Woodinville Women in Wine: Hillary Sjolund

by Shona Milne on March 8, 2011

I decided to do a series of interviews with a few of the women winery owners & winemakers in Woodinville since March is Women’s History Month. I asked each the same questions. I’m kicking this off on the 100th anniversary of  International Women’s Day with an interview of Hillary Sjolund, formerly of DiStefano Winery, and who now has her own winery Sonoris Winery. You can follow @SonorisWines on Twitter.

Why winemaking? What attracted you?

Hillary’s journey into wine began at UC Davis where she was a pre-med student with plans on becoming a thoracic surgeon. As part of US Davis she had to take 2 agriculture classes and signed herself up for an Intro to Winemaking. She was hooked and she has a BS in Fermentation Science from UC Davis.

Is winemaking still a “man’s world”? Is it positive or negative being a woman in wine?

Hillary told me that winemaking is still a “man’s world” but she did not experience any problems. She said that once people knew that you knew what you were doing it did not seem to make a difference if you were a man or woman. You have to know your subject and be obsessed, relentless, and fearless!

Do men and women have a different approach to winemaking?

Hillary said that women tend to be more detail oriented and men seems to go for bigger bolder wines but that everyone makes their own style of wines.

What’s the biggest thing you learned about yourself working in wine?

The biggest thing that Hillary learned about herself is that she is strong. She is at the point of having her own winery and that proves she is right about being strong. She also mentioned that at harvest time you have to be strong and persevere and you have to be one of the guys but when crush is over she just wants to put on some lipstick.

What do you see ahead for women in wine?

“I’d like to see more womensommeliers , you just don’t see a lot around still,” said Hillary. There are also more women entering the field.

What’s your best wine advice?

The best wine advice Hillary has is that everyone should develop their palate. That is how you learn what you like. Working in wine she stressed the need for very good communication and she mentions an example of getting the best grapes Hillary also mentioned the need to building relationship within the community as a key to success.

What does your future look like?

Hillary left DiStefano Winery at the beginning of the year and has several barrels of wine ready to release this spring from Sonoris Wines. In the next two years she hopes to be offering four wines. Hillary is also teaching two online classes through VESTA and two classes at Lake Washington Technical College. In her spare time she would also like to find a space to open her own wine lab as she loves the science side of winemaking also.

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