Gina Hennen, the winemaker at Adelsheim Winery in Willamette Valley, Oregon, has become a shining inspiration for female vintners as she breaks through a traditionally male-run industry. Hennen has made it her mission to create a diverse and supportive working environment at Adelsheim Winery, where women are a vital part of the team. S/ recently spoke with Hennen to gain better insight into how the winemaking industry can make steps toward gender equality, as well as other female vintners who are an inspiration to her.
Did you have any internalized self-doubts entering a pre-dominantly male-run industry?
“To be honest, no, it didn’t occur to me back then. My two previous careers were both in male-dominated industries (engineering and restaurant kitchens). It was sadly the norm for me. But I do see a positive, concrete movement toward parity and increased representation—not just in terms of gender—in the wine industry and that makes me very hopeful for the future. I am, at heart, an optimist.”
What was your earliest memory of winemaking or drinking that led you to pursuing a career in the field?
“One of my thesis advisors gave me a bottle of Blanc de Blancs Champagne after I turned in my thesis. I have a terrible memory for wines so don’t ask me what it was, but I do remember that it was the first wine to turn my head. At the time it didn’t register as a potential career choice even though I was in Portland, mere miles from the Willamette Valley. But it was the hook I apparently needed. The more I learned about winemaking, the more I imagined myself doing just that.”
Are there other female winemakers who have inspired you, or continue to inspire you, on this exciting professional journey?
“Definitely! I’m extremely fortunate to have a supportive network of winemakers in the Willamette Valley. We have a tasting group and social club that meets regularly, and we discuss all kinds of issues—winemaking and other. They are the absolute best. It’s tremendously helpful to get feedback and bounce around ideas, and I admire all of them: Lynn Penner-Ash, Luisa Ponzi, Anna Matzinger, Wynne Peterson-Nedry, Cheryl Francis, and Kate Payne-Brown.”
How do you feel gender disparity in the winemaking industry can be properly addressed and upended?
“It starts with our harvest interns—they are the future of the industry, after all. At Adelsheim we do our best to have a gender balance on our harvest team and we have an intensive focus on development and learning during harvest. I want everyone who works here to have learned as much as they can during their time with us. Beyond that, there are wonderful organizations here in the Valley (e.g. Assemblage, Women in Wine) that are focused on equity and representation, structured mentorship, and changing the status quo. These are wonderful organizations to support.”