Inspiring Leadership Through Education: 24 Women Leaders Awarded Scholarships by E. & J. Gallo Winery’s Women Behind the Wine Educational Fund and the Women of the Vine & Spirits Foundation

In an inspirational virtual ceremony that emphasized diversity, community and a dedication to the advancement of women, 24 women leaders were awarded $80,000 in educational scholarships from E. & J. Gallo Winery’s Women Behind the Wine Educational Fund in collaboration with the Women of the Vine & Spirits Foundation.

The scholarships, which will empower and support the professional development of the next generation of women in the wine, food and beverage business, are supported by an annual donation by E. & J. Gallo Winery’s Women Behind the Wine platform. The scholarship winners include three who earned $10,000 grants for Master of Wine, Master Sommelier and university-level studies. The 21 Fuel Your Dreams Award winners received up to $3,000 each to help provide education, resources and opportunities to thrive in wine, spirits, food and related industries.

“It is an honor to represent E. & J. Gallo Winery and the work that we are all doing to ensure that our industry attracts the next generation of women leaders,” said Stephanie Gallo, Chief Marketing Officer at E. & J. Gallo Winery. “The foundation of success is knowledge. These scholarships will help you focus on your talent and your education, not your funding. These awards will help support you and make you even more powerful leaders.”

Winners, many with their families or friends alongside in support, were brought together on Thursday, October 15th for a virtual awards celebration. In a video played at the ceremony, many winners spoke of how earning the scholarships gave them the confidence and means to continue their educational path in a year that has been challenging for many in the wine and spirits industry.

“From day one, we’ve put education, personal development and professional development at the forefront because these are critical to advancing women in this industry,” says Deborah Brenner, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Women of the Vine & Spirits. “Thanks to the incredible generosity of the Gallo family and the Women Behind the Wine Educational Fund in giving both their expertise as well as financial support, we are able to take our scholarships to another level.”

“I’m especially proud of the diversity among our scholarship winners,” says Gina Gallo, Vice President of Estate Winemaking at E. & J. Gallo Winery. “They represent the strong, thriving community of women at every level and in every discipline within the wine and spirits business and we are proud to help support them. Through these funds, we are helping to deepen their education and empower their unique voices. Education gives us power and every new voice makes our industry stronger and more dynamic.”

The $10,000 Elizabeth Smyth Student Scholarship was earned by Martha Vicedomini CS, CSW, a student at Sonoma State University’s Global Wine Executive MBA Program as well as a Strategic Projects Manager at importer Empson USA, Inc. “The benefits are endless when everyone has the opportunity to live and work in an environment that values authenticity and diverse voices,” she says. “I am deeply encouraged by the dedication of individuals like Elizabeth, industry leading companies like E. & J. Gallo Winery, and advocacy groups like Women of the Vine & Spirits. I see every dollar in scholarship funding as a temporary loan — one which must get paid back by extending investment and opportunity to the women who come after me.”

The $10,000 Master Sommelier Scholarship was awarded to Elli Benchimol. An Advanced Sommelier studying for Master Sommelier in the Court of Master Sommeliers. She is the Head Sommelier at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab in Washington, DC as well as the Owner-Partner-Sommelier of Apéro DC, which is slated to open in spring 2021. “I’m so honored to be part of such a talented and inspiring group of women,” she says. “It’s such an amazing piece of positivity and light during such incredibly dark times.”  

The $10,000 Master of Wine Scholarship was earned by Florencia Gomez. Originally from Mendoza, Argentina, Florencia earned her winemaking degree from Universidad Tecnológica Nacional before working harvests across the world. She then worked as an Export Sales Manager for Grupo Peñaflor before settling in London as a Master of Wine student and freelance brand strategist. “In today’s challenging context, it is a tremendous motivation not only to keep moving forward with my MW studies, but also an invitation to keep engaging with important topics such as gender equality, cultural diversity and sustainable practices within the wine industry,” she says.

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