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A New Conference Plans to Bring Women in Wine Together for a Positive Change

Batonnage will take place in Napa this summer

Benedicte Manière

The restaurant industry has been shaken this year with the exposure of bad behavior by many powerful men, from Batali to Friedman. Conversations about how to improve conditions for women are building momentum, and now the wine industry is taking the opportunity to address issues experienced by its female members. Cue Bâtonnage, a daylong forum that aims to open the conversation about all women in wine, from winemakers to vineyard workers.

Stevie Stacionis, a certified sommelier and co-owner of Oakland’s Bay Grape wine shop, is the driving force behind the budding conference. It’s something Stacionis had been thinking about since the attending the female-driven Cherry Bombe Jubilee last October, an event covering important issues in gender and food and where chefs like Alice Waters, Liz Prueitt, and Dominique Crenn spoke on a variety of subjects.

Stacionis says her appearance on a podcast with SF Chronicle wine and spirits writer Esther Mobley and sommelier Kelli White was the real moment of inception for Batonnage, which is a winemaking term for “stirring up dead yeast cells and particles in a fermented wine, with the intention of providing freshness and texture to the finished product.”

“We felt like we could have talked for hours about the issues faced by women in the industry,” Stacionis told Eater SF. “It seemed clear that there should be a day long forum or conference that talks about some of those issues, and proposes solutions for moving forward.”

Some of the issues that will be discussed at the forum: sexual harassment, implicit bias, the wage gap between genders, work/life balance, mentorship, and the challenges women face as authority figures. And though it’s geared toward women, everyone is welcome to attend, including all genders and those from outside the industry, says Stacionis.

“It’s important to me that it really does focus on solutions for our industry, and that it literally stirs up a conversation that can be applied to others,” says Stacionis. “I’ve always seen the wine industry as being pretty progressive and we have a unique opportunity because there are a lot of dynamic engaged women in our industry right now — we have an opportunity to set a standard that other industries might look to.”

The conference takes place on Saturday, July 28 from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. on a private estate just North of the city of Napa, with speakers like sommelier Shelley Lindgren of A16, winemaker Jill Matthiasson, and SF Chronicle wine writer Esther Mobley. There will also be a “wine hour” when the panels are finished, with an impressive lineup of wines from local, female winemakers like Donkey and Goat, Inconnu, Raft, and more.

Tickets cost $50-75 and are available for purchase here.

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