It was a big week for women working at Napa Valley's vineyards—for the the first time in 12 years, women were allowed to compete in a prominent annual pruning contest.
Before you say "why the hell are you writing about a pruning contest; we pay my 12-year-old nephew to do that" let me assure you, in Napa Valley pruning is serious fucking business, OK?
Pruning is an important part of vine husbandry that focuses the new growth on vines and helps determine what the next harvest will look like. Different techniques are used for different grapes and climates, and skill is as important as speed. For the growers' contest, workers are first judged on technique, then winners are ranked by time and the finalists battle it out for first through fourth place.
Women are also starting to take bigger roles in vineyard work, as it becomes less and less of a male-dominated profession:
There are a lot more women to be seen working in the fields, something that accelerated after the 2008 recession swallowed up other jobs. Meanwhile, the idea of vineyard equality has become accepted as women have progressed, some becoming leaders of "A'' crews, the much-sought after top harvest teams. "The cultural shift has now taken place where we felt like the women would be comfortable enough coming to the competition," said [Executive Director at Napa Valley Grapegrowers Jennifer Putnam.]
So, yes, it's a pretty big deal that after a dozen years, women who work in the industry finally get to compete in a contest that highlights their skill and technique alongside their male colleagues. Cash, tools, clothing and more are on the line, but bragging rights are a pretty big deal, too. The ladies did quite well for their first time at the competition, which is hosted annually by the Napa Valley Grapegrowers. Celia Perez of V. Sattui Winery got the highest score for women and men.For one competitor, the opportunity to take part in the event was particularly special. Maria Fuentes has been working for Beckstoffer Vineyards since 1977. "I'm very happy to be here," she said. It's about time."
Next up, the annual Wine Drinking Contest*, which I am thrilled to announce that I will be competing in and hopefully dominate as well! Yea!!!!
(*I have just been informed this is not a real thing. Sorry.)
Image via AP Images.