International Women's Day with Our Winemaker
Meet Ashley Herzberg, our in-house winemaker (and one of our MVPs). She lives among the vineyards of Dry Creek Valley, where she works and raises her children. Read the interview below to learn more about how she spends her days, how she got into her field, and what she thinks about the ever-changing landscape of the wine industry (especially for women).
Tell us a bit about yourself. What drew you to the wine industry?
I grew up near Lake Tahoe and went to college in Reno, Nevada to study chemical engineering. I really intended to go to medical school but a stint working in a hospital put that dream to rest. After college, I worked one harvest in Sonoma County that has morphed into a 17 year career. Winemaking is such a combination of science plus art plus being connected to mother nature and our environment. I absolutely love it!
What does a typical day look like for you as Avaline's winemaker?
I think one of the things I love about winemaking is how wildly different every single day can be. Because of the seasonality of the wine industry and the unpredictable element of weather, no two days or vintages are ever the same. During harvest, I spend my days waking up around 4 am to supervise a pick, then head to other vineyards to sample grapes and see when they are ready to harvest. I then go to the winery and process grapes and taste through ferments. The rest of the year, I spend time each day tasting MANY wines, putting together blends, preparing for bottlings and planning for the next vintage. My days are ever changing and truly never boring!
What do you love about being a woman in wine?
I love the friendship and camaraderie that women have in this industry. I’ve never felt any competitive nature but more a spirit of collaboration, sharing ideas, and pushing each other forward. Especially since my background is in engineering and I faced a very different and particularly male dominated field, it has been an absolute joy to work with women in this industry.
How do you see the landscape of the wine industry changing, especially for women?
Even when I started in this industry in 2006, I had people saying that winemaking is more of a male oriented position because of the physicality. That mindset and attitude has shifted so much. Women are taking roles as head winemakers, vineyard managers, viticulturalists, and I’ve seen a particular rise in women starting their own wine brands. This is so inspiring as I think females have a unique perspective and very unique palates and I love tasting female created wines. They resonate with me and my palate so much!
Are there any female or non-male winemakers whose wines you’re loving lately?
I absolutely love Emme Wines. Made by Rosalind Reynolds (who is also assistant winemaker at Pax Wines), these wines are fun, delicious and unique expressions of their terroir. Ros uses old (but new again) methods of making wine like foot treading, Methode Ancestral sparklings and no new oak. I highly recommend the carignane (but really all of them!). My other favorite is Read-Holland Wines. Made by Ashley Holland, these wines are site specific and intensely flavored and delicious. Ashley really loves working out of cooler sites and has a unique specialty in Northern California of making Riesling.
Do you have any advice for other women or female-bodied people looking to break into the wine industry?
Apply for a harvest position with your favorite winery (hopefully with a female winemaker!). Ask all the questions. Even if a winery doesn’t have a position listed, write to them to ask. Once you get your foot in the door, try all the wines you can and make connections. Wine is an industry based so much on connections so have an open mind and open heart. It will take you very far!
"I love tasting female-created wines. They resonate with me and my palate so much!"
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