Victoria Reader launched Women in Wine of NJ in 2021 in a bid to elevate women’s place in the wine industry. At first glance, the response might be: why?

Looking around—the U.S. has a female vice president, and women like Mary Barra, Corie Barry and Rosalind Brewer are leading Fortune 500 companies—it’s hard to believe just how far behind some industries are when it comes to gender equity.

But drill down and look at the numbers, and you’ll find some pretty stark statistics. Just 17.8% of winemakers in the U.S. are women, according to Zippia, a career database that analyzes public data sets. And the women who are in the top spot only make about $0.85 for every $1 earned by male winemakers.

Reader—who cut her teeth at South Jersey’s Auburn Road Vineyard Winery & Enoteca before moving on to Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery, Stokelan Estate Winery and now works as assistant winemaker and vineyard manager at Amalthea Cellars—has said that her experience in the New Jersey wine industry has been overwhelmingly positive, but that she still saw an opportunity for growth and change.

“I’ve been lucky to find some men in the industry who are very welcoming,” Reader says. “But unfortunately, that’s not the case for the majority of the men in the industry. I’d go to meetings and be the only woman there, and I’d get random comments about, like my shoes. I spoke to other women in the industry, and I realized they were dealing with the same issues. So I created this group as a space to work together and figure out how to expand women’s role in the New Jersey wine industry.”

There are plenty of women to draw from for Women in Wine. New Jersey, in recent years, has seen an influx of women growing and making the wines—Beneduce Vineyards, Cream Ridge Winery, Auburn Road Vineyards, Villa Milagro, and Working Dog are a few of the wineries with women in key positions. The culture of wine in New Jersey is also being shaped by women: The Garden State Wine Growers Association is now led by Executive Director Devon Perry.

“It’s not just for winemakers,” Reader says. “Women in Wine is for the whole industry, from producers and growers to consultants, journalists and tasting room managers.”

The Impact of Women in Wine

Women in Wine may be a young organization, but it is already making an impact. With 20 members, they have already organized job and skills training sessions—like how to operate a forklift and tractor.

“We’re trying to make sure women have these essential skills,” Reader says. “Women were approaching me and saying they wanted to learn how to operate a forklift, but the men they work with didn’t feel comfortable training them, or they didn’t feel comfortable asking for the training. But now, they know the basics for forklift and tractor work and those are marketable skills, beyond wine.”

For wine lovers though, the most exciting prospect on the horizon may be the collaborative wine they will produce together as a group, in addition to wine tastings and dinners planned for the future. The wine will be a white blend, comprised of white varietals donated by members of the group. The group will blend the wine together, beginning in January.

The final production will happen at Amalthea, but anyone in the group who wants to help with the winemaking, label design and bottling can pitch in, she says.

“We’re not 100% sure how many will participate, but we’re hoping to be able to release about 20 cases,” says Reader. “We’re also planning to do a wine pairing at our dinner in March, and people who attend will get a first taste of it there. The rest of the wine will be released in late summer. We’re hoping to use the funds we receive from the wine sale to fund scholarship and internship programs for women new to the industry, or women who want to advance their careers.”

If you’re thirsty for more, keep an eye on their Instagram @women_wine_nj. You’ll find updates on their latest initiatives and training, and be able to get details on wine tastings and dinners.

© 2019 Garden State Wine Growers Association Supported in part by a grant from the NJ Department of State, Division of Travel and Tourism
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