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Photo by Kym Ellis via Unsplash

A close peek into Washington State’s wine regions reveals an industry of inclusion, where everyone is welcome and where anything is possible. The state’s 1000+ wineries and 400+ vineyards are led by those who know no bounds: dreamers, philosophers, bohemians, and mavericks, each of whom is making a celebrated mark within the nation’s second-largest wine producing state. Of this group, about 250 are women—as collegial a bunch as one will find in any industry. These women—growers, harvest hands, cellar masters, hospitality professionals and winemakers—help to elevate the state’s wine profile while celebrating all that is possible in this, the wild, wild west of wine. Here are some of the women leading the charge:  

Amy Alvarez-Wampfler

Amy Alvarez-Wampfler – Abeja 

In January 2016, winemaker Amy Alvarez-Wampfler fulfilled a dream of working with her husband, fellow winemaker Dan Wampfler, when the two joined Walla Walla’s Abeja. The duo collaborates on all aspects of winemaking while independently overseeing other areas of the business. In addition to winemaking, Amy serves as general manager. She is responsible for Abeja’s tasting room, direct-to-consumer marketing and sales, and fine dining at The Kitchen at Abeja. Amy began making wine in 2005 at Columbia Crest where she spent four years as the winery’s white wine enologist, managing more than 10,000 barrels of Chardonnay annually. She then joined Sinclair Estate Vineyard, a Walla Walla start-up, where she served as winemaker and general manager for six years. She holds an associate’s degree in applied arts and science in enology and viticulture from Walla Walla Community College, and is an active educational board member for Altera, a group working to advance social equity in education, particularly in rural areas. She and Dan and their two daughters live in Walla Walla. 

Lacey Lybecker

Lacey Lybecker – Cairdeas Winery

Farming and grape growing come naturally to Lacey Lybecker, who, along with husband Charlie, owns and operates Cairdeas Winery on the north shore of beautiful Lake Chelan. She grew up on a northwestern Minnesota farm, and feels right at home amongst the vineyards. Specializing in Rhône Inspired wines (i.e. Cinsault, Carignan, Mourvedre, Syrah, etc.), the couple produces 8,000 cases annually. As president/owner, Lacey manages Cairdeas’ business operations including marketing and sales, while also taking part in harvest cellar work, tending the vines, blending, and bottling. Previously, she held marketing management roles in the nonprofit, events, and hospitality fields. She currently serves on the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and is a former Washington State Wine Commissioner. She lives in Manson, WA with her husband, two sons, and three winery dogs, and can occasionally be found greeting guests at Cairdeas’ adjunct wine tasting room within Seattle’s SoDo district. (Cairdeas is an ancient Gaelic word meaning friendship, and is an homage to the couples’ Irish ancestry.)

Kerry Shiels

Kerry Shiels – Côte Bonneville 

The winemaker for Yakima Valley’s Côte Bonneville, Kerry Shiels possesses a winemaking pedigree. Her parents were active in the early days of the Washington wine industry, and thus, she began making wine in middle and high school for a series of science projects. After earning her engineering degree from Northwestern University in Chicago, Shiels worked in Torino, Italy and Chicago, Illinois in Fiat’s management development program before fully entering the world of wine in 2005. While she was at Northwestern, her parents founded Côte Bonneville, showcasing the distinctive grapes grown in Yakima Valley’s iconic DuBrul Vineyard. After her time with Fiat, she earned her master’s degree in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis, and gained experience in California, Argentina, and Australia, working in all aspects of winemaking at Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Folio Fine Wine Partners, Robert Mondavi Winery, Tahbilk, and Tapiz, before returning home to Côte Bonneville to work full time at the winery. Since 2009, Kerry has expanded beyond Bordeaux blends and Chardonnay to also make Riesling, Cab Franc Rosé, Syrah, and a second label, Train Station, that celebrates the winery’s historic tasting room location.

Kelsey Albro Itämeri

Kelsey Albro Itämeri – itä wines

Kelsey Albro Itämeri founded itä wines in 2019 after an internship at Domaine Jean Charton in the village of Puligny-Montrachet, where she gained a deep appreciation for site-specific vineyard management and winemaking. She strove to bring back lessons learned to the unique vineyards of the eastern foothills of the Walla Walla Valley. Her road to winemaking was long and winding. After graduating from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 2009, she served as a political campaign manager, a reality TV production assistant and coordinator, an executive assistant at Lionsgate Studios, sales and development manager at natural foods companies, and held varied roles in San Francisco’s food and beverage industry. In 2017, prior to her travels 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 chose to settle on the sunny side of the state, where she and her husband Kai purchased land in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Since the release of her inaugural 2020 vintage, itä wines have garnered multiple 90+ point ratings from a number of respected wine publications. Sample itä wines at the winery incubators in the Walla Walla Airport District, a short drive from downtown Walla Walla.

Kate Derby. Photo by Richard Duvall Photography

Kate Derby – Spring Valley Vineyard

For winemaker Kate Derby, Spring Valley Vineyard is more than a winery—it’s home. The granddaughter of Spring Valley Vineyard owners Dean and Shari Corkrum Derby and great-great-granddaughter of Spring Valley founder Uriah Corkrum, Kate continues to build the legacy of the highly-acclaimed winery as leader of winemaking operations. As a child growing up in Minnesota, she spent summers at the Spring Valley ranch, just a bit northeast of Walla Walla, learning the workings of the wheat farm and winery. A week after graduating with a psychology degree from Minnesota’s Bethel University, she moved to the ranch and began working full time for Spring Valley Vineyard, helping manage the tasting room and giving tours of the winery and farm. She then hit the road, representing the brand across the country, finally joining the winemaking team in 2011. Since taking the helm as winemaker in 2023, Kate continues to make beautiful wines that are uniquely Spring Valley. Her philosophy? Start with amazing ingredients and let them shine with limited but thoughtful manipulation. She is proud to call herself mom to two young boys, Uriah and Malachi, and in the little spare time she has, she enjoys trying new wines, running, reading, and photography.

Sarah Goedhart

Sarah Goedhart – Hedges Family Estate

Born in Buenos Aires, Sarah Goedhart spent her early years traveling the globe with her family, before they settled in Seattle in 1986 to found Hedges Family Estate in the Red Mountain AVA. Summers spent working in the vineyard and winery led to a love for the wine industry, to which she would ultimately dedicate her career. She graduated from the University of San Diego with degrees in business and philosophy, and later attended UC Santa Barbara to study chemistry while working for Santa Barbara Winery where she managed the tasting room and helped with harvest. She went on to work for Healdsburg, California’s Preston Vineyards, helping with wine production. In 2005, she moved back home to work for the family winery, and joined Hedges full-time in 2006 as assistant winemaker while earning her certificate degree in enology from Washington State University. She then founded the label Goedhart Family with her husband prior to becoming Hedges’ head winemaker in 2015. Sarah’s love for fermentation doesn’t stop with wine. She makes her own yogurt and bakes rustic bread using a starter she created with biodynamic grapes. Sauerkraut crocks bubble away in her kitchen. She loves gardening, yoga, and animals big and small. She lives in Richland, Washington with her husband Brent and their sons Lucas and Trevor. Her favorite wine is whichever she is drinking with good friends.

Maggie Hedges

Maggie Hedges – Domaine Magdalena

Preferring the term winegrower to winemaker, Maggie Hedges crafts a superlative Red Mountain Cabernet under her eponymous label, Domaine Magdalena. A California native whose first “a-ha” wine moment came compliments of a Ridge Montebello Cabernet, Maggie learned the nuances of Washington terroir via her husband Christophe of Hedges Family Estate. The couple married in 2004, and instead of a honeymoon, they planted a vineyard on Red Mountain where they grow 4 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. They farmed organically from the first year, and in 2009 started the process for obtaining Demeter certification for Biodynamic viticulture, which was granted in 2011. After several years of farming and selling fruit each harvest, they made the leap in 2014 to produce the first wine under the Domaine Magdalena label. With a belief that all great wines begin in the vineyard, Maggie and Christophe maintain a vibrant, balanced ecosystem in the vineyard, allowing the grapes to grow and mature to tell their unique story. They practice natural, low intervention winemaking; once the fruit is picked and crushed, it ferments with its own native, wild yeasts. (Christophe’s sister Sarah Goedhart oversees fermentation processes.) Being thoughtful stewards of the land is essential to the couple, whose home, which they share with two children, two dogs, and two mouse-cats, is in the vineyard. 

Shae Frichette

Shae Frichette – Frichette Winery

Prior to founding Frichette Winery in Washington’s Red Mountain AVA, Shae Frichette lead the Organizational Development Function for Stanley Black & Decker – HHI where she designed Leadership Development Programs for associates in four countries. Today, she is assistant winemaker for limited production Frichette Wines and also the head winemaker for a second label, Sashay Wines, a line of approachable reds and off dry Rosés made with Columbia Valley AVA wine grapes. Shae has completed Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Level 2, and Introductory Course and Exam to Court of Master Sommeliers. She is the 2015 ATHENA Young Professional Award recipient, a recipient of the 2015 Entrepreneurial Award, 2015 Young Professional Award recipient, inductee as a Rising Star in the Mid-Columbia Ag Hall of Fame and graduate of the Leadership Tri-Cities Class XX. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Red Mountain AVA Alliance and currently serves on the boards of the Tri-Cities Regional Chamber of Commerce and Visit Tri-Cities. In addition, she serves on an Advisory Board for the UW Foster School of Business and volunteers for the Red Mountain AVA Alliance. As a community advocate, Shae volunteers by sharing wine and wine education for more than twenty non-profits in the Tri-Cities area each year. When she’s not winemaking, or speaking at conferences and events on topics such as networking and teambuilding, she can be found spending time with her family, enjoying a glass of wine, or writing. She holds a B.A. in Theatre from Winthrop University in South Carolina, leadership and facilitator certifications from Franklin Covey, Ken Blanchard, and Achieve Global and has the distinction of the CPCC from Coaches Training Institute.

Photos courtesy of each of the women

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