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Winemaker Moms

Patience, a level head, a sense of humor and a lot of grit: winemaking and motherhood require a surprisingly similar set of skills. We asked some of the Willamette Valley's winemaker moms for their stories and advice. 

Did you miss our special virtual event on April 27, "What's it Like to Be a Winemaker Mom? A Conversation with Three Extraordinary Willamette Valley Women" featuring Anna Matzinger of Matzinger Davies, Jessica Mozeico of Et Fille Wines, and Wynne Peterson-Nedry of Ribbon Ridge Winery and 00 WinesWatch the recording here!

Want to support them? Below, we created a map of wineries featuring moms who make wine, from every corner of the Willamette Valley.

KATE AYRES (WINEMAKER, PENNER-ASH WINE CELLARS)

Winemaker Kate Ayres holds her son NicoHow long have you been a winemaker and how long have you been a mom?
I’ve been making wine since 2008. My first and only child arrived in January of 2020!

Does your kid help out in the winery/vineyard? Are you hoping he takes an interest in following in your footsteps?
Not sure I’d call it helping. His dad is also a winemaker, so I imagine he’ll steer clear after years of parents in the business!

What has been the most surprising or unexpected thing for you about being a parent? 
The constant changes in all the most amazing ways.

What skills from winemaking transfer over to motherhood, and vice versa?
Time management! The whirlwind of juggling harvest certainly transferred to parenting.

Our industry has a lot of brand-new winemaker moms in the last year! What advice do you have for them?
Take a breath. Give yourself time to be a mom and a winemaker. It’s hard to step away from a project you are so passionate about, but the little ones need our time too. I have to remind myself daily to put the work away and just be a mom.

As a mom and winemaker you have two full-time jobs. What's the key to making it all work?
Still figuring that puzzle out! Help from my amazing partner should makes things easier.

BRIANNE DAY (OWNER/WINEMAKER, DAY WINES)

Winemaker Brianne Day with son Viggo in front of her winery

How long have you been a winemaker and how long have you been a mom?
I have been a winemaker for 10 years and a mom for 3.5.

Does your kid help out in the winery/vineyard? Are you hoping he takes an interest in following in your footsteps?
I wouldn't say he helps, but he's with me every minute of every day so soaking in the information is inevitable. We were at another winery in the valley and he saw their sorting line and accurately described every part of it and what it did. He says "holy Macro-bin!" instead of "holy mackerel!". He knows what punch downs and pumpovers are. I've let him lift and stack empty grape bins with the forklift (with my help) and he has sorted fruit, "helped" unload the press, and sat on top of barrels with a flashlight to keep an eye on them while they filled. He has sampled with me in the vineyards and will say "that's not ripe" or "that one is ripe" depending on his opinion of the fruit. So, he definitely will know how to make wine but I don't know that he will want to. If he wants to, that's cool; if he doesn't want to, that's also cool. I'm not assuming he will.

What has been the most surprising or unexpected thing for you about being a parent?
I guess I'm surprised at how much of a buddy my kid is to me. We really enjoy being around each other, most of the time. His total devotion to me is like nothing I've ever experienced, and his patience with me and innate kindness is amazing. Life is harder than ever before and more joyful than ever as well. 

What skills from winemaking transfer over to motherhood, and vice versa? 
Patience on both sides. Allowing my child, or the wine, to run their course and take their time becoming themselves. Both need guidance of course, but allowing them to be themselves is a practice I have in both motherhood and winemaking.

Any funny stories from winemaker mom life? 
Oh god yes, mostly involving my kid streaking through the tasting room. Last summer he was playing with the hose in the backyard with a cousin and got all wet so he took his clothes off and then paraded very solemnly through the tasting room and patio with a stoic look on his face like he clearly had no idea why everyone was laughing at him. Not in a hurry at all, just moseying on through.

Our wine community has a lot of brand-new winemaker moms in the last year! What advice do you have for them?
It sure does! Advice? I don't know, I kind of hate "mom advice." Everyone does things differently, everyone's lives are different from each others, so what works for me might not work for anyone else and vice versa. I guess my advice would be to forge your own path for what works for you and your family and pay no attention to those who act like they have everything figured out. As long as it works for you and your family and everyone is healthy and happy, there's no wrong way to do it.

As a mom and winemaker you have two full-time jobs. What's the key to making it all work? 
Well, I am a winemaker, a winery owner, the national sales director, office manager/bookkeeper, grower liaison, Human Resources Director and a single mother whose child is with me 100% of the time, so I think I have quite a lot more than two full-time jobs. Who says it all works? Hahahaha.

TAHMIENE MOMTAZI (WINEMAKER, MAYSARA WINERY)

Winemaker Tahmiene Momtazi holds her toddler

How long have you been a winemaker and how long have you been a mom?
I became the head winemaker at Maysara in July of 2007. My title of "mom" was given to me on January 4th, 2019.

Does your kid help out in the winery/vineyard? Are you hoping she takes an interest in following in your footsteps?
My daughter, Leila, is two years old so she isn’t old enough to be helping out just yet. But since day one, we have called her GM. She has us all wrapped around her finger and gets everything she wants—even if that means telling us what to do. The best part of a family business is that I am able to bring Leila to work every day. Her nursery overlooks the entire winery so she is able to view through the windows from harvest to bottling. However, with hopes that she will want to work for the winery and follow my sisters and my footsteps, I will support her in any adventure she chooses. And who knows, she may learn so much growing up in this business that will lead her to creating, supporting and/or running any business.

What has been the most surprising or unexpected thing for you about being a parent?
The most surprising thing about being a parent is the excitement in watching her grow and becoming her own person. It's exciting when she hit milestones such as walking and talking, but the personality of my baby girl is beyond any imagination I could have ever created. The unexpected thing about being a parent is having to watch yourself with how you react, talk to others and process stressful situations because they observe so much. They learn from within the home so we are having to slow down and make sure how or what we say is shown with love, care and kindness so that one day she will do the same. 

What skills from winemaking transfer over to motherhood, and vice versa? 
Let things happen naturally—you cannot force anything to happen the way you want. But you can give it love and nurture it to become something so great. 

Any funny stories from winemaker mom life? 
Leila loves coming to the production floor and mimicking everyone when they are cleaning. My child loves to clean. She also loves to make a mess (we call her "Tornado") but enjoys sweeping, mopping, scrubbing, you name it! 

Our wine community has a lot of brand-new winemaker moms in the last year! What advice do you have for them?
Ask for help—it's okay! I think sometimes we feel like we already have to try 100 times harder, just being female and in the industry, but we are human. We are also mothers and need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our little humans we are growing or raising. It's not going to make you "less than" if you cannot do it all, but asking for help allows us to be and do the best we can. 

As a mom and winemaker you have two full-time jobs. What's the key to making it all work? 
Having a great family to support you emotionally and mentally. I could have not been able to do it if it wasn’t for my family members and our amazing nanny. I have such a great army backing me that is just as much involved in raising Leila and stepping up whenever I needed them. They are the definition of family. 

ANGELICA O'REILLY (OWNER/WINEMAKER, DISTAFF WINERY)

Distaff Winery owner Angelica O'Reilly and her daughters

How long have you been a winemaker and how long have you been a mom?
I have been in the wine business since 1999 when I co-founded Owen Roe Winery with my husband, David. In 2019, together with my four daughters, Brigid, Moira, Me-Z, and Roisin, I founded Distaff Wine Company.

Do your kids help out in the winery/vineyard? Are you hoping they take an interest in following in your footsteps?
Since 1999, all of our kids have seen and been a part of our winemaking team from the vineyards to the cellar and sales. Although they have all worked in every aspect of winemaking, I never really expected them to choose winemaking as their career. Our purpose was to give them sound work ethics, a sense of respect for managers and coworkers––skills that can be applied to any aspect of life. It was also a way in which they could be a part of the investment in funding their college education.

However, the winemaking blood runs deep. After college our eldest, Dom, furthered his winemaking skills in New Zealand, Australia, then California, where he made wine at Ojai Winery and now Topa Winery. The girls went off to college, graduated, traveled, and worked in managerial positions in other fields but also restaurants and wineries. Then, missing the wine industry in the Pacific Northwest, they returned to begin a winemaking venture together with their mom and their younger sister.

What has been the most surprising or unexpected thing for you about being a parent?
During my daughters’ time away in college, work and travel experiences, they acquired new ways of accomplishing the old ways of doing things. So much had changed since our early years. We were able to integrate past experiences with fresh new approaches to the entire business of winemaking. I am totally excited by our new adventure.

What skills from winemaking transfer over to motherhood, and vice versa? 
As we all know, in motherhood, there are many sweet moments as well as challenges. The challenges are almost always overcome by collaboration. We had the challenge of conflicting tastes and ideas, mostly resulting from generational differences. By working together we were able to come up with a plan that we all agreed upon. The pandemic caused even greater issues. We had to pivot and find new ways to make, bottle and ship our wines. In motherhood, when faced with a seemingly impossible barrier, one never gives up but finds a way to overcome that barrier—so too, in winemaking. We found a way to continue during the pandemic while addressing an issue we had long wanted to solve, and ship in PET plastic bottles. Together, we created a fun brand with balanced, approachable wines in an infinitely recyclable vessel that reduced its economical footprint by half.

Our wine community has a lot of brand-new winemaker moms in the last year! What advice do you have for them?
To new winemaker moms, I would say as in winemaking, balance is everything, but kids come first. Their time with you is so short, but essential to their confidence in who they are and in knowing they are loved. Along with kids comes the responsibility to being there for them, however that looks. Don’t miss a game or performance if you can help it. My youngest are now teens which allows me to be at the winery more often around their busy schedule, but when it comes to their needs and activities, I make that time and space. Today, my four daughters and I make and sell wine together. That balance has come to fruition. We are not only a family, but also a team!

RACHEL ROSE (WINEMAKER, BRYN MAWR VINEYARDS)

Winemaker Rachel Rose on tractor with son Shea

How long have you been a winemaker and how long have you been a mom?
Winemaking 14 years, "mom-ing" for six. 

What has been the most surprising or unexpected thing for you about being a parent?
The lack of quality sleep.
 
What skills from winemaking transfer over to motherhood and vice versa? 

I'm very good at multitasking, prioritizing in chaotic environments, and triaging disasters. I think these skills are all perfectly transferable between winemaking and motherhood. 

As a mom and winemaker you have two full-time jobs. What's the key to making it all work? 
I'm still working on that part. 
 

KATIE SANTORA (WINEMAKER, CHEHALEM WINERY)

Winemaker Katie Santora with son

How long have you been a winemaker, and how long have you been a mom?
 
My first job in the wine industry was in 2007. I've been with Chehalem since 2012 and was promoted to head winemaker in 2018. I became a mother in August 2019. 
 
Does your kid help out in the winery/vineyard? Are you hoping he takes an interest in following in your footsteps?

At this point, no, my son does not help in the winery or vineyard. He was born just before the start of the 2019 vintage, so when he was a newborn, he came with me to work, and it was great. He mostly slept, ate, and went to the bathroom, as most newborns do. As he's getting bigger and more toddler-like, bringing him to work has become more of a distraction than a help. 
 
That said, I let him smell the wine I drink at home to help grow his sense of smell from an early age. If he follows in my footsteps, it's up to him. I would love for him to enjoy wine, respect it, and understand it down the road. But if it only goes as far as just drinking a glass, that is just fine by me. 
 
What has been the most surprising or unexpected thing for you about being a parent?
 
The continuous seesaw of extreme love and admiration for this little human we brought into the world, versus the extreme amount of patience needed to take care of him. Being a mom is the best and hardest thing I have ever done. 
 
What skills from winemaking transfer over to motherhood, and vice versa? 
 
Multi-tasking! Being a winemaker, there are always several things happening at different stages during the year. You have to be flexible at all times because things never go exactly according to plan. If this isn't setting you up to be a mother, I don't know what else is. You can only try to control as much as you can for these souls. To be ready to multi-task and be flexible at all moments is a must. Now, instead of harnessing that idea only at work, I am harnessing it at all times of my life.  
 
Our wine community has a lot of brand-new winemaker moms in the last year! What advice do you have for them?
 
My son is only 20 months old, so I would put myself within this group of new moms. I have learned a lot about the mom work/life balance over the last year and a half, though. The first year is tough. I love being a mother, and I love working, but they are hard to do together. And that is ok. There are many days where I feel like I am not doing either great, but I think that's pressure I put on myself. My advice is to be gentle with yourself, set boundaries, ask for help when you need it, and reach out to other working moms. Knowing you aren't alone and not the first one trying to do it all is reassuring and helpful.   
 
As a mom and winemaker you have two full-time jobs. What's the key to making it all work?

This is a hard question. Some days it just all works together, and you feel like no matter what is in your way, you can do it all. Other days, nothing works. Just knowing that everything ebbs and flows is comforting. Your love for your children is all they need, even if you're not at the top of your mothering game that day. And, your dedication and passion for wine is enough for the days where you don't feel like you're enough. 
 
Also, a good team is critical. As a mother and a winemaker, I really cannot do either alone. I have an amazing partner and father to our son that is always there to help or step up when I need support. And, I have the best team and boss I could ask for to help keep this winemaking train moving in the best direction. 
 
It is not an easy balance but one I would not trade for anything. I love my son, and I love my job. As a woman, you don't have to choose one over the other. You can have both.