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These Females Craft Some Of Washington’s Finest Wines

An in-depth exploration of Washington State’s wine regions uncovers a space of inclusiveness, where everyone is welcome and where the possibilities are endless. With more than 1000 wineries and 400 vineyards, the sector is steered by individuals who are innovative: trailblazers, intellectuals, nonconformists, and mavericks, each leaving a remarkable impression in the state’s second-largest wine-producing area. Among them, about 250 are women—unified and supportive, much like no other. These women—makers, harvesters, cellar supervisors, hospitality specialists, and vintners—contribute to elevating the reputation of the state’s wines while rejoicing in the opportunities in this untamed, pioneering land of wine. Here are a few of the prominent women:

Amy Alvarez-Wampfler – Abeja 

In January 2016, vintner Amy Alvarez-Wampfler fulfilled a lifelong aspiration of teaming up with her partner, fellow vintner Dan Wampfler, when the duo joined Abeja in Walla Walla. Together, they engage in all aspects of winemaking while independently handling other aspects of the enterprise. Apart from winemaking, Amy also serves as the general overseer at Abeja. She supervises the winery’s tasting room, direct-to-consumer marketing and sales, and the fine dining experience at The Kitchen at Abeja.

Amy’s winemaking voyage commenced in 2005 at Columbia Crest, where she spent four years as the winery’s enologist for white wines, overseeing over 10,000 barrels of Chardonnay yearly. She subsequently transitioned to Sinclair Estate Vineyard, a startup in Walla Walla, where she held the positions of winemaker and general overseer for six years. Amy possesses an associate’s degree in applied arts and science in enology and viticulture from Walla Walla Community College and is an active member of the educational board for Altera, a group focused on promoting social fairness in education, particularly in rural areas. Amy resides in Walla Walla with Dan and their two daughters.

Lacey Lybecker – Cairdeas Winery

Lacey Lybecker, in collaboration with her spouse Charlie, owns and manages Cairdeas Winery on the northern coast of scenic Lake Chelan, where farming and grape cultivation come naturally to her. Brought up on a farm in northwestern Minnesota, she feels at ease among the vineyards. Specializing in Rhône-inspired wines (e.g. Cinsault, Carignan, Mourvedre, Syrah, etc.), the pair produces 8,000 cases yearly. As the president/owner, Lacey oversees Cairdeas’ business operations, including marketing, sales, and actively engages in harvest cellar work, vineyard upkeep, blending, and bottling. Previously, she held managerial roles in marketing within the nonprofit, events, and hospitality sectors. At present, she serves on the Board of Directors for the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce and is a former Washington State Wine Commissioner. Lacey resides in Manson, WA, with her husband, two sons, and three winery dogs, occasionally welcoming visitors at Cairdeas’ second tasting room in Seattle’s SoDo district. (Cairdeas, an ancient Gaelic term meaning friendship, pays tribute to the couple’s Irish heritage.)

Kerry Shiels – Côte Bonneville 

As the vintner at Yakima Valley’s Côte Bonneville, Kerry Shiels possesses a rich winemaking legacy. Grown in an environment where her parents played active roles in the nascent stages of the Washington wine scene, she initiated winemaking as part of her middle and high school science projects. Following her graduation with an engineering degree from Northwestern University in Chicago, Shiels engaged in work in Torino, Italy, and Chicago, Illinois, in Fiat’s management development program before completely immersing herself in the world of wine in 2005. While at Northwestern, her parents founded Côte Bonneville, concentrating on the unique grapes cultivated in the renowned DuBrul Vineyard of Yakima Valley.

After her spell at Fiat, she pursued a master’s degree in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis. She acquired experience in winemaking across California, Argentina, and Australia, laboring at various phases at Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Folio Fine Wine Partners, Robert Mondavi Winery, Tahbilk, and Tapiz before eventually returning to Côte Bonneville to dedicate her efforts full-time to the winery. Since 2009, Kerry has broadened beyond Bordeaux blends and Chardonnay to incorporate Riesling, Cab Franc Rosé, Syrah, and a second label, Train Station, honoring the winery’s historical tasting room location.

Kelsey Albro Itämeri – itä wines

In 2019, Kelsey Albro Itämeri established itä wines after interning at Domaine Jean Charton in Puligny-Montrachet, where she developed a profound admiration for vineyard-specific management and winemaking. She endeavored to apply the lessons learned to the distinguished vineyards in the eastern foothills of the Walla Walla Valley. Her path to winemaking took varied twists and turns. Following her graduation from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 2009, she operated as a political campaign manager, reality TV production assistant, executive assistant at Lionsgate Studios, sales and development manager at natural foods firms, and undertook diverse roles in San Francisco’s food and beverage scene.

In 2017, prior to journeying to Burgundy, she enrolled in Walla Walla Community College’s Institute for Enology & Viticulture while interning at Balboa Winery and The Walls Vineyards in Walla Walla. Originally from Seattle, Kelsey opted to settle on the sunlit side of the state, where she and her husband Kai procured land in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Since launching her inaugural vintage in 2020, itä wines have garnered multiple 90+ point ratings from esteemed wine publications. Discover itä wines at the winery’s incubators in the Walla Walla Airport District, just a brief drive from downtown Walla Walla.

Kate Derby – Spring Valley Vineyard

For vintner Kate Derby, Spring Valley Vineyard is more than a mere winery—it’s her abode. As the granddaughter of Spring Valley Vineyard proprietors Dean and Shari Corkrum Derby and the great-great-granddaughter of Spring Valley founder Uriah Corkrum, Kate continues to preserve the heritage of the highly praised winery as the head of winemaking operations. Having spent her summers at the Spring Valley ranch in Minnesota during her youth, mastering the intricacies of the wheat farm and winery, Kate immediately transitioned to working full-time for Spring Valley Vineyard immediately after graduating with a psychology degree from Bethel University in Minnesota.

She managed the winery’s tasting room, conducted tours of the winery and farm, and subsequently represented the brand across the nation. In conclusion, she undertook the role of the vintner, supervising the production and quality of Spring Valley’s prestigious wines.

Kate has been part of the winemaking crew since 2011. Taking on the position of vintner in 2023, she still produces exquisite wines that capture the essence of Spring Valley. Her conviction? Commence with exceptional components and allow their brilliance to shine through minimal yet intentional handling. With two young sons named Uriah and Malachi, Kate proudly identifies as a mother. Amid her rare moments of respite, she relishes tasting new wines, engaging in running, indulging in reading, and exploring photography.

Sarah Goedhart – Hedges Family Estate

Originating from Buenos Aires, Sarah Goedhart embarked on a enriching journey around the world during her early years, eventually settling in Seattle in 1986 to establish Hedges Family Estate within the Red Mountain AVA. The summers spent laboring in the vineyard and winery fostered a profound passion for the wine industry, which she subsequently transformed into her vocation. Sarah obtained business and philosophy degrees from the University of San Diego before pursuingEnrolled in chemistry studies at UC Santa Barbara, she also worked at Santa Barbara Winery, overseeing the tasting room operations and assisting with harvest activities. Upon relocating to Healdsburg, California, she assumed a significant role at Preston Vineyards, contributing substantially to the wine production process.

After returning in 2005 to her family’s winery, Sarah started her full-time position at Hedges in 2006 as the assistant winemaker while advancing her studies in enology at Washington State University. Before taking on a leadership role at Hedges in 2015, she co-founded the Goedhart Family label with her partner. Apart from producing wines, Sarah’s passion for fermentation extends to making homemade yogurt and baking artisan bread using a starter derived from biodynamic grapes. Her kitchen is filled with crocks of sauerkraut teeming with live cultures. In addition to her dedication to winemaking, Sarah finds happiness in tending to her garden, practicing yoga, and cherishing all forms of wildlife. Alongside her spouse Brent, Sarah resides in Richland, Washington, with their sons Lucas and Trevor, enjoying the presence of close friends while indulging in her favorite wine selections.

Maggie Hedges – Domaine Magdalena

Opting for the title of winegrower rather than winemaker, Maggie Hedges crafts an exceptional Red Mountain Cabernet under her renowned brand, Domaine Magdalena. Originally from California, Maggie’s interest in wine blossomed after a transformative encounter with a Ridge Montebello Cabernet. Immersing herself in the nuances of Washington’s terroir with her husband, Christophe of Hedges Family Estate, they got married in 2004 and promptly established a vineyard on Red Mountain specializing in 4 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. They commenced organic farming from the outset, achieving Demeter certification for their Biodynamic viticulture in 2011 following years of fruit farming and sales.

Moving into wine production under the Domaine Magdalena brand in 2014, Maggie and Christophe firmly believe that exceptional wines originate in the vineyard, fostering a balanced ecosystem that allows the grapes to express their unique stories through optimal growth and ripening. They embrace a natural, minimal intervention winemaking approach, permitting the fruit to ferment with its indigenous, wild yeasts after the harvest and crushing processes. Sarah Goedhart, Christophe’s sister, oversees the fermentation procedures. Emphasizing the crucial role of land stewardship, Maggie and Christophe’s home amidst the vineyard exemplifies their dedication. Together with their two children and a variety of pets, they make their home within the vineyard premises.

Shae Frichette – Frichette Winery

Prior to founding Frichette Winery in Washington’s Red Mountain AVA, Shae Frichette led the Organizational Development Function at Stanley Black & Decker – HHI, designing Leadership Development Programs for employees across four countries. Currently, she serves as the assistant winemaker for the esteemed Frichette Wines and takes on the role of head winemaker for Sashay Wines, a subsidiary label specializing in accessible reds and semi-sweet Rosés made from Columbia Valley AVA grapes. With a Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 accreditation and having completed the Introductory Course and Exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers, Shae has earned accolades, including the 2015 ATHENA Young Professional Award.

Recognized for her enterprising spirit and professional accomplishments, including her induction as a Rising Star in the Mid-Columbia Ag Hall of Fame, Shae epitomizes the essence of a community leader. Actively engaged in numerous boards such as the Red Mountain AVA Alliance, Tri-Cities Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Visit Tri-Cities, Shae also volunteers her time on the UW Foster School of Business Advisory Board and collaborates with the Red Mountain AVA Alliance. A proponent of her community, Shae devotes her time to sharing her expertise on wines with over twenty non-profit organizations in the Tri-Cities region annually.

When not engrossed in winemaking or delivering presentations at conferences on networking and team cohesion, she cherishes moments with her family, enjoys a glass of wine, or indulges in writing pursuits. Holding a B.A. in Theatre from Winthrop University, Shae possesses leadership and facilitator certifications from respected institutions like Franklin Covey and Ken Blanchard, culminating with the CPCC distinction from the Coaches Training Institute.

Image Source: Stokkete / Shutterstock

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