maintain the small, handcrafted process. Within that, however, we look forward to coming up with new wines to offer, such as the single-varietal Cabernet Franc that was released this year for the first time. We have the freedom as a small winery to work with what the fruit brings us, so we will continue to have fun with new offerings for our customers. We also look forward to being an important part of the growth of the Woodinville wine industry and its contribution to the Woodinville area and getting the visitors to come there.
Many thanks to Lisa for sharing her story and thoughts with us. I wish her all the best and will be following her work and Baer Winery with great interest, and I hope that you will too.
Filed under: American Wine, Interview, Washington State Wine, Women of Washington Wine