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New York City Women in Wine: The Courage to Lead After the Struggle

In October, it was time for the annual New York City Women in Wine Leadership Symposium: a celebration of female wine producers, writers, and educators

Cheron Cowan, the General Manager and Wine Director of Harold's Meat Ph. (Iñaki Vinaixa Photography)

During a panel discussion at the Women in Wine Leadership Symposium in New York City an important lesson was passed on to many women in the wine trade. We must think beyond the category we were placed in when we were young and proudly take our place of authority in the world.

When I was young, I used to think one needed to be born and raised in a certain situation to eventually become a leader of any kind. For someone like me who spent way too much time struggling and surviving, it seemed like I never had the resources, support or downtime to work on my leadership skills. I always envisioned a leader being raised in a nice neighborhood, going to certain types of schools and running in certain social circles. Considering my background, I always imagined that my purpose in life would be as a worker bee and that I would simply be grateful for food on the table and a roof over my head.

Cheron Cowan, the General Manager and Wine Director of Harold’s Meat (Credits: Iñaki Vinaixa Photography)

Women in Wine Leadership Symposium

In the beginning of October, it was time for the annual New York City Women in Wine Leadership Symposium. It is a celebration of female wine producers, writers, and educators from all over the globe; a chance to hear the latest research about the percentages of leadership roles that are filled by women, to assess how far we have come and how much farther we have to go.

There were many legendary women who came to speak at this symposium, but to me, one stood out like a beacon; a woman that I had never previously heard of, but will now certainly never forget.

Cheron Cowan

Cheron Cowan – the General Manager and Wine Director of Harold’s Meat + Three restaurant in New York City – lit up the room. She sat at the end of the panel, and so, I knew I would have to wait patiently to hear her story, which I highly anticipated. When the other women would talk, Cheron seemed to listen with her whole being while remaining a poised and warm presence.

When it was her turn, she talked about being in the restaurant business for 20 years, working at top NYC restaurants. Many times she was given the chance to manage, but she doubted her ability to do so and therefore turned down many offers. As time marched on, she saw other colleagues advance in their careers while she toiled away, and through time, a deep voice inside her started to wonder if these other people could do it, then maybe she could do it as well. The opportunity came again for her to manage, as it had many times before, and she took it; the baton was passed to her to lead and she needed to show herself that she was much more capable than she had once thought.

We Need to Proudly Take Our Place in the World

Cheron’s path to becoming General Manager and Wine Director had its difficulties, and at times, she deeply questioned if she was cut out to do the job. But she realized that if she wanted people to believe in her, then she needed to believe in herself first. It didn’t matter what fancy credentials she was missing because when things got rough she was able to put her ego to the side and take care of the situation.

At the end of the day, the details of someone’s life doesn’t matter, a leader is someone who is there when it counts; they prioritize solving problems over their own personal issues. As I looked at Cheron shining brightly in her own skin, a woman who was the same age as me, it made me realize that the details of our youth and what category we are supposed to be placed in, according to our birthright, starts to fade away with time… it is we who have put our nose to the grind stone and conducted ourselves in an honest and honorable way who will become the leaders that the world needs.

2004 Laurent-Perrier Champagne, Alexandra Rosé (Credits: Iñaki Vinaixa Photography)

Cathrine’s Recommendations
Everyday Drinking Wine (less than $15)

2016 Quinta de Chocapalha Arinto, Lisbon, Portugal ($11): 100% Arinto. The Tavares da Silva family, represented by the women of this clan, were present at the tasting, but were pouring a wine other than this one. I could not help but think back to this amazing white wine they produce, at such a nice price, that I had tasted on another occasion. Talk about bang for your buck! This wine is sourced from 30 year old vines and it has a mouthwatering acidity with intense lemon notes. If you are in the mood for a white that is refreshing and exotic, this is a good choice.

Special Occasion Wine (from $15 to $50)

2013 Argiolas, “Senes”, Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva, Sardinia, Italy ($28): 100% Cannonau. Valentina Argiolas is helping to lead the younger generation of her family’s winery – a producer known for their innovative winemaking and revival of native Sardinian grapes. Cannonau is certainly one of the star local varieties of Sardinia and this wine illustrates the round tannins, ripe black fruit with hint of rosemary beautifully.

Alexandra Pereyre de Nonancourt (Credits: Iñaki Vinaixa Photography)

2014 Catena Alta Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($40): 100% Malbec. This wine was presented by a woman who is very highly respected in the wine world, Laura Catena. She is a fourth-generation Argentine vintner, biologist and physician who is not only the Managing Director of her family’s famous winery, Bodega Catena Zapata, but owner of her own winery as well. This wine is from a warmer vintage and so it has fabulously luscious fruit with a velvety texture. Since they harvested early, it still has a bright acidity on the finish that gives it a nice lift and perfectly balances the wine.

Fantasy Wine (over $50)

2004 Laurent-Perrier Champagne, Alexandra Rosé, Champagne, France ($300):  80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay from their own Grand Cru vineyards. My God! This rosé has such incredible finesse and a fierce minerality, with aromas of fresh strawberries and white flowers, and great tension and precision on the finish.

Alexandra Pereyre de Nonancourt talked about the first time her father revealed this Champagne (he named it after her). She realized in that moment of tasting it, she was receiving a transmission of her father’s love as well as experiencing his passion for wine. She was not working for the family company at that time but it renewed her interest to return to her family’s Champagne house. She was at this Symposium paying tribute to her father, who had passed away since that time.

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