How Women In Wine Day Creators Have Persevered, Excelled In Wine Industry

It may surprise you to learn that 2021 is the first year for a National Women in Wine Day, given the important contributions women have made to the wine industry throughout its storied history.

The inaugural National Women in Wine Day, started by the co-creators and co-owners of Papapietro Perry Winery in Healdsburg, California, is set for Thursday, March 25. 

“There are many women who have pioneered in the wine industry, a business that has historically been primarily male. We cannot wait to celebrate and tell the stories about these women,” said Papapietro Perry CEO Renae Perry. 

The special day has an online presence at WomenInWineDay.com, and is welcoming suggestions of women to be honored and added to that site. Women will be featured on social media platforms and use of the hashtags #WomenInWineDay and #NationalWomenInWineDay are encouraged.

Vintner Magazine reached out to Perry and her fellow co-owner, Yolanda Papapietro, and the two shared their thoughts on business philosophy, resources they’ve found to be helpful, and important advice that’s helped them through their careers.

VINTNER: What are some significant challenges you have faced as women who are pioneers in the wine industry, and how have you overcome those challenges? What have you learned from your years in business?

PERRY: When you are the owner, I think you face less challenges than in other positions. It immediately gives you extra credibility. I do notice that in many situations, it is assumed that the man knows more and is in charge. Questions are directed at him rather than me. It’s an ingrained bias in many people. Our challenges in the wine industry are the same as in any industry. Look at the number of women CEOs leading major companies … a very small minority. I believe things are changing, but very slowly. We need to be good examples of female leadership and help and encourage other women to be successful.

PAPAPIETRO: I came from over 25 years in the insurance industry and when I started in insurance, it was definitely a man’s world, where men did business on a cocktail napkin over lunch. I cut my teeth in that industry and realized that I needed to prove myself by showing I had more to add, not only in the way I handled business but to go the extra mile to accomplish sometimes twice as much as what might have been expected of my peers. However, what I found as my career developed is that I loved what I was doing and enjoyed my clients and co-workers. I excelled because I loved what I was doing. I have been in love with wine since I married my husband Ben in the ’70s and we enjoyed drinking wine, visiting with other winemakers, and learning as much as we could about wine. I put the same effort into the wine business as I had in my previous career. What I learned from all of this is that if you love what you do, it can have great results!

VINTNER: Over the past half-century, women in many industries have emerged as leaders in growing numbers thanks to a number of factors. Who are your role models and, as business moguls who happen to be women, from where do you draw inspiration?

PERRY: On a grand scale, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a big inspiration. On a personal level, I and other women leaders in the wine industry in Sonoma have formed our own group of Women in Wine and have monthly get-togethers where we share ideas and solve problems. We have created a safe place to collaborate and talk about business with our peers. In my opinion, women tend to be more willing to ask for help and admit what they don’t know, we have created a place to do that. I draw inspiration from all of the women in that group.

PAPAPIETRO: When thinking of women I admire and from whom I drew inspiration, I have to again go back to my insurance days. Starting out, it was a man’s world, however, I was fortunate to be surrounded by other women like myself who were adaptable and able to understand their business to a point that they could make a difference by creating new approaches, new ideas and renew the industry by making entrepreneurial changes on how they approached business on a day to day basis. These women were and are fearless and confident and realize that their ideas are and their diversity is just as relevant, if not more so, as the ideas of doing business in the past. They believed they could make positive advancements and they have!

VINTNER: Are there resources you’d recommend for your fellow businesswomen in the wine industry? Continuing education? Literature? Anything else?

PERRY: Find a mentor… everyone needs someone to bounce ideas off of, or to give you a little boost when things are difficult.

PAPAPIETRO: Education in the wine business is just like education in any other industry. We will never know all there is to know, however, taking courses, drinking wine in a serious manner, reading everything you can get your hands on, and interacting with and learning from very knowledgeable people in the industry, here and around the world, are good ways to keep one focused and on track.

VINTNER: What is a piece of advice you received that helps you to this day?

PERRY: Someone else’s opinion of you does not define who you are.

PAPAPIETRO: A dear friend reminded me many years ago to identify my strengths and to focus on those strengths for a successful career, no matter in what industry I would find myself. Get to know your strengths and use them in a positive way to build upon and always aspire to do better. There is no limit to what we women can accomplish!

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