Women of Washington Wine: Linda Trotta of Swiftwater Cellars

By Kori ~ January 16th, 2012.

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.

Linda Trotta is winemaker for Swiftwater Cellars in Cle Elum, Washington, about 80 miles east of Seattle. Swiftwater Cellars, a destination winery, restaurant, and event facility located in Suncadia Resort, opened its doors in 2010. A native of Southern California, Linda began her winemaking career in 1986 when she graduated with a degree in Fermentation Science from UC Davis. She spent the majority of her career at Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma, California, but has also gained valuable winemaking experience working in Italy, Chile, South Africa, and now, Washington State.

Recently, Linda 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 Linda Trotta:

How did you first get involved in the wine business?
I grew up helping my Italian grandfather make wine in his garage. Wine was a staple at the dinner table; when we needed more, it was just a matter of going out to the garage and tapping into a barrel. It never occurred to me that people got paid to make wine. I entered UC Davis as a math major, thinking I’d go into teaching. Fortunately, advanced calculus was not my friend. Literally flipping through the university catalogue, looking for something more interesting, I landed on the Enology program.

What were the steps that led to where you are now?
While I took opportunities to work harvests in Italy, Chile and South Africa, prior to Swiftwater, most of my 25-year winemaking career was spent in Sonoma, California. After graduating from Davis, I worked in the cellar at St. Francis Winery and then the laboratory at Sebastiani Vineyards Winery. I spent the next 20 years making wine at Gundlach Bundschu Winery, starting as an Enologist in 1989 and a year later becoming winemaker. Ultimately, I served as Director of Winemaking and Winegrowing, managing the operations for 300 acres of estate vineyard as well as making the wines. As my 20th harvest at GBW approached, I decided that it was time to apply my craft in a new environment. I considered several opportunities across North America and was most excited by what Swiftwater was endeavoring to create. In 2010, I made the move to Washington State and am having a ball!

Has being a woman been an advantage or a disadvantage in your wine journey?
Ultimately, what matters most is how well you do your job. That said, women entering any industry that has been historically male-dominated could face challenges around being accepted and recognized for their skill set. In my experience, at times, it has taken plenty of perseverance and patience to overcome such hurdles. On the flip side, however, being a woman can garner some extra attention. Case in point, I get to talk to you!

What advice do you have for a woman wanting to get involved in the wine business today?
Get educated on the whole business, no matter what type of work you aim to pursue. The more you know, the more valuable and successful you will be. Find and use mentors. Patience and perseverance.

What are your thoughts about the Washington wine industry, in general?
It is an exciting time to be making wine in Washington. The region and its wines are gaining greater widespread recognition. There is energy within the business that is fostering innovation, the seeking of knowledge and the sharing of information. This atmosphere is part of what attracted me to the state.

In recent years the Washington wine industry has grown at a rapid rate. Do you expect that trend to continue?
In terms of wine volume produced, Washington is significantly dominated by a handful of very large producers. The vast majority of wine brands are owned by small producers (under 10,000 cases). Where I see opportunity for growth is for existing small producers to gain a larger share of the market, which will help build robust sustainability for the region as a whole.

What is your vision for the future of Swiftwater Cellars?
Swiftwater is all about providing memorable experiences for folks, whether in the wine bar, Hoist House restaurant, at a private celebration or event, or just hanging out in the lounge. My focus, obviously, is to make distinctive Washington State wines that complement and enhance that experience. Going forward, I hope to develop an interactive wine appreciation program that also provides guests with an opportunity to enrich their enjoyment of wine and food in a fun, relaxed setting. Also in the plans is a facility expansion to include a conference center, amphitheater, and on-site fractional-share cabins. My vision for Swiftwater Cellars is to be the one-stop destination for delicious Pacific Northwest wines and cuisine and experiences of a lifetime.

Feel free to share any other thoughts that you believe would be of interest to our readers.
The comment I most frequently hear from casual wine consumers (which is most of the wine-drinking population!) is an almost apologetic, “I don’t know anything about wine.”  My response is that, if you are interested, there are plenty of resources available to you to learn as much as you want about wine. But as a consumer, all you really need to know is: (a) What you like, and (b) How to get it.

Many thanks to Linda for sharing her story and thoughts with us. I wish her all the best and look forward to following her work and Swiftwater Cellars with great interest, and I hope that you will too.

(Photos from Swiftwater Cellars)

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

Reader's Comments

  1. L.M. Archer | January 18th, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Another GREAT interview – thank you for this feature on women in wine!

  2. Kori | January 18th, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Thanks so much. I’m so glad to hear that you enjoy this series. Cheers!

  3. Claudia Glade | January 23rd, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you for highlighting my esteemed ex-colleague from Gundlach-Bundschu days. I might add that she’s dedicated, smart and fun, too. She’s a great role model for anyone in the wine industry.

  4. Kori | January 23rd, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts about Linda from the perspective of someone who knows her personally. Cheers!