Erika Widmann, 8.3.18

Photo by Rania Zayyat

Photo by Rania Zayyat

Erika Widmann is currently crushing it as the buyer for the original at Whole Foods in downtown Austin. Erika selects refreshing, unique, and sustainably produced wines to mirror the health food store's overall concept. Look for her "Treasure Hunt" section in the wine department.

How many years have you been in the business?

I started in beer at a brewery called Mountain Sun in Boulder. I moved to NYC in 2009 and started working at Chelsea Wine Vault as a cashier and realized that I really liked tasting wine. I took the intermediate course at the International Wine Center, then realized that I was really interested in that, so I started studying wine in 2010. I moved to Texas in 2011 and started at Twin Liquors, then worked harvest in 2013 at Michael Cruse and went back and forth for a while. I started at Whole Foods on the sales floor then went Vinifera Imports, before coming back to Whole Foods.

Why are low-intervention, organic, and biodynamic wines important to your wine values?

First and foremost, it’s important environmentally. I try to eat consciously, so it makes sense that it’s important for wine to be sustainable. These wines are important because they show diversity. They’re not cookie cutter; they’re interesting, every vintage is interesting, good or bad.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding thing about working in wine right now is that we’re at a crossroad where younger people are appreciating well made wine and it’s not just for older generations with money. We in our 30s are treating ourselves to really cool stuff and are talking more about wine with folks our age.

When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?

With wine, you get different points of view, perspective, new input. That translates really well into wine, different palates, different instincts on when to pick, what to put on a wine list, what will sell, what will not sell. The more women are lifted up, you’ll see that’s it's not threatening.

What change do you hope to see with women in wine in the next five years?

I’d like to see more female winemakers. I think we’re in the process of seeing that, which is great. More women at the top of distribution companies. That’s happening with some, but it’s a major part of the industry that is more or less controlled by men. Seeing women in more situations of power making decisions that have a greater impact.

How can we as women become aware of our prejudice and change our behavior?

I learned my from Kung Fu teacher not to expect and not to compare. If you’re comparing, you’re not striving to be better for yourself but for someone else. Uplift other women that are working their asses off to do cool stuff.

What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Go make wine, study, learn. Don’t limit yourself to just one point of view, learn from a lot of different people.

What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?

I’m thinking of a mentor [I had] in NYC named Sarah. She was a hard ass. She knew her shit. She studied a lot. She didn’t compromise on her opinions, which was inspiring considering she was the only woman I worked with at the time. A lot of the really strong women in wine stick to their opinions and they’re not swayed by anything.

What women of wine do you admire and why?

Arianna Occhipinti. She is who got me interested in natural wine, realizing this 21 year old female can go learn a fuck ton and make these incredible wines. Maybe you’ll make some mistakes early on but then you’ll learn from that. I definitely admire her.