In our acclaimed book, Women Winemakers: Personal Odysseys, we identified four main pathways to winemaking in the male-dominated world of wineries. Here we share the “personal odysseys” of lead women winemakers from the Okanagan Valley who followed one of these pathways, The Sensory Pathway—coming to love wine from aromas or from tasting wines. Located in Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia (BC), we recently visited the Okanagan, a gorgeous wine region growing in importance and visibility.
Nadine Kinvig planned to use her interest in science in some field of medicine, while Karen Gillis née Yeung was encouraged to consider culinary school; both were born and raised in Vancouver. For Nadine, working a part-time job during college at a wine store and discovering that she had a “super palate” led to exploring winemaking as a career. Knowing she would need more academic credentials, she earned a Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology degree in New Zealand. Now the winemaker at Terravista Vineyards, Nadine crafts small-lot, award-winning specialty white wines, including Spanish varieties. “I go on flavor, creating the aromatics and flavors.”
Karen, who also “has a passion for sensory science,” instead completed a Diploma in Food Technology from the BC Institute of Technology. After working several years in the food and beverage industry, she held winemaking positions in the Okanagan with Andrew Peller, and especially loves her current position working with growers and being directly involved in grape growing and managing vineyards. Karen “embraces the opportunity to travel the world through my taste buds and the lens of wine.”
A native of Penticton, Keira LeFranc, loved science, earning a degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta, but decided to move to the restaurant side of things. “My pathway was Sensory. I started in restaurants and in the sommelier world, particularly the pairings of wine and food.” After earning a Postgraduate Diploma of Wine Science in New Zealand, she turned to winemaking and is now the Winemaker for Stag’s Hollow Winery. Keira was named to the “2023 International Wine & Spirit Competition Emerging Talent in Wine” shortlist.
Pénélope Roche, who relocated to the Okanagan from France, noted that “Passion for the sensory brought me to winemaking.” The Proprietor/Winemaker for Roche Wines, she studied oenology in Bordeaux, made wine in New Zealand and met her future husband there; he was from Vancouver. Pénélope describes herself as a “vine whisperer:” “We never do any analyses. We taste the grapes to decide on picking.” Roche wines receive national and regional recognition.
The passion of these winemakers is remarkable as are their wines. We highly recommend traveling to the beautiful Okanagan, meeting its talented winemakers, and enjoying their excellent wines.
Lucia Albino Gilbert, a professor of psychology, and John C. Gilbert, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, (pictured above) hope these odysseys, excerpted from their recent article, The Women Winemakers of the Okanagan Are Holding Their Ground (https://grapecollective.com/articles/the-women-winemakers-of-the-okanagan-are-holding-their-ground), will inspire current and future winemakers and educate wine enthusiasts about what enables the careers of women who make wine. “We believe that sharing their engaging odysseys will further support the process of change that clearly is underway and provide a better understanding of how recently women have been able to come into the industry as winemakers.” For more information visit their website, www.womenwinemakers.com.
Women Winemakers: Personal Odysseys
250 pages including 35 illustrations and maps
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