Women behind the wine - Celebrating International Women's Day 2021

Here in Gibbston, a wine industry leader is first and foremost defined by their skill in the field and that Midas touch to finesse good into great. We are surrounded by men and women who craft each vintage with precision and flair, and within our own Kinross world view the movers and shakers are most definitely equally represented by gender in terms of success, talent and passion. Yet there is still much to do to ensure national and international behaviours towards women are constantly challenged and/or affirmed. To celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th March, we’ve taken some time to introduce to you a few of the talented individuals who are crucial to our business’ success and have fascinating and inspiring stories of their own to tell.

Luli Bonifetto, Sommelier, Kinross

On your visit to our cellar door you may have met me - I am a sommelier and the Cellar Door Manager. For me, I came across the concept of being a sommelier whilst training to become a chef. The two skills complemented each other so well, so I made the leap into enrolling in the Wine School of Argentina the following semester. After more than a decade in the wine industry, there are many key mentors that who supported me through study and on throughout my career, such as Jorge Bourdieu, a teacher at the Wine School, and Valeria Gamper, Argentina’s Best Sommelier.

As a member of the NZ Winegrower’s Women in Wine network and mentoring programme, I am an active participant in helping support women in our industry, taking action for equality and celebrating women’s successes. Myself and many of our friends in Central Otago have benefited from the mentorship and opportunities that have arisen from this fantastic initiative. I totally encourage any women in NZ wine to get involved.
Career highlights so far?
 -Working as a brand ambassador for Aqua Panna & San Pellegrino in Argentina
-Being the second hydro-sommelier in Argentina (sommelier for water)
-Working and representing the following amazing wineries at Kinross, Coal Pit, Hawkshead, Valli and Wild Irishman 

What aspects of being a sommelier have positive impacts on other parts of your life? 
 Since I become a sommelier I given up a few things… coffee, tobacco and spicy food - all to improve my palate. The most amazing part of being a sommelier is the amount of interesting people I get to know, such as international chefs, wine makers delete comma etc. It also has given me the opportunity to eat in the best restaurants in Buenos Aires and have a bigger appreciation of all the good stuff… chocolate, spirits, and wine of course. Being a sommelier is not just about wine. 

What’s your favourite part of your job?
Doing the wine pairings is one of the things I most enjoy. I get to try the all the new food and the wines at Kinross. I especially enjoy the moment when I close my eyes and I can focus on what is happening in my palate. The combination of the flavors coming from the food and the wine, that when combined become a new flavour in your mouth is just amazing and I love it. I also enjoy being able to share this passion with other people. Particularly when participants of the wine tasting leave the Kinross cellar with a little bit more knowledge about wine and you can tell they enjoyed the tasting, that makes my day. 

To book a tasting with Luli, click here

​Anika Willner, Head Winemaker, Coal Pit Wine

How did you get into the wine industry?
I am originally from Ohio - so very far from any United States wine growing region, but I've always enjoyed wine. While I was studying biochemistry during my Undergraduate degree at Ohio State University I started a wine club with a friend (who is also now a winemaker). I set my sights on South African harvest and shortly after graduating started a vintage in Stellenbosch. It was very challenging as I was so green, but also solidified my obsession with wine and from that point I knew I wanted to turn it into a career. Following South Africa I worked in Germany, Mainland Australia as well as Tasmania, Oregon, Central Otago, and Burgundy. 

Did you know from the start you wanted to be a winemaker?
I've always known the production side was for me. I love the blend of science and creativity. I've always loved working with my hands, and I get to do that every day in my role whether in the winery or vineyard. 

Who has been a key mentor to you?
Karl Coombes, winemaker at Valli Wines. 

Career highlight so far?
In terms of wine: The 2018 Tiwha Pinot Noir winning the IWC Best Pinot Noir of New Zealand and The Sustainability Trophy. In terms of vineyard: It's been a beautiful journey watching the vineyard convert to organic farming. There has been so much new life appearing everywhere you look. Obviously working in wine is so much more than a job, it is a lifestyle. Most people who work in the industry live rurally or on site etc.

What aspects of working in wine have positive impacts on other parts of your life? 
I live on-site at Coal Pit Vineyards. It's an incredibly peaceful environment and really allows you to slow down and appreciate the striking nature surrounding you. Also short commute time, about 30 seconds! 

What’s your favourite part of your job?
I really enjoy the people I work with at Coal Pit. Rosie, Kate, Terri, and Hugo are all very inspiring. We work so well as a team and I learn new things about different aspects of the business from them every day. 

What personality traits do you think make a good winemaker?
Open minded, passionate, hardworking, enthusiastic, flexible. 

To learn more about Anika and Coal Pit Wines, head to their website here.

​Jen Parr, Winemaker, Valli

How did you get into the wine industry?
My first job in the wine industry was picking grapes in the SW of France followed by harvest at Villa Maria in Marlborough. Prior to that, during my “corporate life” in London, I took lots of wine appreciation, knowledge and history courses at night.  I was always the first to arrive and had the most questions.

Who has been a key mentor to you? 
I’m in my 5th decade of life and have been lucky to have as many key mentors.  One who remains an important inspiration for me is Belinda Gould of Brew Moon Brewery in Amberley.  In her past life as a Winemaker, she taught me a lot about “authentic wine” and even more about work ethic, integrity and balance.   

Career highlights so far?    
They are too numerous to note in detail but creating the Real McCoy Orange Wine at Valli has been quite meaningful for me as we began making it the year I started working with Grant and are about to bottle the 6th vintage. As far as accolades go, being awarded the Gourmet Traveller NZ Winemaker of the Year 2020 (after being nominated also in 2019) certainly is the most memorable.

What aspects of being a winemaker have positive impacts on other parts of your life?  
I love living in Albert Town near the river and numerous bike tracks, hiking trails and skiing at Treble Cone. I spent many years living in cities and have fully embraced the rural life – but I’m lucky in that my job takes me to many great cities where I can enjoy amazing restaurants and bars and the “bright lights”.  

What’s your favourite part of your job?  
My favourite part of the hands-on aspect of winemaking is working on finishing wines and putting blends together, as well as all aspects of harvest.  The other half of the job is teaching and presenting and I particularly love sharing Valli wines with wine clubs and private customers.

To learn more about Jen and Valli Wines, head to their website here.

​Ulrike Kurenbach, Owner and Sommelier, Hawkshead Wines

How did you get into the wine industry?
By love, chance, luck, good fortune? I do not really know. I entered the journey well prepared. Solid foundations were laid when I was young and later on through my formal education.

Did you know from the start that you wanted to be in the wine industry?
My introduction to wine and the people who make wine started during my childhood. Wine featured on our dinner table most days and exceptional bottles were celebrated and discussed at length on special occasions. Even at a young age I had my own small wine glass, was encouraged to smell, describe and taste wine. My father kept a well stocked cellar with Riesling from the Rheingau and the Mosel and Burgunder (Pinot Noir) from the Ahr Valley and Baden. I studied food science and art & design. For some an unusual combination but very logical to me, as science is the basis for the creative process. It was ideal when fate involved me are later in life making wine. In between those years, close work connections developed also with the hospitality industry in Germany and New Zealand. When based in London I committed to diploma studies with WSET to get some formal and deeper knowledge of wine and its industry. These days I love to work in the vineyard, enjoy to be at the very beginning of the process to make good wine. Here is it where it starts, growing good grapes the organic way. I treat the vineyard as an extension to our garden. There is never a bad day in the vines only the wrong clothing!

Who has been your key mentor?
My father

Hawkshead highlight so far…
Meeting the people who love & appreciate our wines

To learn more about Ulrike and Hawkshead Wines, head to their website here.

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