Josefa Concannon, 6.21.19
How many years have you been in the business? What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned in that time?
I’m currently the National Sales Manager for Louis Dressner. I started in wholesale in 2002, so 16 years total, but I've been working in restaurants since I was in high school and dabbling in wine in college. I was working at my family's restaurant doing the wine list and had an “aha!” moment with Kermit Lynch wines in 1988. It was a tasting I did with the sole distributor of Kermit, Dennis Stike. They came and did a tasting with like 20 wines and I had never entertained the idea of wines like that.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The people, all of them. I get to work with great people. I think the winemakers are awesome.
Can you describe any prejudices or setbacks you experienced in this industry in regards to being a woman?
I think that during my tenure at LDM, no. I've been very fortunate. I work in an environment with no setbacks or discrimination. We're a diverse bunch. There’s never been any issues there. In my previous roles, yeah. When I was starting off as a sales rep. Women now are coming into wine in a much better climate. Im’ sure for a long time it was a men’s club.
Sometimes I do find it in certain places, and it doesn't affect me as much. I do find that there’s a natty wine bro culture. It’s affected other young women in certain establishments.
How can we as women become aware of our prejudice and change our behavior?
I think we just need to look out for each other and go to bat for each other and support each other. I think we’re competing for jobs in much the same way that at some time women were competing for men. It can be catty and cliquey. We need to help each other.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
I think that, I think we have to look out for each other when it comes to opportunities. People are always looking for someone to hire, and we need to start thinking about where these qualified women are.
I think we have to start looking at women of color and Latinas because I think they have the greatest barriers to entry. As a Latina women myself I don't experience that because I don’t have dark skin.
One of the things we need to work on is getting our voices heard. We get cut off or shut up too frequently. I don’t think it’s intentional. And when we do get our voices heard, we are bitchy or bossy.
What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
I think that more and more women in wine are not wanting to participate in the Court of Master Sommeliers because of the culture there. I think that there are going to be more women coming out of that validation.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Be true to yourself and what you want. I think often times we can be put into uncomfortable situations and we need to be able to say ‘no, this is not what I want to do. This is not what I signed up for.’
What ways would you say you are contributing to the overall empowerment of current and future women in wine?
I would hope I’m being a good role model. That’s what I can hope for. I would hope that people, women, know that they have good opportunities in the wine world if they work hard. Sometimes people think my job came to me very easily, but I worked hard and cultivated relationships and asked for the job. I think that women sometimes are afraid to ask. Good wine jobs are not going to get thrown your way.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
I think of my colleagues. I think we all work super super hard. We’re not demure. We don’t need physical attributes to define our success. We're all different. We’re not the image of what wine women had to look like 25 years ago so we can be taken seriously.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
Some of my favorites are my dear friend Kathy Cohn, national sales for Mayacamas. She’d gone out there and asked for the job. She works super super hard.
I love Lee Campbell. We’ve worked together and she’s been the wine director at Wythe Hotel. I respect her tremendously because she’s a woman of color and did it when there were not women of color in the wine business.
I have to admire a lot of really good women sommeliers who don’t feel they need to be involved in the court to run really good wine programs. Cubby from Red & White in Chicago. She’s such a champion.