Women of Wine

First annual symposium to help women in the Midwest consider the wine industry, whether in service, sales, winemaking, ownership, retail, or other ways!

Women of Wine Symposium
April 3, 2024

College of St. Mary

8 AM – Registration and Networking

9 AM-5 PM – Symposium

5:15 PM – Quaffing & Reception

Agenda

8:30 AM - Registration and Networking (Gross Hall)
9 AM - Welcome: Heather Smith, President of College of St. Mary

President Heather A. Smith, MBA, assumed the role as the eighth president of College of Saint Mary in July 2023, following a successful career in healthcare spanning over 25 years. With a strong background as an administrator, she brings valuable experience to her new position.

Having grown up in Omaha, President Smith has deep roots in the community. Prior to her appointment at College of Saint Mary, she served as the vice president of ambulatory services at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha. In this role, she held executive responsibility for the operations of 28 specialty divisions and spearheaded the creation of innovative programs while optimizing efficiency in local and regional outreach locations. From 2017 to 2020, President Smith served as the vice president of pediatrics at the same hospital. She has also held leadership positions as the vice president of operations for Children’s Specialty Physicians and as the chief administrative officer for Children’s Physicians.

President Smith has served on various boards in Omaha, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, March of Dimes, Omaha Symphony Guild, Foster Care Review Board and the Epilepsy Foundation.

President Smith’s educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in biology from Vanderbilt University, a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Creighton University, and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Outside of her professional accomplishments, President Smith is a proud parent. Her daughter is currently pursuing her education at Stanford University.

9:05 AM - Welcome: Deanna Albertson, Vice President of the vinNEBRASKA Foundation

Deanna is the owner/manager of Vino Mas, a boutique wine store/wine bar in Northwest Omaha. She holds a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) certification through the Society of Wine Educators and her Level One Sommelier certification through the Court. Deanna loves wines from all over the world and drinks all varietals. She joined the vinNEBRASKA team in 2019.  Her passion for wine, working in the industry, and giving back to the community make serving on the committee a perfect fit.

9:15 AM - Opening Keynote: Julie Dalton, Master Sommelier

Like many people, Julie Dalton got into wine by accident. She discovered her passion for wine while waiting tables during her undergrad days at Texas A&M University. A career in biotechnology took her to Maryland where she continued to study wine and work in wine bars and restaurants while completing a Biotechnology graduate program at Johns Hopkins University. When she finished grad school, a friend was opening a restaurant and wine bar on which she cut her teeth in the wine business by night while still working in the land of PCR and Western Blots by day. For four years she lived both lives and still achieved the Advanced Sommelier certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers as well as the Certified Wine Educator through the Society of Wine Educators. She finally said goodbye to the biotech industry in 2010 when she joined the team at Skurnik Wine & Spirits to represent the Terry Theise portfolio, but hospitality is where her heart was so she came back to that world a year later at the Four Seasons in Baltimore to work with Chef Michael Mina. Fast forward to 2017, Tilman Fertitta hired a team to build a Grand Award-winning wine list from the ground up with her friend and mentor, Keith Goldston, so back to Texas she went. For four years she was the Lead Sommelier and Wine Director at Mastro’s Steakhouse at the Post Oak campus. In the winter of 2021, she transitioned to the Forbes 5-star AAA 5-diamond Post Oak Hotel as their Chef Sommelier and Wine Director of the hotel’s newest addition – Stella’s Wine Bar – which still carries the same Grand Award-winning wine list. She passed her Master Sommelier Diploma in 2022.

Along the way, Julie has achieved an accolade here and there including Star Chef’s Rising Star Sommelier Washington, DC, Cochon 555 Somm Smackdown winner, Baltimore’s Best Sommelier by Baltimore Magazine and most recently, Julie was the first female sommelier to win Houston’s Iron Sommelier competition in 2018.

10 AM - Break
10:15 AM - Keynote Two: Sarah Bray, Founder of Bâtonnage Forum

Sarah H. Bray, WSET, is a wine educator, writer, and brand strategist who has worked in a wide range of roles throughout the industry. She co-founded the Bâtonnage Forum in 2018, an organization for women in wine dedicated to creating lasting change within the wine industry by supporting and empowering women at any phase in their career through mentorship, networking and job opportunities, and community building. What started as a grassroots event has grown into a diverse network of women from more than 25 states and 15 countries, at all stages of their careers. With a constant focus on real-life impact, Bâtonnage launched the progressive Mentorship program in 2020, and in 2021 became a 501(c)(3) organization. The Mentorship program supports women as they explore, enter, and advance their careers in the wine industry in six industry areas of focus: 1) Cellar/Production, 2) Hospitality, 3) Marketing, 4) Retail, 5) Sales, 6) Viticulture, and 7) Wine Business. Mentors are experts in their areas, diverse in their backgrounds and perspectives, and have lived experience in the challenges women face in entering and growing a career in the industry. The annual Forum will return to northern California this May, and virtual and satellite events are continuously developed as resources for the community. The Bâtonnage network includes a community of 3,000+ women in wine, supported by over fifty industry professionals who volunteer their time to support our community, with the goal of becoming the premier mentoring and networking organization for women in wine, accessible at any point in their careers, while challenging norms and conventions through daring content and conversations. Whether starting a career or making a move, in middle management looking for a leadership role, or already in a leadership seat, the Bâtonnage platform supports and connects women. For more information, visit batonnageforum.com.

11 AM - Break
11:15 AM - Panel Discussion: Women in Wine Retail

Panelists:

Deanna Albertson, Vino Mas

Deanna is the owner/manager of Vino Mas, a boutique wine store/wine bar in Northwest Omaha. She holds a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) certification through the Society of Wine Educators and her Level One Sommelier certification through the Court. Deanna loves wines from all over the world and drinks all varietals. She joined the vinNEBRASKA team in 2019.  Her passion for wine, working in the industry, and giving back to the community make serving on the committee a perfect fit.

Michelle Hyder, Omaha Wine Company

Michelle is the Owner of Omaha Wine Company. Her love for wine started with a five week trip to Europe in 2002 where she was able to deeply experience the culture of food and wine in France, Italy, and Spain. That passion grew every year and eventually led to Michelle and her husband, Hasan, purchasing Omaha Wine Company in 2019 where the store is now celebrating 28 years as Omaha’s longest running uniquely focused wine store.

Michelle and Omaha Wine Company have represented Omaha multiple years at the renowned Premiere Napa Valley and Sonoma County Barrel auctions. She has traveled to wineries in the US and around the world learning from some of the most prestigious wineries and winemakers. Michelle believes in the ethos of wine beyond the bottle because it speaks to the stories and craftsmanship of each uniquely crafted wine.

Jessica Keith, Corkscrew

Jessica is a native of Omaha who spent five years living in Chicago. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with ten plus years working in Human Resources and ten years of Ownership. Jessica became a Business Owner in 2011, operating Pyramid Safety Solutions, TJ Contracting, and a couple of businesses in the Safety and Construction field. The first Corkscrew location was opened 18 years ago by her brother and sister-in-law, Corey and Anne Keith. Jessica’s full time involvement with Corkscrew began when a second location was opened in the Blackstone District. The 2nd location has been open for nine years. Jessica is responsible for overseeing the operation of Blackstone as well all onsite and offsite events for both locations. It has been a motivating experience taking Corkscrew to more on-premise with starting and operating a BOH program. Jessica knows, as a business owner, about the need to be fluid and to ebb and flow with demand and outside factors. Jessica is level 2 WSET certified and is the immediate Past President of the Omaha Restaurant Association. Jessica has a six-month-old son, Oliver, and enjoys sharing a bottle of wine with her soon to be husband Aaron! 

12 PM - Lunch on your own

Options available on-campus as well as nearby Aksarben Village

1:30 PM - Keynote Three: Anna Brittain, Executive Director of Napa Green

Anna has worked locally, nationally and internationally on environmental management and policy with organizations ranging from the environmental economics think tank Resources for the Future in Washington, DC to the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Hanoi, Vietnam. She has spent over 12 years facilitating and growing sustainability in the wine industry, with an expertise in communications and certification standards. Anna has served as a lead sustainability consultant with Ontario Craft Wineries, Sustainable Winegrowing British Columbia, Crimson Wine Group, the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, and individual wineries including Benziger Family Winery.

Anna has helped lead the growth of the Napa Green program since 2015, and stepped into the position of Executive Director of the now independent non-profit in fall 2019. In 2022 and 2023, she led the launch of the action-oriented RISE Climate & Wine Symposium (formerly THRIVES), with 65+ expert speakers, 40+ sustainability sponsors, and 750+ guests. In 2023, Anna was named by the Wine Enthusiast as a Future 40 Tastemaker, and Wine Business Monthly as a Wine Industry Leader. In 2024, she was included in The Imbibe 75: “People and places that will shape the way we drink in 2024 and beyond.”

Anna has a Master’s of Environmental Science & Management from the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara and a BA in Political Science and Environmental Studies from Williams College.

2:15 PM - Break
2:30 PM - Panel Discussion: Women Working with Wineries

Panelists:

Shelia Gentry, Oakville Ranch

Napa native Shelia Gentry had an early start in the Napa Valley wine and hospitality industry, working at her uncle’s restaurant and Meadowood Napa Valley, and at summer jobs at Domaine Chandon under the tutelage of Daniel Shanks and Philippe Jeanty. A desire to broaden her horizons took her to Mount Vernon College in Washington, D.C., where she earned a BA in Business with an emphasis on Marketing and a new-found appreciation for the wine country she’d left behind.

Returning to Napa Valley, Shelia learned the ropes of winemaking as a cellar rat at Robert Mondavi Winery. With 27 years in the wine industry with the past 10 years as GM of Oakville Ranch. She has extensive wine marketing experience with prior positions at Shafer Vineyards, Harlan Estate and Sloan Estate where she was responsible for all aspects of sales and marketing.

Shelia is drawn to the natural beauty and organic farming practices at Oakville Ranch, where a deep respect for nature drives the farming of ultra-premium grapes. The wines reflect both the vineyards and the location’s dramatic terroir, and Shelia looks forward to introducing them to an even greater audience.

 

Jackie Deveny, Ballentine Vineyard

Originally from a farm in Montana, Jackie Deveny’s career started in the Barossa Valley and Sydney, Australia, followed by the Marlborough in New Zealand, before coming to Napa Valley. After learning in the vineyards and winemaking internships, Jackie was given the opportunity to share her experience with guests and sell the wine she helped make. From picking grapes, tasting room, wine club, ecommerce, to DTC travel, each role has brought a new challenge and focus.

With stints at Girard, Pine Ridge, Bella Union, Seavey, Donelan, and now Ballentine Vineyards, Jackie has grown to appreciate all aspects of the wine world and understands the value of each position a wine brand needs. Using this dynamic background, Jackie is now focusing on strategic development in sales and winery growth at a small family winery in Napa, California. With experience in corporate-owned, publicly traded, and several family-owned wineries, Jackie enjoys working at Ballentine Vineyards where she overseas all Direct to Consumer Sales and Marketing.

Outside of wine, Jackie is passionate about gardening, cooking, hiking, and the great outdoors.

 

Linda Neal, Tierra Roja Vineyard

Linda Neal has been the owner/grape grower of Tierra Roja Vineyard in Oakville, Napa Valley, since 1987. She is also CEO of Obsession Wine Company, Inc., managing production, sales and marketing for wines produced from this vineyard since 2003. Linda is best known for her 20 years co-owning and operating M&L Vineyard Management, in the Napa Valley, where she was managing over 1,000 acres of prime vineyards at the time of her retirement from that company. She also developed, owned and operated the Mellowood Vineyard and Winery, in the Sierra Foothills of California, from 2000 to 2018.

She now spends most of her time tending her own vineyard, Tierra Roja, with a goal of spending more time with family and the many friends made through the wine business. She looks forward to seeing more of our beautiful country, hoping to make it to all 63 National Parks, and hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

 

3:15 PM - Break
3:30 PM - Keynote Four: Jessica Wilmes, Sommelier, Winemaker, Owner, Nebraskan

 

Bio coming soon!

4:15 PM - Closing Remarks: Deanna Albertson, Vice President of the vinNEBRASKA Foundation

Deanna is the owner/manager of Vino Mas, a boutique wine store/wine bar in Northwest Omaha. She holds a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) certification through the Society of Wine Educators and her Level One Sommelier certification through the Court. Deanna loves wines from all over the world and drinks all varietals. She joined the vinNEBRASKA team in 2019.  Her passion for wine, working in the industry, and giving back to the community make serving on the committee a perfect fit.

4:30 PM - Tasting of wines by women winemakers, reception (Ward Hall)

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