Women in Wine Conference Off to a Strong Third Year
August 26, 2021
By Liza Zimmerman
This year’s Women in Wine Oregon gathering, the second time it was virtual, was attended by slightly more than 300 attendees. Most were women from the West Coast. Fifty-two percent of the attendees worked at wineries, another 16 percent were employed in the wine business and close to seven percent were media, including yours truly.
The state of Oregon featured several communal watch parties in locations from Portland to Ashland and several other wine regions in between. The conference was a mix of inspirational speakers addressing diversity in the wine business to coaches discussing how to negotiate your salary at a new job.
I recently sat down with Julie Dalrymple, the vice president of Women in Wine Oregon, who is also the membership and sponsorship coordinator for the Willamette Valley Wineries’ Association, and she provided more insight into the goals and history of the West Coast wine pow wow. All answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.
What was unique about this year’s conference?
Julie Dalrymple (J.D.): While we had hoped to return to an in-person event this year, we knew the timing would be tricky so we opted for a hybrid model, where we also offered four in-person watch parties throughout Oregon where people could gather and watch the virtual event together. The virtual model actually allowed us to book speakers from across the country that may not have been able to travel here for an in-person event and it even allowed us to reach attendees from 18 different states!
L.B.Z.: How did you find your speakers?
J.D.: We have a dedicated, volunteer-based programming committee, which was led this year by one of our board members: Alison Sokol Blosser. That team worked together for the past year to create a speaker base that would have a wide appeal covering everything from diversity and inclusion to pay equity and climate change.
L.B.Z.: Do you hope to take it back live next year?
J.D.: Yes! We are already beginning to plan for the 2022 event. We're unsure of the model but do hope to have a significant in-person component.
L.B.Z.: What stood out to you about it this year?
J.D.: Providing the opportunity for people to gather together again in small groups was really incredible. The energy in the room was so positive and inspiring. While it was nice to be able to present the event virtually, nothing replaces that in-person connection. The board and committees really came together to create an incredible event.
L.B.Z.: What, for you, were the most salient take away points?
J.D.: There were so many take-aways throughout the day, but I was especially inspired by the session titled “Making an Honest Commitment to Diversity” by Amelia Ransom. She provided so many actionable suggestions for taking a genuine stand for diversity in the workplace and beyond, including the reminder to always ask yourself why you're making decisions and what the real reason behind your actions is.
L.B.Z.: Why did you choose to involve a male co-moderator: Vince Vidrine, the winemaker at Irvine & Roberts winery in Ashland?
J.D.: Our organization is open to everyone, even men. We value the male perspective and feel that men need to hear our voices to understand how to make positive change. Vince is a valued member of our board of directors and has been a real advocate for enhancing women's voices.
L.B.Z.: Was the focus this year more on inspirational topics than wine?
J.D.: We try to offer a broad perspective to attendees. There was really something for everyone at this conference. Whether you work in the wine industry or not, you walked away inspired and motivated. We did try to bring in speakers who at least had a connection to wine: for example, our keynote Cristie Kerr is a golf pro but also owns a winery and donates proceeds to breast cancer research. Some speakers—such as author Elizabeth Gilbert—were not connected to the wine industry, but provided a unique and general perspective that could be helpful to many people.
L.B.Z.: What is unique about a conference like this taking place in Oregon? How does it look and feel different in our state?
J.D.: Oregon is known as a pioneering frontier in the wine industry and we're taking a bigger spotlight in the global market. Women have led many of the original wineries in Oregon and continue to forge ahead in this still-emerging landscape. The founders of Women in Wine in Oregon saw an opportunity to organize women in the local wine industry and create a strong force for change and empowerment. It's exciting to see the success happening in real time!
L.B.Z.: What feedback have you gotten from the women who participated?
J.D.: The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from our attendees. They appreciated the hybrid model of offering in-person watch parties and felt that the content was relevant to their lives and careers.
L.B.Z.: What are your plans for next year?
J.D.: That is currently being determined. We're excited to start forming the 2022 event and hope to return to an in-person format, but we may integrate some virtual components since they were so successful. Also, we will have more community engagement events throughout the year, as well as a mentorship program that we will launch later this year. We're excited to share our plans as they solidify!