Two local Washington winemakers inspire women to reach their dreams
BENTON CITY, Wash. — It’s that time of the year when winemakers watch as their grapevines starting to “weep,” which means the soil temperatures warm up, the sap begins to flow; a sign winter is over.
As March comes to a close, KAPP-KVEW highlights two women who deserve to be celebrated for Women’s History Month and Washington Wine Month. Shae Frichette, the co-owner and co-winemaker of Frichette Winery, and Amy Johnson, the owner & proprietor of Purple Star and Muret-Gaston Wineries, have found a smooth balance not only in their wines but with their business.
Both women not only collaborate on projects together, but their businesses are a family affair, with a focus on giving back to the community and, most importantly, inspiring others to accomplish their dreams.
For Shae Frichette, a coin toss sealed the deal with the wine industry. She and her husband Greg were living in Southern California in 2010 but wanted to be near family. Her family was in South Carolina, and Greg’s family was in Pasco, Washington, so they flipped a coin. With the coin toss results in favor of Washington, they both quit their jobs, moved to Washington, started their wine business in 2011, and have been growing and creating wines ever since.
“We were experts at drinking wine, so we know what we enjoyed it, but we really didn’t know a whole lot about the process of making wine,” said Shae, who grew up in a dry home.
With Greg studying wines at WSU and Shae’s skills in learning through the “school of hard knocks,” they became winemakers together. “We wanted to do something that would give us literal goosebumps,” Shae said when talking about how she and her husband picked the path towards wine.
“We enjoy connecting with folks over our wines, so most of our dialogue isn’t about wine at all; it’s about connecting with another human. So I want people to feel like they belong. I want them to feel welcome, and I want people to enjoy and take our wines and share our story with someone else so that it might inspire them to do something big,” said Shae.
Shea is excited as her winery is growing. “We acquired more property and released a new wine similar to Punctual, and this one will be called Persistent.”
Shea describes her wines as smooth, balanced and full of flavor with amazing assertive tannins.
Interested in visiting Frichette Winery and trying the new wine coming soon? Check out www.frichettewinery.com or visit her winery on Red Mountain, located at 39412 N Sunset Rd. Benton City, WA 99320.
Purple Star and Muret-Gaston Wines
“We wanted to raise our kids in an industry where we could work shoulder-to-shoulder with them,” said Amy, whose favorite childhood memories were working in the agriculture industry together with her family. She said it’s been exciting to watch her children problem solve, grow and develop as they learn the trade.
“We went big in the production with large tanks. We make a lot of wine for other people; it’s called a custom crush. We make wine for new wineries because they can’t afford to buy the equipment, and then they create cash flow, then they go out and build their own. Then we get new clients coming in,” Amy said.
Amy said she enjoys her business because she loves the creativity of making different wines with different barrels and grapes from across the state while helping develop generations of winemakers.
“All ships rise with the tide, and if we help out our neighboring wineries, then it comes around that there’s better wine out there, people have a better experience. And it just braises the whole industry together,” Amy said.
Learn more about Purple Star Wines by visiting www.purplestarwines.com.
Supporting Women in Wine
Both Shae and Amy said all women are welcome, “there is space for her and the Washington Wine industry, in particular, is fabulous with so many winemakers willing to share knowledge,” said Shae.
Amy said one of her greatest collaborations has been with Shae, “I just said yes to every one of them, and probably 90% of them worked, so that’s pretty good. You start finding your people who are as excited as you are and want to lift our community up and participate with you.”
“I still say that even though there’s a small percentage of women winemakers in this industry for any other women who wants to get involved, there’s plenty of room to come in because we’re needed,” Shae said.
Having worked and currently working in a male-dominated field, Shae said that women in any industry are not alone. Amy wants to encourage every woman, no matter the industry, to “surround yourself with like-minded people; they can be men, they can be women, they can be anybody. There are people out there who will support you and never be afraid to show up for the meeting. Never be afraid to say, ‘well, I’m not sure what that entails, but yes, I am excited to learn, and I am excited to step out there.’
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