As with so many industries, the upper echelons of the wineindustry were traditionally reserved for men. The past two decades have brought with them significant change, and the world of wine is becoming more inclusive. Washington wine pioneers like Nina Buty, Mary Derby, Eve-Marie Gilla, and Kay Simon have personally witnessed the shift away from male-only wine events, vineyard management, and seminars. Join us in raising a glass to the women who prune, pick, crush, and bottle some of the best wines in the world right here in Washington State.
For Sarah Hedges Goedhart, winemaking is a family affair. Her parents were winemakers. As she grew, she didn’t quite love the challenging agrarian lifestyle that her parents embraced. “I was a rebellious teen.’” Her parents encouraged her to get a college degree, so she went to college in California. She studied business and philosophy. Then she fell in love.
“She moved up to Santa Barbara to be near her boyfriend, whom she later married. “There was an opening in the tasting room, so I took it.” Sales was a new way for Goedhart to experience the wine world without having to prune, pick, crush, and bottle. The winery had a big year, and an additional crop of pinot noir grapes. “They didn’t know what to do with them, and they were going to just get rid of them. We picked 200 pounds of grapes, fermented them, and the wine was really good.” Goedhart was hooked. She and her husband moved to Davis, California to study winemaking. After Davis, they moved to Preston Winery in Dry Creek. Not only did Goedhart receive a great wine education, she learned other skills: breadmaking, fermenting, and organic gardening. “Lou Preston is a huge influence on me, and he really taught me so much about winemaking and a holistic approach to winemaking.” To this day, Goedhart bakes bread daily, tends chickens, and manages an organic garden in addition to running a winery.
In 2006, Goedhart and her husband moved “home” to Washington State. They took courses at Washington State University in enology and vitology. Goedhart moved back to the estate and began working again. Her uncle, Pete Hedges, was the head winemaker. “His assistant winemaker quit right before harvest.” Instead of just handing the job to Goedhart, he made her apply with all the others. He offered her the job. After he retired last year, Goedhart became head winemaker.
One of the bigger challenges for Goedhart is in proving herself. Being of a family winery, people make a lot of assumptions about her work ethic and her place in the winemaking world. But make no mistakes, she works hard. She also appreciates how hard women have had to work in winemaking to be taken seriously. “Twenty years ago, you could go to a seminar and not see a single woman. Now there are many women in the industry.” The thing that makes it hard is that women are in charge of managing men. “These men have worked for men their whole lives, so then they have to work for women.” It can be a challenge.
But it is very telling that in all the years Hedges has been in operation, most of the employees have been there a long time. “My parents did a great job in making sure this is a nice place to work. Some people have been here 15-20 years. Some of the people here now knew me when I was a teen.” Today, Goedhart’s children, ages 6 and 9, help with sampling grapes and checking off barrels. “As soon as they’re old enough, they’ll get stuck in the bottling line just like me.” With any luck, they’ll create wines as great as hers, too.