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March 23, 2020 | News & Interviews | Sandi Coero

Rack & Riddle Women Making History at Sonoma County Winery

Rack & Riddle Women Making History at Sonoma County Winery

Healdsburg, Calif. (March 23, 2020) — The spirit of Women’s History Month is to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions by women in history, culture and society. The month-long dedication not only pays homage to the women who walked before us to fight for equal rights, it’s also a time to celebrate women growing up and moving up, in this era of equal opportunities. 2020 marks 100 years since the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was officially ratified, giving women the right to vote — a feat even more meaningful, considering the U.S. is in the midst of a Presidential election year contest. 

Rack & Riddle is honoring their own special team of women this month. The Winery is the leading custom sparkling wine producer in the nation, and the women on the team work tirelessly in their daily efforts to hold that coveted spot. They are also simultaneously bringing women to the forefront of the wine industry.

The Women of Rack & Riddle

[Rebecca Faust, Co-Founder | Managing Partner] Historically, Rack & Riddle has always been a very progressive, forward-thinking company. In general, the Wine Industry is traditionally male-dominated. Rack & Riddle is a unique example of a company breaking that mold. Women currently fill 36% of the key roles at R&R — from production to winemaking. 

Co-founder Rebecca Faust is a wine-industry veteran of more than 30 years. Ever humble, Rebecca never likes having the spotlight shined in her direction. However, in the spirit of Women’s History Month, Faust says, “Our Winery is truly unique in so many ways. Not only does our winery lead in a very niche marketplace creating custom crush Méthode Champenoise sparkling wines, we also have a very diverse body of employees who make it all happen day-to-day. Our vision wasn’t necessarily to be a female-led Winery, because we believe in the empowerment of all employees. But being part of a company where women are encouraged to excel is truly the icing on the cake. We are proud they represent a strong force on our team.”

Tenacious Women on the Production Line


Rack & Riddle is a fully automated winery and production facility. Its stellar production crew has 18 women — or 30% of the Winery’s overall production crew. These women work in various roles, typically dominated by men, such as: Forklift driving, automated bottling-line operations and maintenance, wine lab work, quality control, and much more. 

Production work isn’t for the timid. Here is what a few of them have to say about their roles on the production line:

 

Evelia Carlino Vargas
Line Operator
Years with Rack & Riddle: 4
 
I manage the still wine labeling line. I setup and oversee the change-out of the many labels/brands we produce, along with handling the automatic case packer and the glue for the labeler. I really like my job, and I enjoy working in production,” says Carlino Vargas.

 

Agustina Cuenca
Disgorging line Operator
Years with Rack & Riddle: 6

I make sure that the disgorging line is running, including the disgorger/doser, corker, wirehooder, agitator and washer/dryer. I also work the tirage bottling line, as well as other areas of production.” Ceunca says about working production at Rack & Riddle, “It’s my first production job. It’s been a great experience. I love to work at Rack & Riddle because of the opportunities the company has given me."

 

Veronica Jimenez
QC – Quality Control
Years with Rack & Riddle: 7

“I do quality control, ensuring all the labels are correct, and the height of the wine is correct in each bottle. I also check the O2 (oxygen) and CO2 (Sulphur) levels in the lab. I love working at Rack & Riddle, and with my crew — we all get along very well. Every morning, I’m happy to get up and come here — even at 4 a.m.,” says Jimenez. She starts her shift at 4 a.m. daily when automated production gets into full-swing.

 

Maria Orozco
Cellar Worker
Years with Rack & Riddle: 4

“I have three years’ experience working the disgorging production line. I work in the cellar - receiving and shipping trucks, preparing wine doses for disgorging, and processing sanitations and additions. I like working the lines and also with sparkling wines,” says Orozco.

 

Winemaking Women at Rack & Riddle

The award-winning Winemaking Team consists of six people led by esteemed Executive Director of Winemaking, Penny Gadd-Coster. Four of the six Rack & Riddle winemakers are women. Each were asked what inspired them to be a winemaker. Here are their responses:

 

Penny Gadd-Coster
Executive Director of Winemaking
Years with Rack & Riddle: 13
Years in the Wine Industry: 33 

“My family of women inspired me tremendously. I actually released my own sparkling label recently, which represents four generations of women from my family on the label — my great grandmother, my grandmother, my mom, and me. Each were business women in a sense, either operating a business, or working at a time when many women didn’t work. They really inspired me to be my own person. I’ve always worked in fields that were ‘male dominated’. I never really gave it much thought because of the empowerment of my family. However, looking back, I’ve been on a team of 30 people doing research when I was only one of two women on the team. In winemaking, it’s been the same thing — not many women to work alongside. Interestingly, with Sparkling wine, there generally aren’t many people making it. To be a woman winemaker in a relatively small niche field is really unique and gratifying for me,” says Gadd-Coster.

When asked how she inspires the winemaking team, Gadd-Coster, says, “I hope my mentoring of the team here at Rack & Riddle inspires them — I’ve been told by the women I work with that I’m a good leader, and that means a lot to me personally. We’re all in this together. I learn from them, they learn from me, and the encouragement is mutual.”

 

Jennifer (Jenn) Zeek
Winemaker
Years with Rack & Riddle: 6
Years in the Wine Industry: 16

16 years ago, Jenn started her career in the wine industry inspired by her time working in restaurants, with wine passionate co-workers and extensive traveling. She said, “A winemaking profession appeared to be the best combination of creativity, sensory, and science. My career choice has not disappointed, and I am still, maybe even more so, challenged, excited and inspired daily," As a winemaker at Rack & Riddle, Jenn deals with a diverse production of both sparkling and still wines. She also caters to numerous custom crush projects, and her day-to-day involves interactions with every department and many clients through planning and tasting. When asked about her fellow women winemakers and crew, she said, “I am especially proud to work with the talented and motivated women at the winery.” 

 

Sarah Hunt
Assistant Operations Winemaker
Years with Rack & Riddle: 1.5
Years in the Wine Industry: 17
 
“I grew up being on the retail side of wine, so the inspiration for me was the desire to get behind the art of making it. I wanted to create something that is memorable to the consumer. When someone has a gathering or get-together, and they are enjoying a beautiful product, it becomes a memory. Your senses inspire memories and pulls them forward. To be part of a beautiful moment when someone is savoring something that I’ve helped create is definitely part of my inspiration,” says Hunt.

When asked about her job at the winery, Hunt says, “I work very closely with the production side of winemaking — bringing the final bubbles to the market. We each have our niche, and this is where my niche lies. Winemaking is a difficult market to break into, because it’s male-dominated. You can’t exist in this industry without passion behind the drive. It’s awesome that Rack & Riddle is a company with a lot of women, and there is great strength in the women that work here. I’m honored to be able to work among them.”

 

Sandrine Bourcier
Sparkling Winemaker
Years with Rack & Riddle: 1
Years in the Wine Industry: 27

“I have an uncle who owns vineyards. It was a great pleasure to be there as a child. I was very involved with that side of my family growing up. Every harvest, we would go with all the cousins and neighbors, and harvesting was a party. It’s where I found the passion for winemaking. Being raised in France, wine is part of every-day life. It was something that appealed to me. I was accustomed to having it, tasting and enjoying it,” says Bourcier.

On the uniqueness of the group, she says, “We recently had a meeting with the business development and winemaking teams, and we were talking about strategies. For a brief moment I looked around the room — and interestingly there were eight or nine people in the room, and I realized they were all women. I thought, wow, this is super special.”

 

Women in Management at Rack & Riddle

The management team of Rack & Riddle is very diverse. Please meet a few of the women who direct the Sales and Operations of the winery:

 

Cynthia Faust
Business Development Manager
Years with Rack & Riddle: 10
Years in the Wine Industry: 10

“Rack & Riddle employs a very diverse team. I am blessed to be working side-by-side with team members – most of whom are women — who willingly wear multiple hats each day, and who channel their positions skillfully in serving all of our clients,” says Faust.

 

Stacey Gallagher
Strategic Operations & Human Resources
Years with Rack & Riddle: 5.5
Years in the Wine Industry: 5.5

“Working in Human Resources at Rack & Riddle is a blessing as I am constantly reminded of the diversity of our workforce. Not only do I have the privilege of being surrounded by powerful women in every facet of our business, from Ownership to Production; I am interacting daily with different age groups, cultures, languages and genders,” says Gallagher.

 

Silvia de La Presa Owens
QA/QC Manager
Years with Rack & Riddle: 7
Years in the Wine Industry: 9

“I feel privileged to work with a diverse group of women who reflect the richness of our society and bring different points of view, culture, and knowledge, enriching my everyday experience,” says de La Presa Owens.

 

Additionally, there are multiple other women in key roles at the Winery, making a positive difference in daily operations.

 


About Rack & Riddle


With three locations in Sonoma County, California, Rack & Riddle is an innovative leader in the custom crush, custom wine services marketplace. Committed to providing pristine facilities where both internal and client winemakers are able to craft award-winning still and sparkling wines, the facilities are bustling year-round.

Rack & Riddle offers complete grape-to-bottle and base-to-bottle production for still and sparkling wines, and private-label sparkling wine services. The installation of state-of-the-art, high-capacity still and sparkling wine production and bottling lines provides the ability for clients to keep up with demand. The facilities house nearly two million gallons of stainless-steel storage and fermentation vessels. An exceptional winemaking team produces 1.7 million cases of wine annually.  
 
To learn more, visit Rack & Riddle online at rackandriddle.com, and follow on Facebook and Twitter.
 
For information contact Cynthia Faust, cynthia@rackandriddle.com, (707) 433-8400.

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