Over several decades, the ladies of Disney have become much more than typical damsels in distress. In reality, the same is true of women in the workplace as women take on less traditional roles in industries of every variety. In Livermore Valley, the booming wine industry is no exception.
Winemaking and viticulture have traditionally been a male-dominated endeavor. Did you know that of nearly 4,000 California wineries, only about 10 percent of the lead winemakers are women? We love when women star in a wine region’s story, and Livermore Valley’s got four leading ladies that remind us of a few of our favorite Disney characters.
Sure, it’s not all fairy dust and wishing wells when it comes to getting the job done, but these four female powerhouses prove that with hard work, the dreams that you wish really do come true.
Heather McGrail stars as Cinderella
“A dream is a wish your heart makes.” – Cinderella
Say hello to Heather McGrail, second-generation vintner and president of McGrail Vineyards. Heather might not have an evil stepmother bossing her around, but the lighthearted blonde works hard to make the family business a huge success.
You’ll likely see her pouring wine, talking shop at the family’s tasting room atop Greenville Road, or in interviews with local press—all without the aid of a fairy godmother! In addition to managing the winery’s sales and marketing, Heather works closely with her younger sister Shannon (also not evil), manager of the tasting room.
In 2012, McGrail Vineyards took top honors, the Red Sweepstakes Award, at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. It’s a real Cinderella story, one that solidified the McGrail name within Livermore Valley, as well as Heather’s place at the top of the family business.
Rhonda Wood stars as Merida
“If you had a chance to change your fate, would you?” – Merida
Rhonda Wood knows a few things about changing fate. This determined dynamo hasn’t always been a winemaker. Before she became the lead winemaker at Wood Family Vineyards, she was flying high for US Airways piloting commercial aircrafts.
Rhonda is a self-taught winemaker and champion of Livermore soil. She has her hands in everything, from tending the vines and winemaking to hosting annual events — a real DIY kind of gal.
Rhonda’s sharp aim on wine education has led to a full-time career as a winemaker in Livermore Valley. While she certainly doesn’t need the help of a man, her husband Michael assists her work during harvest season, producing more than 500 cases of wine a year.
Carolyn Wente stars as Elsa
“It’s time to see what I can do; to test the limits and break through!” — Elsa
If Livermore had wine royalty, Carolyn Wente would likely be the queen. Not only does she look great in a business suit from atop the empire of Wente Vineyards, but she’s also a born and raised Livermore Valley local.
Carolyn comes from a long line of Livermore Valley vintners and has seen her fair share of storms. Today, Carolyn is the CEO of Wente Family Estates. Her accomplishments stretch over an impressive 30 years and include maintaining her family’s legacy, which began with 47 acres in 1883.
Carolyn’s cool business demeanor has helped grow Wente Vineyards into an affluent lifestyle brand. Although she’s never locked herself away in a tower made of ice, she’s more than familiar with ruling a kingdom.
Chris Chandler stars as Tinkerbell
“All you need is faith, trust and little pixie dust.” – Peter Pan
Chris Chandler is Livermore Valley’s local sprite. The petite blonde may not be harvesting grapes from a family vineyard, but her role in Livermore Valley has been paramount in building the wine region over the last eight years.
As the executive director of the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association, Chris has helped bring awareness to the area by showcasing its world-class wines through community-based events and education initiatives.
Chris is that special something that brings the community together to protect and promote Livermore Valley’s wines, vineyards and experiences. With her tiny but mighty team (fellow fairies), the Winegrowers Association helps people who don’t work in the wine industry do what they do best—drink wine!
So, let’s raise a glass to Livermore Valley’s leading ladies who inspire us to take center stage in our own story. After all:
“If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney
By Whitney Butler