Globally, the wine industry is valued at more than $513 billion and over the next 10 years is projected to skyrocket to nearly $850 billion. A chief reason? Innovative female leaders. Within the Arizona wine industry, women know their wine and are helping State 48 to become a powerhouse in the industry. Here is a look at just some local bosses behind the bottles:
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Angie Stephenson, Breakthru Beverage Arizona
Does Dom Pérignon ring a bell? How about Veuve Clicquot, Chandon and Krug? Yes, these are several of the world’s most coveted champagnes and sparkling wines. And yes, as marketing director of the Diageo & Moët Hennessy USA portfolios for Breakthru Beverage Arizona, Angie Stephenson is the go-to expert on all of them as well as more than two dozen other labels including Château d’Esclans, Ruinart, Newton and Cloudy Bay. The 20-year veteran is an actual champagne specialist – yes, it is a thing – earned her way up the ranks working in portfolio management, strategic planning, field sales and even in resort food and beverage since the early 2000s before earning her current coveted role as the pandemic has eased in recent months. Ready to hit the ground running, Stephenson is currently working on more than a dozen local events and even more strategic partnerships at the resort, restaurant, and bar level as well as with spirit brands ranging from Belvedere to Johnnie Walker. So what does that all mean? That chances are if you are toasting anywhere in the Valley, Stephenson had a hand in it.
Sanctuary’s resident sommelier and wine educator Laura Bruno boasts a resume as big and bright as the 400-label collection of wines she oversees at the resort. Not only does Bruno hold both a bachelor’s degree in Wine and Beverage and a master’s degree in Wine from the acclaimed Culinary Institute at Hyde Park, but she is also a Level 2 Certified Sommelier and a Certified Sake Advisor. Guests not only love her for her innate ability to simplify even the most complex varietals, but for her expert-level pairing advice. Her secret weapon: Bruno started her culinary career as a line cook in the kitchens of Michelin-rated eateries in New York City before turning to the study of wine.
Taylor Chandler, The Phoenician
As the food and beverage operations manager of The Phoenician, Taylor Chandler oversees 4,000 different labels at any given time across the property and is a leading reason the resort has earned the Wine Spectator Award several times over. Chandler formally took on the position, which was created specifically for her, in 2020 after more than a dozen years in the industry, working off and on with The Phoenician as well as with other resort brands including the Sheraton Downtown Phoenix, Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia and JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa. Chandler was exposed to the industry early though she did not imbibe or begin studying in the field until much later. The daughter of two hospitality professionals, it was not uncommon for Chandler to run wild through vineyards at 5 years of age while mom and dad sampled portfolios across California and beyond. Graduating from Arizona State University in 2009, the Certified Specialist in Wine (CSW) counts advanced sommelier Chris Costas as among her biggest mentors and cheerleaders. She was also lucky enough to work under the late Greg Tresner, master sommelier, who originally helped curate The Phoenician’s robust and sought-after list.
Kristen Shroyer, ONEHOPE Wine
Scottsdale native – and local Girl Scout mom – Kristen Shroyer co-founded Napa Valley’s first and only impact-driven winery along with five friends in 2007. ONEHOPE empowers its customers to share wine and give hope to the people and causes that matter most to them. To date, the company has donated more than $8 million to 30,000-plus nonprofits across the country through their innovative distribution model. In 2020, ONEHOPE opened its flagship state-of-the-art winery in the coveted Rutherford Bench of Napa Valley. Shroyer leads strategy in marketing and development and manages the foundation’s mission and vision to change the world with wine. From the early days of selling wine out of the back of her car to now, the University of Arizona alum has helped grow the brand to 1.5 million bottles a year, making it one of the top 250 wineries by volume in the United States.
Paola Embry, Wrigley Mansion
Chilean-born Paola Embry is an accomplished sommelier who earned the Certificat de Merite from Le Comite National des Vins de France and a Degree of Honor from Les Amis du Vin International Wine Society. Currently, she serves in a dual role as chief executive officer and wine director for the Wrigley Mansion where she is known for creating the Wrigley Mansion Wine Festival, a four-day event that just completed its second year, as well as earning the property its latest “Best of” Wine Spectator award and Geordie’s its first Wine Enthusiast “America’s Best 100 Wine Restaurants” designation. A sought-after specialist on the national level, Embry has served on the advisory board of Santé Magazine and has authored acclaimed pieces for Wine Enthusiast.
Maki Pottenger, Bourbon Steak at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
A veteran of CORE Kitchen & Wine Bar at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain Resort and the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, Maki Pottenger first joined the award-winning Mina Group’s Bourbon Steak at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in 2015. Bowled over by her talent, Mina would pull her to a San Francisco property soon after, but Arizona never stopped calling her home. By 2018, Bourbon Steak Scottsdale was able to beckon her back, first as the floor sommelier before offering her the coveted role of lead sommelier in 2019. Today, as the Wine Director for the entire resort, the Court of Master Sommeliers certified Pottenger oversees more than 3,500 bottles and 900 total labels at the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner.
Zoya Vora-Shah, The Wine Collective of Scottsdale
A native of Mumbai, Zoya Vora-Shah immigrated to the United States at 18 and worked as a wine representative in Florida, Washington, D.C., Arizona and New Mexico throughout the 2000s. Many Valley oenophiles know her best as the previous owner of the beloved My Wine Cellar (now The Cellar) in Ahwatukee, which she expanded to Gilbert in 2013. After selling the brand and taking time off to follow some other pursuits, Vora-Shah is back at it with the 2022 opening of The Wine Collective of Scottsdale. The new downtown Scottsdale tasting town tasting room and retail shop focuses almost exclusively on showcasing premium Arizona producers. Vora-Shah hand-selects each of the roughly 40 bottles on the shelves and prides herself on offering an experience that is educational as well as relaxing and fun. Her goal is to expose wine aficionados to an array of the best Arizona has to offer while keeping prices reasonable.
Peggy Fiandaca, LDV Winery
Fun fact: before founding the acclaimed LDV Winery in 2008, Peggy Fiandaca was an urban planner in Arizona for more than 30 years and the first-ever woman recognized as an Arizona Planning Pioneer by the Arizona Planning Association. Today, Fiancaca grows 13 acres of grapes in Southern Arizona and works as the brand’s chief winemaker with her husband, Curt Dunham. LDV has made its name by offering hand-crafted, estate-grown and produced Rhone-varieties that reflect the unique vineyard characteristics. Currently, Fiandaca produces 3,000-4,000 cases of wine per year and leads the LDV Winery Tasting Room in Old Town Scottsdale, which offers tastings as well as current varietals by the bottle, glass or to go.
After marrying in 2001, Valerie and Daniel Wood’s corporate careers took them from California to Chicago and then Tokyo. But perhaps their biggest move was when they decided to put down roots in the small town of Cornville. Within a week of relocating to the rural northern Arizona city, all their senses came alive in the fresh air and the star-filled nights. And though they initially planned to retire from work altogether, around 2013 they decided to enroll in Yavapai College’s first-ever Viticulture and Enology program at the Southwest Wine Center. Through the program, of which they are among the first graduating class, the Woods helped plant 13, 000 acres of vines while developing a business plan for their own brand. Enter Heart Wood Cellars in 2015. Each of their first five vintages won gold or silver medals at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.