As the wine industry continues to grow and evolve, so does the number of women entering the field. And for many of these women, the challenges of juggling a career in wine with motherhood are all too real. From long hours in the vineyard to late nights at wine tastings and events, the wine industry can be demanding and exhausting, making balancing work and family life difficult.
But for some women, motherhood and a career in wine are not mutually exclusive. They have found a way to navigate the challenges, pursuing their passion for wine while also raising children.
The following four inspiring mothers have touched on their experiences in previous SOMM TV episodes. From sharing their start in the industry to the hurdles they faced along the way to finding their footing and making it work, here we share their stories.
Molly Chappellet is a woman who needs no introduction to the world of wine. As one of the original Napa Valley families to build a successful winery, the Chappellet brand has become synonymous with quality, innovation, and deep respect for the land. Molly played a critical role in building Chappellet alongside her husband Donn, who passed away in 2016.
Together, they established the Chappellet winery on Pritchard Hill in the 1960s. They worked tirelessly to build the brand and establish themselves as leaders in the Napa Valley wine industry.
Molly managed to strike a balance by involving her children in the family business from an early age. She would often take them out into the vineyards to learn about the land and the grapes and let them help with various tasks around the winery and in the gardens.
Some of Molly and Donn’s children went on to work in the family business, including Cyril and Dominic, with whom she appears with on SOMM TV’s Verticals: Chappellet. Together, they discuss the early years of settling in Napa.
Cathy Corison is widely recognized as the first women winemaker and proprietor in Napa Valley. Her early career was marked by a fierce determination to succeed in a male-dominated industry.
After graduating with a degree in biology from Pomona College, Cathy went on to get her Enology and Viticulture degree at UC Davis. Following her studies, Cathy worked for several iconic Napa Valley wineries, including Freemark Abbey and Chappellet, before starting the Corison label in 1987, despite not yet having a winemaking facility.
Cathy met her husband, William Martin, in 1990. Together, they navigated the purchase of the Kronos vineyard in 1995 and broke ground at Corison Winery in the late 90s — all while raising two young girls.
Through hard work and dedication, Cathy has not only built a successful, highly regarded winery but has also paved the way for other women in the wine industry. Her story is a testament to the power of perseverance and the importance of pursuing your dreams, no matter the challenges that may arise along the way.
In SOMM TV’s Verticals: Corison, Cathy and William speak openly about the challenging time of raising a young family while juggling the growth of what eventually became one of the valley’s most renowned wineries with a signature style revered by collectors, sommeliers, and critics.
Elaine Chukan Brown
Elaine Chukan Brown isn’t a vintner but is forging a path in the wine industry in an equally significant way as a prominent wine writer and journalist.
Through writing, Elaine has helped to elevate the conversation around diversity and inclusion within the industry, serving as a mentor to young writers and advocating for greater representation at all levels.
Being a person of color with a background in academia, combined with becoming a young mother, has been the conveyor of authentic and inclusive conversations to the world of wine.
In SOMM TV’s Drink a Bottle with Elaine and Kelli, Brown discusses motherhood with fellow wine writer Kelli White and how raising a daughter has shaped who they are as an adult.
Kelli White is also a well-known wine writer who has made significant contributions to the world of wine. She began her career in wine as a sommelier at several prestigious restaurants, first at Veritas in New York City and then at Press Restaurant in Napa Valley. She later transitioned to a career in wine writing, contributing to publications such as GuildSomm, the World Atlas of Wine and the Oxford Companion to Wine.
Kelli is also a published author, with her first book, Napa Valley Then & Now, exploring the history and evolution of one of the world’s most famous wine regions.
In the same episode of Drink a Bottle with Kelli and Elaine, Kelli shares a dream from her early days of motherhood, manifesting the mental exhaustion of having a baby with decades of wine knowledge buried deep in the subconscious.