Winemaker Merry Edwards blazes trail in industry

Tue Oct 25, 2011 5:05am EDT
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By Leslie Gevirtz

SEBASTOPOL, Calif. (Reuters) - Forty years after breaking into the wine industry, Merry Edwards stills finds herself battling with the boys in the business.

In the '70s when she was trying to get her first job in the industry, a large California winery tried to push Edwards into research, a New Zealand winery would not let her interview for a job and a third turned her away when she walked through the cellar doors.

"There were no women professors," Edwards said of her time at the University of California at Davis, a top school for winemakers.

"There was discrimination going on within the department and without," she said.

But times have changed. David Block, the head of the university's viticulture and oenology department, said about 60 percent of their graduate students this year are women.

Edwards got her first job as a winemaker with the help of a few gay professors at the university and the owner of Mt. Eden winery in California who all understood what she was trying to accomplish.

"They didn't think that was odd, that I, as a woman, was trying to do these things," she said.

After leaving Mt. Eden for another job she was sent to Burgundy in France to see what was so special about their Pinot Noir. It was there that she became captivated by the nuances different clones of a grape could impart and returned to Sonoma to preach the gospel of clonal diversity.   Continued...