Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

Cheers to the Ladies!

By Doug Fabbioli

We all have a mother…and while we are celebrating them on Mother’s Day, I thought I would muse a bit about the mothers and women in my life who have contributed in some way to help this wine business happen for us.

First, I have to give credit to my own mother. She was never a drinker but she was certainly a foodie with a hypersensitive sense of taste and smell. I guess she’s where I get my palate. She referred to my first winery job in California as “working in the basement”—her expectations for me were a bit loftier. “No Mom, it’s a wine cellar.” As the years went by and we started our own venture here in Virginia, she clearly saw what we had achieved and the recognition we had received from the region. In the end, Mom was proud of her youngest.

Certainly the mother of my children, my business partner, wife, and love of my life gets the most credit. She committed to working a steady day job so that I was able to break into and grow in the wine industry. We certainly encountered many challenges on our continuing journey (with four decades behind us now), but the one I remember the most was my abrupt transition to self-employment. In the spring of 2001 we were gearing up to plant our own vineyard on our property down the road from where I worked and we lived. I was terminated out of the blue and was left with no job, no home, and a large order of vines arriving that I needed to get in the ground and maintain. My immediate reaction was to cancel the vine order until our lives were on more stable ground. My wife’s words to me were “Don’t You Dare!” She knew that those vines were the start of this venture and that we needed to stay on course. Needless to say we made it through, but her determination and confidence kept me on track and kept me focused. Sometimes I ride on the confidence of others to achieve the success that I may not yet see.

Our business is truly built on the hard work of fine women. Our vineyard team is mostly ladies. We have our second female vineyard manager employed who trains and supervises a crew of five to tend to the vines in order to grow and harvest the best fruit possible. Marlene studied horticulture in college, but is learning the finer points of growing wine grapes in the Mid-Atlantic. Much of the work is finer and detail oriented so good hand-eye coordination, heat tolerance, and a willingness to learn how best to do the jobs all help us achieve our goals.

The other key point of operation for our winery is our tasting room. Our tasting room managers have consistently been women, as are most of our educators in the room. This is not really by design, but how things have worked out. As the majority of wine buyers are women, I believe this makes our customers a bit more comfortable as the traditional high pressure, male-dominated sales effort is nonexistent here. I have said numerous times that what makes this business successful is when I surround myself with strong, smart women. So far, so good!

Throughout history the wine industry has traditionally been a male field, but this is certainly changing. Groups of women winemakers and owners have emerged to support each other and change the culture. I learned my craft of winemaking from three different and dynamic female winemakers. Maybe that situation gave me the varied background to be more comfortable with the diversifying of the industry.

Moms and ladies have clearly made a difference in getting Fabbioli Cellars to this point. It is important for the guys to recognize the difference the opposite sex has made a difference in our lives, especially around Mother’s Day. THANK YOU LADIES! For life, reality checks, support, hard work, leadership, vision, and fortitude, thank you. This glass of local liquid sunshine is for you, and the rest of the bottle is as well.

About the Author: Farmer, winemaker, entrepreneur, educator, and leader, Doug Fabbioli has been accelerating the growth and quality of Virginia’s wine industry since 1997. With his wife Colleen, Doug is the owner/operator of Fabbioli Cellars in Leesburg, VA. He is the founder and director of The New Ag School, which focuses on teaching the next generation of farmers and agriculture-related leaders. No wonder they call Doug Fabbioli the Godfather of DC’s Wine Country.

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