A New Vintage

Wine Country Women continues to expand its brand

By Remy Sisk

With live events, books and – soon – podcasts, Wine Country Women is bringing wine country to the world through storytelling. “(We are) giving our audience a ‘peek through the vines’ at the lifestyles of the fascinating women involved in and around these wine regions,” Michelle Mandro, Wine Country Women founder and president, says of her company. In general, Wine Country Women is a luxury lifestyle entertainment brand that shines a light on a diverse group of women who live in distinguished wine regions. Mandro herself splits her time between her home in Louisville and California’s Wine Country. With a constantly developing list of books, events and other engagement opportunities, she is well poised to even more widely introduce the world to some fabulous female superstars in the wine industry.

Mandro first got involved in the wine industry when she was hired to be the executive director of the American Institute of Wine & Food, which was founded by several food-industry professionals and aficionados, including Julia Child and Robert Mondavi. When Mandro was ready to start her own company, she used that experience and found a way to blend it with her interests beyond wine and food. “I looked at the things I am passionate about and created a business that involves all of those elements,” she recounts, “and allows for those with similar interests to intimately experience a wine region from their homes, wherever they may be.  Focusing on the women provided an outlet to tell their stories as the focus has traditionally been on the men of the industry. It allowed me to bring these women to the forefront.”

Michelle Mandro: As the founder and president of Wine Country Women, Michelle Madro has almost 10 years of experience in the industry starting with the prestigious American Institute of Wine & Food. With a background in television in Louisville, Mandro spends her time both in Napa Valley and Kentucky.

One of the primary ways she has helped the public meet these women is through the Wine Country Women books. Mandro began working on “Wine Country Women of Napa Valley” in August 2016 and launched it in September 2017. Within the pages of the book, notable women of the region are featured with multi-page profiles that highlight their personal and professional lives.  These profiles are complemented by gorgeous photos of the women at home, in the vineyard or elsewhere in resplendent Northern California. The book includes 65 women and, as Mandro emphasizes, is also a wonderful resource for a wine enthusiast since it offers unique and exciting recipes complete with individualized wine pairings. “They can pull from each cookbook category and have an instant wine dinner,” she maintains.

Currently, Mandro is hard at work on the follow up, “Wine Country Women of Sonoma County.” She began efforts in March 2017 and hopes to deliver the tome to her publisher before the end of the year, looking ultimately at a September 2019 launch. Concurrently, she started working on “Wine Country Women of Willamette Valley” in August of this year. These two books will be much in the same vein: highlighting local women and sharing exquisite recipes with wine pairings.

Ellie Anest: A founding partner in Eleven Eleven Wines, Ellie Anest started the winery after a conversation on a flight to Los Angeles from Paris in 2010 with her friend Aurelien Roulin. With a background in accounting and finance, Anest moved to her own piece of land in Napa and launched the winery along with Roulin and Carol Vassiliadis. Growing up on a farm in Nebraska, Anest used the values her parents taught her – like dedication to her work and love of family – to create her successful brand.

Before Mandro began work on her first book, she knew she wanted to find a way to connect the world to the women of this region. However, her current reality is only step one of her initial vision.  “I recognized there are visitors to the Napa Valley who are curious about those (who) live there, who dream of living in a wine region,” she says. “I took this information and created a television show concept that I turned into a lifestyle book. I always wanted to do both, but the challenges for developing a show moved me to focus on the book first. A TV show is still a goal.”

Before working on a small-screen project, Mandro is focused on a 30-minute podcast due to launch before the end of this year. The episodes will include interviews with select wine women, including Violet Grgich, Shannon Staglin and Ashley Keever.

Beyond the books and podcast – and perhaps the TV show someday – those interested can get to know some of the women on an even more intimate scale by attending one of Wine Country Women’s events, which are held in California as well as Louisville.  The next opportunity to attend is 6 p.m. Dec. 5 at The Champagnery on Frankfort Avenue in Louisville. The event will feature Mandro herself as well as Chandon Director of Winemaking Pauline Lhote and Kelleen Sullivan.

Ashley Keever: Originally from Danville, California, Ashley Keever’s family found a passion for wine during their time living in Germany when Ashley was a child. After returning to the United States, her parents opened Keever Winery and quickly became a huge success. After living in San Francisco for seven years, she moved back to help her parents run the winery, where she loves living and working in the community-driven Napa Valley.

With so much happening on both ends of the country, it’s easy to assume Mandro’s life can get hectic. However, she exudes an undeniable enthusiasm for getting to call two distinct regions of the U.S. home. “I have the best of all worlds!” she asserts. “I get to enjoy two very wonderful areas of this country. Who wouldn’t want to have wine country, horse country and bourbon country at their fingertips? I spend at least a third of the year in Northern California. My time is dictated mostly on my commitments and responsibilities in the area, but I will always be a Kentucky woman.”

Looking ahead to the future, a television show is indeed an ultimate aspiration for Mandro, but broadly, Wine Country Women will strive to add more offerings to its brand. Expansion will allow the ability to continue connecting with the audience by bringing stories of the women to the world and possibly working toward making a genuine difference. “My long-term goal is to continue to add experiential elements to Wine Country Women, including curating tours to the regions,” she describes. “In addition, Wine Country Women is committed to helping women interested in the culinary and wine fields further develop themselves, and I’d like to start a scholarship or foundation to support their education.”

Emma Swain: Since 2009, Emma Swain has been CEO of St. Supery Estate Vineyards and Winery. With her extensive background in finance, she moved on to the business of wine, where she has been flourishing for more than 20 years. Since moving to downtown Napa Valley, her love for the wine community has only grown stronger, and she never gets tired of the beautiful views.

In this day and age, it’s truly beautiful what Mandro has done. She has created a brand that is committed to showcasing the stories of women in a traditionally male-dominated industry.  Through the books and in-person events, Wine Country Women is leveling the playing field and illustrating that the wine world is teeming with talented, dynamic women, all of whom are bringing something special and innovative to the table. “We are bringing women and their stories to the forefront,” Mandro enthuses. “They are strong, interesting, accomplished and inspiring women.” V


TO LEARN MORE, VISIT winecountrywomen.com

EVENING OF WINE & NETWORKING

Leadership Louisville Center

707 W. Main St.

5 p.m. Dec. 4

WINE COUNTRY WOMEN OF NAPA VALLEY TASTING AND BOOK SIGNING

The Champagnery

1764 Frankfort Ave.

6 p.m. Dec. 5

BOOK SIGNING WITH MICHELLE MANDRO AND KELLEEN SULLIVAN

Williams-Sonoma, Mall St. Matthews

5000 Shelbyville Road

1 to 5 p.m. Dec. 8