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Women in the Vineyard

March 5, 2019

Three talented and inspiring women get their hands dirty while shaping the landscape of Paso Robles Wine Country.

Mindy Allen

Owner, Custom Vineyard Application & Martinez Farming

Tell us a little about yourself: I have been on this wild but fulfilling career path since 2000.  I took a leap of faith in 2010 and started Custom Vineyard Application which focuses on the vineyard management/consulting aspect of viticulture and Martinez Farming, which is a labor contracting company.

What made you take the viticulture career path? Viticulture found me!  It was not my intended career path but as soon as I began working in the field, I never looked back.  Most of my experience came from the ideals of “learn by doing”.  I believe that if you take the time to listen and absorb the knowledge around you, your possibilities are endless.  Creating a team is important because no one has all the answers and collective heads are always better than one.

Has it been challenging to be a female in the industry? I have never been faced with the challenge of working in a male dominated industry.  In college, I lived with all male roommates, so maybe that prepared me, but I also feel that if you do your job correctly, you will be respected as a person and not as a gender.

Do you have any advice to young women? Have the confidence in yourself to know that you have the knowledge and the voice to be heard.  Learn all aspects of the industry including the business side.  You could be the best viticulturist, but if you cannot take care of your clients or company’s financial needs, you will not succeed.  When I first began Martinez Farming, myself and another woman were the only two attending the yearly class.  She had been the first and only Labor Contractor in Monterey County for over 20 years and gave me some sound advice that I still live by today. “Respect goes both ways” and “Always pay your taxes first” but that is another labor contracting story.

What do you like most about working outside? Living in California gives me the opportunity to love working outside.  I have to say that I am more partial to heat and love being out on a hot day but also enjoy the sounds and smells of spring just after a rain.  The winter months are a bit more challenging especially with the amount of rain we have received this year in such a short amount of time, but we are still fortunate to live in such an extraordinary region.  The cold frosty mornings are no fun, but it is nothing that a few layered puffers can’t handle which is how likely you will find me November-February.

What is your favorite season in the vineyard? Bud-break, which I consider a season.  It is a new beginning each year with endless possibilities.

Who would you share a bottle of wine with? These two other extremely talented ladies, Molly Scott and Hilary Yount,  because they are friends and inspirations to all that work with them.  And of course…..any Paso wine because we are proud of our wine country and the amazing wines we can contribute to.

After a long day, how do you unwind? Are you kidding!  My day never ends because I am a mother and business owner.  It becomes more of a question of balance.  The more I organize, the more in control I feel which allows me to relax and consider pampering myself.

Hillary Yount

Vineyard Manager, SIXMILEBRIDGE Vineyards

Tell us a little about yourself, where do you work and what is your job title? I was born and raised in Lodi Ca. I moved to San Luis Obispo in 2009. I graduated from Cal Poly University with a degree in Fruit Science. During my time at Cal Poly, I began my career in the wine industry with a summer internship at Wild Horse Winery, sampling fruit up and down the central coast. After Cal Poly, I was fortunate to work for two Vineyard Management companies, Roberts Vineyard Services and Coastal Vineyard Services.

Currently, I’m working as the Vineyard Manager for SIXMILEBRIDGE Vineyards. SMB is a 94-acre property, located on the west side of Paso Robles with 24 acres planted, all organically farmed.  SMB is a new winery with a concentration on Bordeaux style wines.  The first vintage is set to be released fall of 2019.

I also spend a portion of my time at my home vineyard. My husband and I planted 7 acres, of Syrah, Grenache, Graciano, and Clarette Blanche. Together we organically farm and make the wine.  We are fortunate to live and raise our daughter on the property. We also raise chickens, sheep, and pigs year-round. We released our first estate vintage last fall, called The Royal Nonesuch Farm.

What made you take the viticulture career path? I guess you could say, “It’s in my blood.”  I’m a fourth-generation wine grape grower.  I didn’t see viticulture as a career path for myself early on, especially with the industry being a male dominated work force. But ultimately, I fell in love with the Central Coast and in love with the wine industry.  A career in viticulture was starting to make sense and I could feel my past generations guiding me into this profession.

Has it been challenging to work in the industry as a female? I’ve almost always worked with men and most often I’m the only female in the room. But I’ve always been accepted for what I bring to the table and I find it empowering to be the minority.

Do you have any advice to young women looking to get into the industry? Don’t be afraid to take risks. Honestly, there is a lot of opportunity for women in the vineyard/wine industry. There are many women that I admire and continue to learn from.  There is a great support network, I really love that about this industry.

What do you love the most about working outdoors? EVERYTHING! I probably take it for granted most of the time. And sometimes it’s rough, especially on long hot days.  But I’ve seen some pretty amazing sun-rises, bring my dog to work, and my “office” never looks the same.

What’s your favorite season in the vineyard? Every season is exciting! However, right before harvest is probably my favorite time. Walking the vineyard blocks, tasting the fruit. After a marathon of keeping these vines happy, it really is a sweet reward.

If you could share a bottle of wine with three (3) women, what would the wine be and who would you be sharing it with? 1) It would be magical to share a bottle of a recent vintage of Domaine Tempier Rosé on the shores of Cassis with none other than Lulu Peyraud. Of course, I would need to work on my French – and hopefully she’ll cook! 2) I’m pretty obsessed with Lady Gaga right now. She deserves the best gold, my favorite, 1988 Chateau d’Yquem. 3) Serena Williams, she’s a badass mother!  I would be selfish and want her to try my estate wine, The Royal Nonesuch Farm!

After a long day in the vineyard how do you unwind or pamper yourself? I usually unwind with a bottle or two with my husband listening to our favorite music and cooking dinner. And a hot bath, if my 3-year-old will let me!

Molly Scott

Director of Grower Relations, JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery

Tell us a little about yourself, where do you work and what is your job title? Growing up in the wine industry in Washington State guided my decision to dodge the Seattle rain and come experience sunny California. After graduating from Cal Poly with my Bachelor of Science degree in Viticulture, my husband and I were fortunate enough to stay on the Central Coast and join the growing industry. Nine years and two boys later, one of which we just welcomed on Friday March 1 (hooray!) we feel very lucky to call Paso Robles home! I’ve been a part of JUSTIN’s team since 2011 and over the years my role from developing vineyards to working with some amazing grape growers in Paso Robles has expanded year over year. Today, it’s a privilege to be JUSTIN’s Director of Grower Relations and be responsible for sourcing wine grapes for JUSTIN’s many different programs.

What made you take the viticulture career path? I originally enrolled in Wine Business and Marketing at Cal Poly but after a few courses realized, “Wait a second? How can I market and sell this stuff if I don’t understand how it grows and is made?” I switched my concentration to Viticulture, and it was the best decision I ever made!

Has it been challenging to work in the industry as a female? At times, sure, but in truth, I love a challenge. Our vineyard community is very dynamic, welcoming and inclusive. My favorite aspect of my job is being receptive to the challenges our growers face and how to support them while also ensuring our Winemaker is provided the best quality possible. Being a female and a mom, I do have perhaps a few tricks that keeps everyone communicative and playing nice!

Do you have any advice to young women looking to get into the industry? Slow down and listen. Everyone take’s pride in their craft and whether they are a good producer or not, there is something to be learned from it.

What do you love the most about working outdoors? The change in scenery every day. I’m very, very lucky that my job requires me to be mobile and on the go. Sometimes I’ll only see 1 vineyard a day, other days it may be 12. Each one different and respectable for what it produces.

What’s your favorite season in the vineyard? Spring! Hills are still green, vineyards are still damp and dewy in the morning. Fog burns off and buds are just starting to push!

If you could share a bottle of wine with three (3) women, what would the wine be and who would you be sharing it with? Well since it would be a special occasion, a magnum of Produttori del Barbaresco Ovello would be lovely. I’m feeling slightly obliged to include some political powerhouses such as Michelle Obama but right now I could use a good laugh and dinner party so it would have to include Julia Child, Reese Witherspoon and probably Amal Clooney because I’m amazed at her intelligence and activism.

After a long day in the vineyard how do you unwind or pamper yourself? I love to cook. Working full time and with kids, I’m usually about 3-4 ingredients short of a having a complete meal but I like the challenge of improvising and seeing what I can compile from what’s in the fridge. The evening will then finish with “that look” to my husband to clean up the kitchen while I then sit on the couch with a second glass of wine.