The wine that lit the fire:
Calera vertical tasting in San Francisco and CUNE vertical Gran Reserva tasting in Haro, both in the 1980s
Research and pray
The thing that led you to wine as a career:
Democracy. I studied in Spain post-Franco during the transition to democracy following 43 years of a short but brutal civil war and dictatorship. It was an exhilarating time. Wine was one of the “targeted” industries to privatize and promote. The rest is in the preface of my book.
I am the trade director for the DOCa Rioja and also the brandambassadorspokesperson for both the U.S.A. (est. 2010) and Canada (est. 2015), and author of The Wine Region of Rioja.
Favourite part of your job:
I love many components of my work! Working with my amazing team having the honour to lead Rioja in the U.S. and Canada. Representing and visiting our “bodegas” and speaking and tasting with winery principals, making things happen, creating partnerships. It has been stimulating and a pleasure to work in Canada and with the alliances we have formulated in this great nation.
If you could pick another way to get involved in the wine world, what would it be?
Nothing else. I believe in our governing body, our wineries, our culture, our vineyards and wines. My work is an honour and huge life commitment.
Current wine crush:
Victor Cruz Manso de Zúñiga, he was the president of the Rioja Enological Station and led Rioja through phylloxera. We must have met in another lifetime on the streets of Haro – I am star struck by him.
Favourite wine resource:
La Prensa del Rioja. The publisher is one of my mentors, Javier Pascual.
Swordfish steak with a light caper and teriyaki sauce and a fruit forward Crianza. Rioja Alavesa Reserva with an autumn beef stew. Rioja Rosado with mussels in a light white wine sauce.
Dream dinner date:
At this stage in career and life, one of my three gorgeous boys! The resource of “time” is precious.
What do you love about being the trade director and brand ambassador for Rioja?
My colleagues in Rioja, along with the constant evolution, entertainment and challenge of this industry. It is far from static!
What is the best advice you’ve received?
Work hard, work smart, seek excellence and precision in all that you do. Lead by example — traits of integrity, honesty, duty, strength and commitment.
Have you ever experienced gender bias or discrimination in your work? How did you approach the situation?
Yes, in 1989, and unfortunately from what we can see in the world, the changes have been too slow.I did three things: Silenced, reached out to a trusted male past-superior and third, incorporated.
Why do you think women are underrepresented in the wine industry?
For the same reason NASA has only one suit for a woman! There are still many imbalances in the workplace and on the home front.
What are the most significant challenges for women in our industry and for those women who will come after us?
Being, or crafting, the change you want to see. Being courageous enough to envision and execute. Perhaps there should be back-of-the-house lactation rooms in restaurants, and hotels for breastfeeding Somms on the floor, as well as split shifts.
What can we do to change these issues?
Create the change through policy, visuals, experiments, advocacy, group “voice” pilot programs, etc.
Is there something that you do to support the women in our industry? What would you like your legacy to be?
The legacy and reputation that I currently have is an honour. The woman who has pioneered Rioja in the U.S.A, and hopefully further along Canada too.
Is there anyone who has become a mentor for you, or otherwise been especially inspirational or supportive?
For the research for my book, The Wine Region of Rioja, I had three native Riojans and experts each in their own discipline that were unfailing in their support and sharing their intelligence and work with me. They mentored me throughout my deep and constant prodding to the next question. In respect to my work ethic and value system, no doubt my father.
My itch is one of service and to fold this into the scope of my Riojan world. On my humanitarian radar are victims of human trafficking and families afflicted by pediatric cancer.