How J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines is Fostering the Next Generation of Winemaking Talent

Kicking off its sixth year, the #JLohrWomen Campaign aims to bring new talent and ideas into the industry with an event series and educational opportunities

Kristen Barnhisel dips a wine thief into a barrel in the cellar.
Kristen Barnhisel, the winemaker, white wine at J. Lohr. Photo courtesy of J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines.
This advertising content was produced in collaboration with our partner, J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines.

Beneath the golden sun of a June afternoon in California, winemaker, white wine, Kristen Barnhisel bends down to inspect a cluster of Chardonnay grapes. She moves in for a closer look, gently palming a cluster of fruit, looking for development and signs of disease. Fortunately, reliable breezes keep J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines’ Monterey vineyards dry, clean, and ripening on schedule.

Barnhisel joined J. Lohr in 2015 as the white wine winemaker. Her extensive experience in different regions, from Washington State to Northern California, lends itself to crafting wines of authenticity and purity, and this expertise landed her the role at J. Lohr. It’s precisely this type of talent J. Lohr hopes to foster in the next generation of women in the wine industry by launching its sixth year of the #JLohrWomen campaign, with a series of online sessions aimed at aspiring winemakers with a corresponding opportunity to shadow the winemaking team—and Barnhisel herself.

“The industry has made some great strides the last few years on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) awareness,” says Rhonda Motil, the vice president of marketing at J. Lohr, but “there is more to do.”

In March 2022, Deloitte, in collaboration with Women of the Vine & Spirits, released an industry-wide study entitledWomen Raising the Bar”. The study states that less than 20 percent of women think their company’s efforts on DEI have been “very successful” in creating a better workplace.

“Most women surveyed had concerns about what will attract the next generation of female leaders into the industry,” says Motil, with sixty percent of women indicating a lack of DEI as the top issue preventing them from considering a career in the beverage alcohol industry. 

“It has been discussed that only 14 percent of California wineries have a woman in one of their lead winemaker positions,” says Cynthia Lohr, the co-owner and chief brand officer, “and women in C-suite positions in the wine industry, compared with other industries, are equally modest.” 

J. Lohr hopes to foster in the next generation of women in the wine industry by launching its sixth year of the #JLohrWomen campaign. Photo courtesy of J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines.

Lohr will kick off the program with a #JLohrWomen LinkedIn virtual event series, hosting three events in marketing, sales, and viticulture and enology respectively. After each session, participants will be invited to submit a short essay about their interest in the program. Three successful entrants will be selected to join the J. Lohr team for shadow days at the wineries.

“I am most enthusiastic about shadow days,” says Motil. “The shadow program, and the corresponding conversations, are in part due to the women and men who came before us and paved a clear path towards elevating equity within the alcohol beverage industry.”

The program aims to provide insight on wine industry career opportunities for students at California schools with wine adjacent programs, although all geographic locations are welcome to join the virtual sessions. “We are trying to reach women (and men) already in the wine industry as well as those considering a career in some facet of the wine industry,” says Lohr.

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The goal is to give back to the community by investing in education to foster the next generation of talent. Of course, Barnhisel isn’t the only female star at J. Lohr. The company has a long history of employing and empowering committed, talented women who contribute to key roles across “multiple touchpoints,” says Lohr.

Experiential shadow days will be offered in marketing with Motil and Lohr; in science and viticulture and enology with Barnhisel and Anji Perry, the viticulture and vineyard research director; and in sales with Rita Di Lello, the vice president of national accounts on-premise and ecommerce, and Jessica Kollhoff, the director of hospitality and direct sales.

Lohr, as a family-owned and managed business of five decades, stands out for having women in the highest levels of leadership positions. “Ultimately,” says Lohr, “the question is less about whether women are underserved by the wine community and more about how we come together to inspire the best in all of our colleagues.”


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