A toast to pioneer women in wine in the East End

Almost 50 wineries on Long Island have produced award-winning wines over the past four decades, but many of those wineries can only function because of the women who work behind the scenes.

Many women in decision-making positions find that there are more women than ever in the wine industry. But there is still a long way to go before they are also represented in the most crucial jobs, such as winemaking and management. Currently, the majority of women in the local wine industry are employed as hotel workers, but change is underway.

“I have observed a much higher percentage of women applying for vacancies or asking if we have a vacancy,” says Alie Shaper, co-founder of Chronicle Wines at Peconic. “For me, this is certainly proof of a radical change taking place in our great culture, where women feel empowered and come forward more frequently to bring opportunities into their lives.”

Since its founding by two women winegrowers, Shaper and Robin Epperson-McCarthy, 15 years ago, Chronicle Wines has grown into five brands. Shaper also owns a second company called Alie Shaper Fine Wines and is the winemaker of Croteaux Vineyards in Southold.

“We currently have a woman in every decision-making position in our company,” Shaper says. “It wasn’t so much by design, but it’s how our team developed organically. We tend to get a very high percentage of resumes from women, and we’ve been fortunate enough to build a truly powerful team.

And they are not alone.

Ami Opisso, General Manager of Lieb Cellars at Cutchogue, believes that what attracts women to the wine industry is the beauty and experience that comes with working in the industry.

“I think it’s a question of beauty and balance,” she says. “I spend most of my time in front of a computer, but I have to drive along an iconic farm road to get to work, and the view outside my office window is rows of gorgeous vines. “

In Cutchogue, Long Island, a picnic table is set for a romantic lunch at a vineyard.

Opisso says her goal is to work hard to ensure that every guest who walks through her door has an unforgettable experience, which is why Opisso believes her tasting room is the key to standing out.

“At Lieb, the high customer experience in our tasting room is what makes us different,” she says. “Our servers are all formally trained wine professionals, and our focus is on education, food pairing and an intimate experience.”

Lilia Perez of RGNY Wines in Riverhead thinks the wine industry still has a long way to go for women to achieve equality in the industry, but she is hopeful for the future.

“I feel so proud every time I see and meet more and more women involved,” she says.

The idea behind RGNY Wines is that innovation is key, says Perez, adding that innovation is what keeps customers coming back and also what sets them apart from the competition.

“We offer a modern approach to wine while adopting traditional winemaking techniques,” says Perez. “We are passionate and serious in our winemaking. We want our visitors to return home with a full wine experience, one they can share with others and which hopefully creates an interest in exploring and learning more about wine culture.

Allison Dubin is Partner and Managing Director of Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton. Her goal has been to work hard with the rest of the Channing Daughters staff to produce quality wine for their customers, but also to provide a fun and educational environment for visitors.

“Our sense of play and our creativity make for great wines,” she says. “We have an amazing support group of wine club members and guests who are an important part of what we do, as well as our team who have been together for so many years in the vineyard, winery and operations. tasting. “

Dubin’s career with Channing Daughters began in 1999 when she traveled to the vineyard to meet founder Larry Perrine. They have remained close over the years and is someone she considers one of her greatest teachers.

“I love this company so much and feel blessed to have my 20-year career here at Channing Daughters,” Dubin said. “We live in one of the most beautiful places and we can create something that provides fun while being stewards of our land and focusing on sustainability in our community.”

Epperson-McCarthy, who runs Saltbird Cellars in addition to his role at Chronicle Wines, believes his local knowledge sets his wine apart from the rest.

“This global wine education combined with the local knowledge derived from growing up on North Fork is what goes into every bottle of Saltbird Cellars wine,” says the winemaker.

She says her main goal is to make quality wine accessible to everyone, regardless of their economic status.

“Wine is made to be shared,” she says. “Wine and food are a reason people come together. Wine should not be the domain of the only elitists. Maybe a conversation with someone new can result in a new culinary tradition that wouldn’t have been eating and talking with the same people every day.

Jamesport Vineyards offers its customers a complete experience when they visit.

“Our staff know our wine well and can help customers determine their wine preferences,” says office manager Joanne Goerler. “On top of that, we also have a wood-fired oven on site, operating as the Little Oak Wood-Fired Kitchen. Our chef incorporates our wine into many of his dishes and educates our staff on wine suggestions to accompany his dishes. We hope our guests can enjoy, relax and take a break in our spacious backyard.

Jamesport Vineyards is a prime example of how women are starting to gain a foothold in the wine industry. Seventy-five percent of the vineyard staff are women. However, Goerler still believes there is still work to be done for women to have more practical jobs.

“There are studies that show that women are actually better suited to discerning flavors in wines, which can certainly be an asset in a female winegrower,” she says. “I would like to see more women represented in this capacity.”

For more information on food and drink, visit longislandpress.com/category/food-drink.

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