Getting into the “Spirits” of Women’s History

March 8th was just the beginning. Our salute to women makers continues this month with profiles the “spirited” women who make some of the most exciting spirits on our shelves at Wine & Spirits. Read on, shop online, then raise a glass! This one’s for the ladiez…

Yolanda Jimenez, Gina Correll Aglietti, & Lykke Li: Yola Mezcal
What do a student of feminist philosophy, a chef, and Swedish pop singer have in common? The trio are the force behind Yola Mezcal, the award-winning, industry leading, trendsetting mezcal brand that puts the women who make it first. The distillery employs all female farmers and distillery workers, and all employees can choose hours that work best for them and their families, are even allowed to bring their children to work.

The story of Yola begins with, well Yola―Yolanda Jimenez, that is, whose grandfather bought an agave farm outside of Oaxaca in 1971 and started producing mezcal. Jimenez, the daughter of a lawyer and an academic, grew up in Mexico City, but spent many summers visiting her extended family in Oaxaca. She studied feminist philosophy at Cambridge University, where he was first introduced to the idea that promoting women’s economic independence leads to greater community health and vitality.

When her grandfather fell ill, Jimenez returned to Mexico City, where she opened a bar featuring agave spirits from Oaxaca. It was there that she met Chef Gina Correll Aglietti and singer Lykke Li and the three became fast friends. A short time later, Jimenez’s grandfather died, and she inherited the agave farm. She decided to produce a mezcal using her grandfather’s recipe to honor him, her roots, and the women of the Oaxacan community. Aglietti and Li were excited by the idea, and the rest―as they say―is herstory.

Morgan McLachlan: Amass Dry Gin
Master Distiller Morgan McLachlan grew up in Canada, where she spent hours in the woods near her home in the nation’s Pacific Northwest, fostering a lifelong passion for nature. She moved to California as an adult, where she worked as a camera operator in the film industry for over 10 years. McLachlan remained fascinated with botany, and she eventually set her sights on a new career ― distilling craft spirits.

McLachlan has made a name for herself as an “avant-garde distiller,” with her innovative methods and focus on botanical-based spirits and fruit distillates. In 2012, she co-founded The Spirit Guild, one of L.A.’s first craft distilleries, where she developed Amass dry gin, a line of modern classic gins inspired by the City of Angels. Distilled with 29 botanicals, including California Bay, Cascara Sagrada, grapefruit, Reishi and Lion’s Mane Mushroom, Hibiscus, Cardamom, and of course, juniper, Amass is a celebration of the natural terroir and cultural landscape of contemporary L.A. Indigenous botanicals like California Bay and Cascara Sagrada ground bright top notes of fresh citrus.

Rachel Barrie: The Glendronach
Master Blender for Brown-Forman’s The Glendronach, BenRiach and Glenglassaugh distilleries, Dr. Rachel Barrie has always been in love with science. She grew up writing science-fiction stories in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, fascinated by the wild imagination that fueled stories of what could be. She studied chemistry at Edinburgh University, letting that passion for possibility help her grow into one of the best Scotch whisky blenders in the world. During her nearly 30-year career in the business, she’s tasted over 150,000 barrels, speaking “of them as if they were precious family members who grew up and entered the world,” according to a 2018 Daily Beast article by Heather Greene. “Everything goes into them and becomes your heart and soul,” she said.

“It is like learning music,” Barrie said in a 2018 interview with Scotch Whisky magazine. “You learn the rudiments first and then you are able to express yourself. Once you’ve learned everything, you know what’s going to work. A master blender is like a conductor; working with different casks, playing different tunes, different top notes, bass notes and working out how to bring them together. Some are playing their own tune in a single cask and some work better being brought together in an expression.”

Mike FunkGetting into the “Spirits” of Women’s History
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The Women Who Make Us Grape: Laura Rose

Throughout Women’s History Month, we’re featuring some of the women who make the Greene Grape the amazing place it is. The Greene Grape family of businesses is woman-powered, both historically and currently, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t shine a well-deserved spotlight on at least a few of these grape women. 

This week, we’re chatting with our Produce Buyer, Laura Rose Dailey. Laura Rose and her department make sure anyone’s first impression of Provisions is a beautiful one as they step through our front door! With her agricultural background and passion for growing green things, she’s a perfect fit for the job, and we couldn’t do it without her. 

What got you into the world of agriculture and produce? 

I took a course on coffee ecologies and livelihoods in college and had the opportunity to travel to El Salvador to spend some time with the coffee farmers there. That experience rocked my world, and truly opened my eyes to the injustices of our food system. A few years later I decided I wanted to learn how to grow food, and took a farming apprenticeship at Amber Waves, a mixed vegetable production farm on the East End of Long Island. It was on that land where I fell in love with farming and spent the next four years (plus two winters on the other side of the equator!) growing vegetables. 

What’s been part of your experience as a woman working in agriculture? 

At Amber Waves, it often felt like we were in a bubble all our own, being owned and staffed by women. On the other hand, the people delivering our farm equipment, seeds, and other necessary items were usually men, and some of them broke that bubble with their questions. “Who’s really in charge here? Are you really farmers?” It was a reminder that a farm run by women is considered an anomaly, but we were never discouraged. Owners Amanda Merrow and Katie Baldwin showed me how far women could go in agriculture—I really look up to them. 

What’s your favorite produce? 

I can’t pick just one! I have three. Radishes: The feeling and sight of pulling a bright red, snackable root out of the ground is so satisfying and beautiful. Also, they’re a fast growing crop (~40 days seed to harvest) AKA almost instant gratification. Baby greens: Another fast growing crop, and there’s nothing like a salad made with crispy flavorful right outta the ground greens! And finally, eggplant: As a farmer on Long Island, growing eggplant is a lot of work because of the Colorado Potato Beetle. This pest feeds on the young tender leaves, and if left alone will completely destroy the plant and therefore the crop. For farmers, this meant that every other day, we’d have to check each plant on every leaf for signs of infestation. If we managed to beat the bugs and have a successful eggplant crop, we were eating eggplant parm for weeks. 🙂

Carla Bueno-SandersThe Women Who Make Us Grape: Laura Rose
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The Women Who Make Us Grape: Amy Bennett

(Photo: The Brooklyn Hospital Center)

Throughout Women’s History Month, we’re featuring some of the women who make the Greene Grape the amazing place it is. The Greene Grape family of businesses is woman-powered, both historically and currently, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t shine a well-deserved spotlight on at least a few of these
grape women. 

This week, we’re chatting with Greene Grape founder and owner Amy Bennett, lawyer turned entrepreneur. Amy is our fearless leader here at Greene Grape Wine & Spirits, Provisions, and Annex. Her business acumen paired with her high standards make her a powerful force in the food world.

What inspired you to open Provisions? 

I was inspired to open Greene Grape Provisions when I was a young mom learning to cook.  I wanted to learn how to sear scallops. I bought some at the local grocery and tried again and again but could never get a nice brown sear on them, which I chalked up to my poor cooking skills. Turns out that because they are sold by weight, some stores soak them to absorb water.  Meaning you can’t really get a sear on them. That’s when I realized that access to quality ingredients is key. Try roasting one of our air-chilled chickens instead of a water-chilled one—you’ll see the difference pretty quick. 

What’s been your experience as a woman in the food industry? 

When I first started out, I asked my refrigeration case salesperson for a female grocery mentor. He’d been in the business over 40 years and at the time, he couldn’t think of a single female-run store. It’s been an adventure, from meat salespeople who shorted me and hoped I wouldn’t notice, to outside vendors trying (and failing) to undermine my female managers, with competitors underestimating me all the while.

On the plus side, people who are willing to work with or for a female owner without bias or baloney tend to be quality people. I’ve been fortunate enough to have an amazing landlord who saw my business grow up on the block and believed in me from the beginning. But I’m most grateful for the amazing employees past and present who have kept The Grape in business for 15 years (In retail! In NYC!) and who are living the values we promote: Being kind, considerate, helpful and empathetic to our customers, vendors and each other. 

What is your favorite product on our shelves? 

This is like picking a favorite child, which I refuse to do! They’re all amazing in different ways. As a working mother, I could not do without our grab-n-go kale caesar and beet salad for me and our house made mac and cheese for the kids. Recently for a special occasion, I had our dry-aged bone-in grass-fed ribeye steaks cooked to perfection and they were mind-blowingly delicious.. My go-tos in produce are Gotham Greens lettuces and Square Root basil, which I combine with our house made mozzarella,  chopped fresh tomato and our house made sweet italian sausage over pasta for an easy school night dinner.

Who is your Women’s History Month shero? 

It’s hard to choose just one, but definitely on the list: Sonia Sotomayor. That might come across as political, but I feel such a kinship with her. She came from nothing, got over feeling less-than, and now presides over the highest court in the land. She also advocated for others along the way and was not afraid to stand up to the status quo. I had the honor of interviewing with her when she was a SDNY judge and her energy is infectious.

Carla Bueno-SandersThe Women Who Make Us Grape: Amy Bennett
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A Woman’s Work Is In the Cellar: A Salute to Women of the Vine

Well-behaved women seldom make history, they say. We say the same holds true for women who make wine and spirits. From Maria Prophetissima, the ancient alchemist who invented the tribikos, one of the first recorded stills, to Doña Antónia Ferreira, patroness of Portuguese wine, and Hannah Weinberger, Napa’s first female winemaker, women have long been leaders in the booze business. Today’s producers are continuing in the footsteps of their foremothers, crafting wines and spirits that delight critics and consumers alike. In honor of Women’s History Month, here’s a closer look at some of the women winemakers on our shelves.

Arianna Occhipinti (Occhipinti)

Arianna Occhipinti came of age in Vittoria, in Sicily’s southeastern region, nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and the inland mountains. She first learned about wine and natural winemaking in the fields and cellars managed by her Uncle Giusto, owner of the renown COS winery, and in no time fell in love with the vine. She studied oenology and started her own production with a single hectare of abandoned vines growing near her family’s home. In 2004, she founded her own estate, bottling her first commercial vintage just two years later. Today, Arianna works exclusively with estate fruit grown organically and biodynamically. Focused on native varietals, including Frappato, Nero d’Avola, Albanello, Zibibbo, Arianna’s dedicated to making wines with singular character and freshness that captures the essence of the region. Across the world, critics, consumers, and industry peers have taken notice, and Arianna is today recognized as a symbol of success in viticulture and natural winemaking, even she continues to develop her own ideas on the practice. “I make natural wine, but this is a term I’m beginning to be less and less comfortable with, because its implications are very complicated,” she said during an interview with importer Jules Dressner. “I really want to stress that my main goal is to make a good wine that reflects where it comes from, and for me the only way to successfully do this is to make the wine naturally.”

Brianne Day (Day Wines)

A semifinalist for this year’s James Beard Award, Brianne Day is an unmitigated star in the world of Oregon wine. A native of the Willamette Valley, Day grew up enraptured by the vines of her home turf, so when the opportunity arose to travel the world and continue exploring wine, she didn’t hesitate. Day traveled and tasted wine for nearly two years before returning to Oregon for formal study at Chemeketa Community College. After that, she picked up and went traveling again, this time to gain experience making wine in France, New Zealand and Argentina. Officially hooked on the craft, Brianne worked to learn every angle of the wine business. “I worked for producers who were making wines in ways I wanted to: The Eyrie Vineyards, Brooks Winery, Grochau Cellars, Belle Pente, and Scott Paul,” she writes on her website. “I also worked at Storyteller Wine Company, learning the retail side of the wine world, and then as a server at Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro. I also sold barrels for Bordeaux cooperage, Saury, which allowed for many opportunities to listen and learn from winemakers throughout the Willamette Valley. In 2012, Brianne had the opportunity to start her own production when she purchased fruit for 125 cases of single vineyard Pinot Noir from a friend. Her wines stood out from the very beginning among industry pros, the wine press, and consumers. The rest, as they say, is “herstory” — Day Wines now produces 5,000 cases from organically farmed fruit, and is distributed in 12 states and three countries.

Sara Pérez (Mas Martinet, Venus de la Universal)

The daughter of José Luis Pérez, founder of Priorat’s Mas Martinet, biologist, self-taught oenologist, and one of the most respected and followed voices of the wine world, Sara Pérez is without a doubt descended from winemaking royalty. Having grown up surrounded by the vine, she studied plant biology, viticulture and philosophy before taking the reins at Mas Martinet in the late 1990s. Back then, to win the respect of the old school, boys’ club of local grape growers, Sara took to swearing and drinking strong, black coffee. “Eventually they understood that I was the one who decided who to buy from,” she said.

“I owe everything to my father,” Sara continued: “The direct knowledge that he has given to me and the strength that he has transmitted to me, as well as the respect for what is different, for other ways of thinking and working, and, above all, the sense of freedom to discover my own path.” That path is widely apparent with a sip of the elegant, bold, and unforgettable reds Sara produces from organically grown old vines in hot, sunny Priorat and Montsant.

Maria Elena Jiménez and Marta Casas (Parés Baltà)

Oenologists and sisters-in-law, Maria Elena and Marta are also leaders among the new generation of winemakers who are rooted firmly in the past, yet continually work to innovate and elevate the craft. A former chemical engineer, Maria Elena fell in love with winemaking almost at the same time as she fell for Joan Cusiné, one of the owners of Parés Baltà. She studied enology at Rovira Virgili University in Tarragona, and expanded her wine knowledge with travels to France, Australia, and Napa Valley, here in the U.S. She joined the family business when she returned.

-During her childhood, Marta was surrounded by her grandparents and her great-grandmother, who were all involved in winemaking. She loved to play in her grandparent’s tiny wine cellar, dashing behind the press, barrels and concrete tanks. When Marta grew up, she studied pharmaceutical sciences at University of Barcelona. During her studies, she met her future husband Josep Cusiné. In this period is when her passion for wine started. Josep introduced her to wine tastings and they started to travel to different wine countries around the world. She was so interested in the vinification process that she decided to help in the cellar. Today the duo has made a name for themselves in Spain and beyond, introducing new, ecologically sensitive farming techniques and state-of-the-art science to grape-growing and winemaking.

Mike FunkA Woman’s Work Is In the Cellar: A Salute to Women of the Vine
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In the Spotlight: André Hueston Mack & Mouton Noir

Black History Month may be the shortest of the year, but we’re committed to celebrating the achievements of African and African-Americans tastemakers and industry shakers all the time. In the spotlight this week, sommelier, winemaker, author, and restauranteur André Hueston Mack.

Born in Trenton, NJ, Mack left a successful career in investment banking to pursue his passion for the vine. In the early 2000s, he went to work at The Palm in San Antonio Texas, his education in wine beginning in earnest on the sales floor. From the start, he loved introducing guests to lesser known regions and vineyards, sharing in their joy at discovering new flavors and tastes.

At the age of 30, he became the first African American to win the title of Best Young Sommelier in America, and in short order joined the opening team at Thomas Keller’s legendary Per Sé, which was where he met his spouse, author Phoebe Damrosch. Mack’s wine lists there garnered national attention — he was featured in Wine Spectator, The New York Times, The Huffington Post,The Wall Street Journal, and Black Enterprise.

In 2007, Mack struck out on his own with Mouton Noir Wines, a project that incorporated his love of hip-hop, street culture, and the philosophy of “wine for all.” Unique and distinctive, Mack’s wines are sourced from some Of the best vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley region, each sip showcasing the individuality of their unique terroirs. Today, he produces 30,000 cases which can be found in the restaurants and retail stores in 11 countries and 45 states, including two in New York—including Vyneyard and his latest, & Sons Hamlet.

Mack is a passionate wine educator who has led seminars and panel discussions at several food and wine gatherings including The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado and the Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival. He also curates wines for Club W, a wine club for a new generation of drinkers, to continue his mission of making wine more accessible.

Wanna learn more? Follow André Hueston Mack on Instagram @andrehmack, then join Wine & Spirits on February 12 for a special in-store tasting from 5pm to 7pm.

Carla Bueno-SandersIn the Spotlight: André Hueston Mack & Mouton Noir
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Celebrating Black Tastemakers

We’re pleased to give a shout-out to some of our favorite vendors and tastemakers during Black history month—and all year round.

It’s Poppin’

We wrote about Smooth Pops when they debuted in our store this past summer, and they’ve been a hit ever since, selling daily even now in winter. Movitza Simmons is a New York mom who wanted wholesome summer snacks for her then-infant son. Disappointed by the preservative-loaded selection available to her, she set out to make her own. Now they make a delicious, whole-fruit treat for all ages! Just ask her son—he’s still Smooth Pops’ official taster.

Follow Smooth Pops on Instagram: @iluvsmoothpops

Vegan Vibes

If you’re a little too chilly to have a frozen treat right now, no worries. West African soups are an easy grab at Provisions! Egunsi’s vegan soups are a modern take on classic West African flavors. Founder ‘Yemisi Awosan’s hope is that not only will these soups bring her West African heritage the visibility it deserves, they’ll also inspire people to try their own hand at West African recipes.

Follow Egunsi Foods on Instagram: @egunsifoods

As for other producers in our store, we’d like to highlight Spicegrove’s spicy hibiscus drink, a mainstay in our beverage case. Its blend of spices and fruit make it as perfect for cooling off as it is for warming up, and it makes a great mixer too! As for Miss Marjorie’s plaintain chips, well, there’s never enough that can be said. Miss Marjorie’s plaintain chips—long-cut, steel drum plaintain chips—are a signature snack from the Seattle restaurant, and certainly a favorite amongst Provisions staff. We also stock fresh pecans, grown in Georgia by a grassroots organization, New Communities, that works to empower Black farmers and bring justice to the growing community.

Follow Spicegrove on Instagram: @spicegroveroselle
Follow Miss Marjorie’s on Instagram: @marjorieseattle
Read about New Communities here

To discover even more inspiring Black food personalities and emerging brands, follow @blackfoodfolks, a groundbreaking new organization founded by Colleen Vincent,
Director, Culinary Community Initiatives The James Beard Foundation @ms_collycol and noted photographer Clay Williams @ultraclay.

Carla Bueno-SandersCelebrating Black Tastemakers
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