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These Women Craft Some Of Washington’s Finest Wines

Image Source: Stokkete / Shutterstock

A deep dive into the wine regions of Washington State reveals a sector of inclusivity, where all are invited and where the sky’s the limit. With over 1000 wineries and 400 vineyards, the industry is led by individuals who are boundary-pushing: visionaries, thinkers, free spirits, and rebels, each leaving a notable mark in the state’s second-largest wine-producing region. Among them, approximately 250 are women—united and supportive, much like no other. These women—producers, harvesters, cellar managers, hospitality experts, and vintners—contribute to raising the profile of the state’s wines while celebrating the possibilities in this untamed, pioneering land of wine. Here are a few of the leading ladies:

Amy Alvarez-Wampfler – Abeja 

In January 2016, winemaker Amy Alvarez-Wampfler realized a lifelong dream of collaborating with her spouse, fellow winemaker Dan Wampfler, when the couple joined Abeja in Walla Walla. Together, they work on all facets of winemaking while managing other aspects of the business independently. Besides winemaking, Amy also holds the position of general manager at Abeja. She oversees the winery’s tasting room, direct-to-consumer marketing and sales, and the fine dining experience at The Kitchen at Abeja.

Amy’s winemaking journey began in 2005 at Columbia Crest, where she spent four years as the winery’s enologist for white wines, managing over 10,000 barrels of Chardonnay annually. She later moved to Sinclair Estate Vineyard, a startup in Walla Walla, where she served as winemaker and general manager for six years. Amy holds an associate’s degree in applied arts and science in enology and viticulture from Walla Walla Community College and is an active member of the educational board for Altera, a group focused on promoting social equity in education, especially in rural regions. Amy resides in Walla Walla with Dan and their two daughters.

Lacey Lybecker – Cairdeas Winery

Lacey Lybecker, alongside her husband Charlie, owns and operates Cairdeas Winery on the northern shore of picturesque Lake Chelan, where farming and grape cultivation feel like second nature to her. Raised on a farm in northwestern Minnesota, she finds herself at home among the vineyards. Specializing in Rhône-inspired wines (e.g. Cinsault, Carignan, Mourvedre, Syrah, etc.), the couple produces 8,000 cases annually. As the president/owner, Lacey oversees Cairdeas’ business operations, including marketing, sales, and actively participates in harvest cellar work, vineyard care, blending, and bottling. Previously, she held management positions in marketing within the nonprofit, events, and hospitality sectors. Currently, she sits on the Board of Directors for the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce and is a former Washington State Wine Commissioner. Lacey lives in Manson, WA, with her husband, two sons, and three winery dogs, occasionally welcoming visitors at Cairdeas’ second tasting room in Seattle’s SoDo district. (Cairdeas, an ancient Gaelic word meaning friendship, pays tribute to the couple’s Irish heritage.)

Kerry Shiels – Côte Bonneville 

As the winemaker at Yakima Valley’s Côte Bonneville, Kerry Shiels holds a rich winemaking heritage. Growing up with parents actively involved in the infancy of the Washington wine scene, she started making wine as part of her middle and high school science projects. After graduating with an engineering degree from Northwestern University in Chicago, Shiels worked in Torino, Italy, and Chicago, Illinois, in Fiat’s management development program before completely immersing herself in the world of wine in 2005. While at Northwestern, her parents established Côte Bonneville, focusing on the unique grapes cultivated in the legendary DuBrul Vineyard of Yakima Valley.

After her stint at Fiat, she pursued a master’s degree in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis. She gained experience in winemaking across California, Argentina, and Australia, working at various stages at Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Folio Fine Wine Partners, Robert Mondavi Winery, Tahbilk, and Tapiz before finally returning to Côte Bonneville to devote her energies full-time to the winery. Since 2009, Kerry has expanded beyond Bordeaux blends and Chardonnay to include Riesling, Cab Franc Rosé, Syrah, and a second label, Train Station, paying homage to the winery’s historic tasting room location.

Kelsey Albro Itämeri – itä wines

In 2019, Kelsey Albro Itämeri founded itä wines after interning at Domaine Jean Charton in Puligny-Montrachet, where she developed a profound appreciation for vineyard-specific management and winemaking. She endeavored to apply the lessons learned to the distinct vineyards in the eastern foothills of the Walla Walla Valley. Her journey to winemaking took various twists and turns. After graduating from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 2009, she worked as a political campaign manager, reality TV production assistant, executive assistant at Lionsgate Studios, sales and development manager at natural foods companies, and held diverse roles in San Francisco’s food and beverage scene.

In 2017, before traveling 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 launching her first vintage in 2020, itä wines have received multiple 90+ point ratings from esteemed wine publications. Experience itä wines at the winery’s incubators in the Walla Walla Airport District, just a short drive from downtown Walla Walla.

Kate Derby – Spring Valley Vineyard

For winemaker Kate Derby, Spring Valley Vineyard is more than just a winery—it’s her home. As the granddaughter of Spring Valley Vineyard proprietors Dean and Shari Corkrum Derby and the great-great-granddaughter of Spring Valley founder Uriah Corkrum, Kate continues to uphold the legacy of the highly acclaimed winery as the head of winemaking operations. Having spent her summers at the Spring Valley ranch in Minnesota during her childhood, learning the ins and outs of the wheat farm and winery, Kate quickly transitioned to working full-time for Spring Valley Vineyard right after graduating with a psychology degree from Bethel University in Minnesota.

She managed the winery’s tasting room, conducted tours of the winery and farm, and subsequently represented the brand across the nation. Finally, she assumed the role of the winemaker, overseeing the production and quality of Spring Valley’s prestigious wines.

Kate has been part of the winemaking crew since 2011. Assuming the role of winemaker in 2023, she still creates exquisite wines that capture the essence of Spring Valley. Her belief? Commence with exceptional components and allow their brilliance to shine through minimal yet deliberate handling. With two young sons named Uriah and Malachi, Kate proudly identifies as a mother. During her scarce leisure moments, she savors sampling new wines, engaging in running, indulging in reading, and exploring photography.

Sarah Goedhart – Hedges Family Estate

Originating from Buenos Aires, Sarah Goedhart embarked on an enriching journey across the globe during her early life, eventually settling in Seattle in 1986 to establish Hedges Family Estate</u encased within the Red Mountain AVA. The summers of toiling in the vineyard and winery forged a deep passion for the wine sector, which she later transformed into her profession. Sarah earned business and philosophy degrees from the University of San Diego before pursuing studies in chemistry at UC Santa Barbara, concurrently working at Santa Barbara Winery, managing the tasting room, and aiding in harvest activities. Transitioning to Healdsburg, California’s Preston Vineyards, she played a pivotal role in wine production.

Returning home in 2005 to her family’s winery, Sarah assumed her full-time role at Hedges in 2006 as the assistant winemaker while advancing her enology studies at Washington State University. Preceding her leadership position at Hedges in 2015, she established the Goedhart Family label with her spouse. Beyond wines, Sarah’s affection for fermentation extends to crafting homemade yogurt and baking rustic bread using a starter cultivated from biodynamic grapes. Her kitchen harbors sauerkraut crocks bubbling with life. Apart from her dedication to winemaking, Sarah finds joy in gardening, practicing yoga, and cherishing all forms of creatures. With her husband Brent, Sarah resides in Richland, Washington, alongside their sons Lucas and Trevor, reveling in the company of good friends while savoring her preferred wine selection.

Maggie Hedges – Domaine Magdalena

Embracing the title of winegrower over winemaker, Maggie Hedges curates an exceptional Red Mountain Cabernet under her signature brand, Domaine Magdalena. Hailing from California, Maggie’s fascination with wine blossomed after a revelatory encounter with a Ridge Montebello Cabernet. Delving into the intricacies of Washington’s terroir through her spouse Christophe of Hedges Family Estate, the couple tied the knot in 2004, promptly establishing a vineyard on Red Mountain producing 4 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. They initiated organic farming from the outset, attaining Demeter certification for Biodynamic viticulture in 2011 following years of fruit farming and sales.

Transitioning into wine production under the Domaine Magdalena brand in 2014, Maggie and Christophe firmly believe that exceptional wines commence in the vineyard, nurturing a harmonious ecosystem that enables the grapes to narrate their distinctive tales through optimal growth and maturation. They adopt a natural, minimal intervention winemaking approach, allowing the fruit to ferment with its native, wild yeasts post-harvest and crushing operations. Sarah Goedhart, Christophe’s sister, oversees the fermentation processes. Upholding the vital role of land stewardship, Maggie and Christophe’s abode amidst the vineyard epitomizes their commitment. Together with their two children and a menagerie of pets, they reside within the vineyard premises.

Shae Frichette – Frichette Winery

Prior to establishing Frichette Winery in Washington’s Red Mountain AVA, Shae Frichette spearheaded the Organizational Development Function at Stanley Black & Decker – HHI, designing Leadership Development Programs for associates across four countries. Presently, she serves as the assistant winemaker for the exclusive Frichette Wines and assumes the head winemaker role for Sashay Wines, a secondary label offering accessible reds and semi-sweet Rosés crafted from Columbia Valley AVA grapes. Possessing Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 accreditation and completing the Introductory Course and Exam to the Court of Master Sommeliers, Shae has garnered accolades, including the 2015 ATHENA Young Professional Award.

Recognized for her entrepreneurial spirit and professional achievements, including induction as a Rising Star in the Mid-Columbia Ag Hall of Fame, Shae epitomizes the essence of a community leader. Actively involved in several boards such as the Red Mountain AVA Alliance, Tri-Cities Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Visit Tri-Cities, Shae also volunteers her time serving the UW Foster School of Business Advisory Board and engaging with the Red Mountain AVA Alliance. An advocate for her community, Shae dedicates her time to sharing her knowledge on wines with over twenty non-profit organizations in the Tri-Cities region annually.

When not immersed in winemaking or delivering speeches at conferences on networking and team building, she relishes family time, savoring a glass of wine, or engaging in writing pursuits. Holding a B.A. in Theatre from Winthrop University, Shae boasts leadership and facilitator certifications from esteemed institutions such as Franklin Covey and Ken Blanchard, culminating with the CPCC distinction from the Coaches Training Institute.

Image Source: Stokkete / Shutterstock

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