Fleming, of California's Fleming Jenkins Vineyards & Winery, answers our questions about working as a woman in the wine industry.
Q: How did you become involved in the wine business?
A: I love this story because our Chardonnay vineyard started as beautiful landscaping of a large area at the entrance of our house in the Santa Cruz Mountains. We knew that great wine has been made from vineyards close by for over 100 years. One thing led to another and now we have landscaping we can drink.
Q: What were some of the hurdles?
A: Just being more educated. When you invest in anything--gardening, landscaping, grapes or whatever--you want to educate yourself and see if your resources are well spent and interesting. We've found our vineyards to be a lot more fun than just having an apple orchard because after you tell people you grow Chardonnay grapes, they have a lot more questions and interest. So we really just slowly started educating ourselves on what this was all about and how we could grow the best grapes possible on our property and still make it look beautiful.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
A: I like drinking our wine (laughs). I enjoy just tasting the variety of all the wines that are out there and now being able to appreciate them more. We certainly like California wine, but enjoy learning about wine made in other states and other countries.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to do what you do?
A: Educate yourself first--talk to a lot of people who have gone through it with similar sized vineyards and just pick their brain as to what's involved. If you want to make it into a business, you must get deeper into asking advice before the first steps. It's not as easy or romantic as it may appear.
Q: How are women changing the wine industry?
A: I think we are leading new marketing approaches to the wine business and making great wine too. Seeing the big picture of what we can do other than just putting our name on the bottle. Women are using their wineries to help with charitable causes too.
Q: What are some of the misconceptions about women and wine?
A: That we don't get our hands dirty! That we just sit back and take the pretty pictures of holding the glass, but women in wine do get their hands dirty and their feet as well! But it's fun being a farmer, and helping craft excellent wine is like a major and ever-changing cooking project.
Q: Which of your own wines is your favorite and which wines do you generally prefer?
A: Well it depends on my mood! You can have all different wines with so many different foods these days. It's like picking your favorite child--we're very proud of all of our wines. We are proud of our brand and image and do a lot of work to keep things right.
Fleming Jenkins Vineyards & Winery, located at the Historic Novitiate Winery, 300-A College Avenue Los Gatos, Calif. 95030, 408/358-4949,flemingjenkinswinery.com.