By Kori ~ March 28th, 2011.
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 Holly Turner joined Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla, Washington, in 2000 and oversees all aspects of production. Holly got her start at Chateau Ste. Michelle where she worked her way from being on the tasting room staff to the winemaking staff. She spent time working harvest in Argentina before returning to Washington State to work for Three Rivers. Three Rivers Winery is named for the three most prominent rivers—the Columbia, Snake, and Walla Walla—which feed the vineyards from which it sources grapes. Three Rivers sources fruit from some of the top vineyards in the state including Boushey, Champoux, and Sagemoor, among others. Three Rivers is owned by Foley Family Wines in California and produces 15,000 cases per year.
Recently, Holly 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 Holly Turner:
How did you first get involved in the wine business?
I started working in the tasting room for Chateau Ste. Michelle in their now closed facility in Grandview.
What were the steps that led to where you are now?
I have a degree in Biology and worked in the food science industry for a couple of years but getting my foot in the door at Chateau Ste. Michelle was essential. I worked in the tasting rooms, then in the red wine laboratory, and finally moved on to the winemaking staff there. After the 1999 vintage, I left for a harvest in Argentina. When I returned, I went to work at Three Rivers.
Has being a woman been an advantage or a disadvantage in your wine journey?
Neither. As a woman, I certainly had to prove myself physically and intellectually. In the cellar, you’re asking people to do very physical work. I felt like I needed to do it as well to earn respect. Intellectually, the proof is always in the bottle. You’re only as good as your last vintage. I believe it’s the same for any male winemaker.
What advice do you have for a woman wanting to get involved in the wine business today?
Get any experience in the wine business that you can. It’s all valuable. There are many opportunities to volunteer, work in tasting rooms, take classes, and work harvest. Do anything you can to learn more.
I understand that you spent time working at a winery in Argentina earlier in your career. What did you learn from that experience?
Wine is universal; even if you don’t speak the language and are unfamiliar with the culture, you can always find common ground in wine. We’re all striving for the same goals of making the most expressive, impressive wine possible from the sites with which we’re working.
What are your thoughts about the Washington wine industry, in general?
I feel fortunate to be a part of the wine industry in Washington. We’re still so young and there is so much potential. Anything goes; I love it.
In recent years the Washington wine industry has grown at a rapid rate. Do you expect that trend to continue?
I don’t have a crystal ball but what I do know is that we’ve got plenty of unplanted acreage in Washington, which means there is potential for growth. The economy is having an impact, but with that being said, there are small wineries popping up all the time. So rapid growth may not be happening right now, but growth definitely.
What is your vision for the future of Three Rivers Winery?
Stay focused. Improve our wine quality. I value consistency in our wines and to continue that we’ve got to be on our game.
Many thanks to Holly for sharing her story and thoughts with us. I wish her all the best and will continue following her work and Three Rivers Winery with great interest, and I hope that you will too.
Filed under: American Wine, Interview, Washington State Wine, Women of Washington Wine