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Powered By Women 2023: A Toast To Women-Led Brands

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

This Women's History Month, we are introducing “Powered by Women - A Toast to Women-Led Brands,” a campaign that celebrates the history and brand education around innovative and pioneering women in the wine and spirits industry. We support emerging female leaders in the Beverage Alcohol industry and want to inspire the next generation of women to join the industry.

Throughout the month of March, we will be shining the spotlight on some incredible women that have left their mark on this industry. The continual impact of these women in their industry far exceeds one month, so our goal is that the efforts of this initiative transcend throughout the year.

At RNDC, we are honored to partner with and give back to the Women of the Vine & Spirits Foundation to support rising females in the industry with mentorship programs and scholarship contributions during Women’s History Month. Women of the Vine & Spirits Foundation provides scholarships to help women advance their careers in the food, wine, spirits, beer, and hospitality industries through education, leadership, and professional development.

A unique way that we are raising funds to support the Women of the Vine & Spirits Foundation is by auctioning off custom-made digital collectibles and donating the proceeds! What exactly is a digital collectible? Simply put—it’s an officially minted Non-Fungible Token (NFT). Each Powered by Women Collectible showcases commissioned artwork created by digital artist, Chelsy Escalona, featuring beautifully designed art of three female honorees identified as pioneers in the wine and spirits industry. The women that have been chosen to be represented through these NFTs are Fawn Weaver, CEO and Founder of Uncle Nearest; Heidi Scheid, EVP of Scheid Family Wines and Elisa Gutiérrez, VP Operations at Casa Herradura.

Collectors will be able to access these limited-edition digital collectibles throughout the month of March at The highest bidder on each of the three unique collectibles sold at auction will unlock not only the digital collectible but a mentorship experience with the honoree and a signed bottle from the brand they lead as well. We have also created a free version of the digital collectible series available exclusively through the Zelus Wallet, named the top NFT viewing wallet by USA Today for its easy-to-use experience, designed for first-time crypto/NFT wallet users. For each free collectible claimed, $5, up to $10,000, will be donated to the Women of the Vine & Spirits Foundation, allowing everyone a chance to support the cause, regardless of their ability to bid in the auction.

There are so many great women-led brands, female master distillers, and winemakers; this year, we’re featuring a total of 14. These trailblazers have left their mark on this industry. Follow along to get to know more about each of the featured women who help drive our industry and join us in raising a glass to toast these dynamic women today and every day!

By clicking on the bidding site link, you will be redirected to an external site that is not affiliated with RNDC. We are not responsible for the content or privacy practices of this site.


Fawn Weaver - Uncle Nearest Whiskey

Fawn Weaver has been a serial entrepreneur for more than 25 years. As the CEO and founder of Grant Sidney, Inc., Weaver is a popular TED speaker, as well as a USA Today and New York Times bestselling author. Fawn Weaver is the CEO of Uncle Nearest, Inc., which she founded in 2016, becoming the first African-American woman to lead a major spirits brand with an all-female executive team. Uncle Nearest has become the fastest-growing American whiskey brand in U.S. history and the most-awarded Bourbon of 2019, 2020, and 2021.

Since then, her accolades include being the first African-American featured on the cover of American Whiskey magazine and being named one of Food & Wine's Drinks Innovators of the Year in 2022. In addition to all of these achievements, Fawn also founded the Nearest Green Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization offering full scholarships to every descendant of Nearest Green, the world’s first known African-American master distiller. In 2021, Weaver created the Uncle Nearest Venture Fund to invest in minority-founded, owned and led brands with the greatest potential to grow into legacy brands.

Weaver has definitely made an impact on the industry, which is why she has been chosen to be featured on a custom Digital Collectible (also known as an NFT) that will be auctioned off to raise money for the Women of the Vine & Spirits Foundation. The highest bidder will receive a mentorship experience with Weaver, along with a signed bottle from Uncle Nearest! A free version of the digital collectible series will also be available exclusively through the Zelus wallet. Access this link for more information and to bid on her NFT.

Elisa Gutiérrez - Herradura Tequila

Elisa Gutiérrez is a Chemical Engineer with extensive national and international operations and supply chain experience. Since 2019, she has led the operations and sustainability programs of Casa Herradura, with almost 1,000 employees. She oversees the Tequila Herradura Distillery, El Jimador, Antiguo, and pre-prepared cocktails (RTDs) New Mix and Jack Daniel’s. Gutiérrez also manages the distribution and logistics of Brown-Forman's global products and tequila exports to the world. She is the leader of the Global Network of Women (GROW) in the company and has been named one of the 100 most influential women in business in Mexico. She also chairs the company's development and community support activities and supports various foundations.

Elisa will also be featured on an exclusive NFT available for bidding! This NFT comes with mentorship hours from Gutiérrez and a signed bottle from Herradura. A free version of the Digital Collectible series will also be available exclusively through the Zelus wallet. Access this link for more information and to bid on her NFT.

Heidi Scheid - Sunny with a Chance of Flowers Wine

Heidi joined Scheid Family Wines in 1992 as Director of Planning and served as Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer from 1997 to 2001. Since 2001 she has overseen sales and marketing for a wide-ranging portfolio of wines for the company. During her tenure, Heidi has helped expand Scheid’s vineyard holdings to 12 estate sites and has taken the wines of the Scheid family to every state in the U.S. and 13 different countries (and counting). Heidi is an active and engaged member of the California wine industry. She has been a director of the Wine Market Council since 1996 and is currently its chairperson.

Heidi is one of the three women to be recognized via an NFT that’ll be available for auction! With this NFT comes mentorship hours from Scheid and a signed bottle from Sunny with a Chance of Flowers. A free version of the Digital Collectible series will also be available exclusively through the Zelus wallet. Access this link for more information and to bid on her NFT.

Jessica Tomei - Cupcake Wine

Jessica Tomei has spent more than 15 years chasing vines through some of the world’s finest wine-growing regions. Her hands-on approach starts in the vineyard, working alongside growers to ensure the grapes reach the perfect ripeness. Letting each vineyard shine through to create rich, creamy and delectable wines, Jessica brings out the truest grape expression for each Cupcake varietal.

A third-generation Californian, Jessica grew up in a close-knit Italian and Greek family with a love of food and wine. Jessica decided to pursue a formal education in wine, interning at Gloria Ferrer in the Sonoma Valley, during her time as an undergrad student. That love led her to the highly renowned University of California, Davis, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Viticulture & Enology. Since then, she has traveled the world and completed nearly 20 harvests, working at vineyards in Tuscany, Italy; Chile; and all over California, including Sonoma, Napa and the Central Coast.

Andrea Card - Coppola Diamond Wine

Andrea Card is the Senior Winemaker at Francis Ford Coppola Winery and works with all wine programs that they offer. She didn’t start there though. In 2001, Card graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, where she received a BS in Agricultural Business with a concentration in Farm and Ranch Management. Loving the wine culture, she decided to take her education further by completing the California Agricultural Leadership Program at UC Davis.

She is a fourth-generation Sonoma County native with roots of wine dating back before Prohibition, when her great-grandparents grew Petite Sirah and Carignane in the Alexander Valley. She started her winemaking career over 20 years ago at a Biodynamic winery and vineyard, enriching her fascination with plants, wine and the processes behind it all. Her knowledge of wine is extensive and renowned. She started as a laboratory technician at Benziger Family Winery. From there, she worked for The Prisoner Wine Company and then, eventually, as the Director of Winemaking at Francis Ford Coppola Winery.

She is an avid competitor in Logging Sports, a sport derived from the traditional work in the woods, such as log chopping, throwing axes and cross-cut sawing. When not competing throughout the country and Australia as a member of the U.S. Women’s Team, she can be found on the lake water skiing, crafting, and enjoying time with family, friends and pets.

Alex Thomas - Bushmills Whiskey

You can say that Bushmills has always been near and dear to Alex Thomas. Thomas was born in Ballymoney, a small town in County Antrim of Northern Ireland. Which just so happens to be about 15 minutes from The Old Bushmills Distillery. “The Old Bushmills Distillery is a very special place, and every day I get to explore my passion to develop new whiskies and experiment with different casks and flavors,” said Thomas when talking about her career path so far.

Building on the legacy of generations of Bushmills’ whiskey makers, Thomas is responsible for the selection and management of the casks for Bushmills famous single malt, nurturing the Bushmills Irish Whiskey portfolio of premium blends and aged single malts and new product development. Alex joined the Bushmills team in 2004, and since then, she has spent over 17 years honing her craft, fascinated in particular by the maturation phase of the whiskey-making process. This interest, and her initial experiences, led to experimentation with different taste profiles and ultimately, her development of The Sexton Single Malt, in 2017.

Cristina Mariani-May - Banfi Wine

Cristina Mariani-May's passion for all things Italian started when she studied at the Georgetown University campus in Florence, Italy. While Mariani-May was there, she fell in love with the culture, food, landscapes and wine! After receiving her BA, she continued her education and earned an MBA from Columbia Business School. From there, she worked her way up in the family business from marketing, all the way to CEO. It was there where she was able to share her passion for Italian wine with the world to elevate it while also working on ways to make the process more sustainable.

Mariani-May is a third-generation proprietor of the vineyard estate in Montalcino and CEO of Banfi Vintners. Considered one of the most creative women in wine, Mariani-May has propelled Banfi through her innovative approach to regions and varietals, and her understanding of the importance of affordable luxury in the wine world. She’s also been a champion of sustainability in winemaking. She was the winner of the second annual award edition of the "Women in Wine and Spirits Award" 2021 for sustainability. The award globally recognizes Cristina’s ability to push Banfi's corporate social responsibility.

Brittany Merrill-Yeng - Skrewball Whiskey

Chemistry, litigation and peanut butter whiskey. At face value, these three things have nothing in common. If you look a little deeper, you can find Brittany Merrill-Yeng, co-founder and managing partner of Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey, at the center of these three motley fields. Back when Merrill-Yeng was in college, she was pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and a master’s degree in chemistry. That endeavor alone is enough to impress just about anyone. Soon after, Merrill-Yeng found herself at the University of Chicago, where she earned her law degree. After receiving her law degree, she combined her knowledge and spent five years as a pharmaceutical patent litigator for one of the largest firms in the world. Merrill-Yeng found herself around bars and restaurants during much of her free time so that she could spend time with her husband, who was building a restaurant at the time. It was in that setting where they experimented with and found that X factor the whiskey world was missing: Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey.

Merrill-Yeng was one to watch as she took her husband’s wacky idea of combining peanut butter and whiskey and turned it into a shelf-stable product and Hollywood favorite that reached national distribution in just one short year. An industry disruptor and a woman making waves in a male-dominated industry, she is a highly educated woman juggling parenting while running a leading spirits company and creating a brand that goes beyond just whiskey.

Lesley Gracie - Hendrick's Gin

Lesley Gracie has been considered many things: a pioneer, gin revolutionist, trailblazer—the list can go on and on. And it’s been her sense of creativity, with some help from her nose, that has launched her to the front of ginnovation. In the beginning of her career, she worked for a pharmaceutical company, trying to make drugs and medicine more palatable. The world will be forever grateful that she did not stay there. A chemist by trade, Lesley Gracie moved from Yorkshire to Scotland to join William Grant & Sons’ technical team, where she worked across a number of areas including the development of flavors in whisky. In 1999 she was approached by former chairman and great-grandson of William Grant, Charles Gordon, to create an “ultra-premium” gin – Hendrick’s. She was appointed as the Master Distiller, and she went on to spearhead the development of the most unusual Hendrick’s Gin.

Her hard work and curiosity culminated in the discovery of the delicious and unique infusions of rose and cucumber, alongside 11 other botanicals. This unusual recipe resulted in the Hendrick’s Gin known and loved by curious individuals worldwide. Whether it’s medicine, whisky or gin, Lesley Gracie has the Midas touch to make sure whatever she sets her mind to turns to liquid gold.

Christine Morrison - Seaglass Wine

Christine Morrison has been with the Central Coast brand, Seaglass, for more than a decade. Christine knows how to capture the essence of California’s coastal region in every glass. Following graduation, Christine spent nearly five years crafting wines from various vineyards in world-class growing regions, including notable stints with Cumulus Wines in Australia, Villa Maria Estates in Marlborough, New Zealand, Kendall Jackson in Sonoma and Rutherford Hill and Beringer in Napa Valley.

Christine joined Seaglass Wine Company and Trinchero Family Estates as a winemaker in 2011. Since then, she’s ascended to her Director of Winemaking role in 2018, where she continues to craft this crisp and elegant line of wines.

Trudiann Branker - Mount Gay Rum

Mount Gay has literally centuries of history and prestige behind its brand. More than 300 years, to be exact. Trudiann Branker isn’t just making rum, she’s also making history. Trudiann joined the Mount Gay team in 2014 as the Quality Assurance Manager but worked closely with Allen Smith, who had been the Master Blender for more than 25 years. After working as the quality assurance manager for a couple of years, she had a meeting with Mount Gay executives and Allen Smith. In the meeting, Branker was told that following Smith’s retirement, she would take up the mantle of Master Blender which followed the same path as Allen Smith within the distillery.

In April 2019, Trudiann was appointed the prestigious role of Master Blender; she is the distillery’s and Barbados’ first female Master Blender. Trudiann now shares the expertise and secrets of Mount Gay rums. Her capacity to understand the subtle balance between scientific precision and the instinct necessary for the production of rum is one of her greatest strengths, and she possesses a desire to create and explore new ideas. With her introduction and under her leadership, Mount Gay has embarked on a new chapter for the distillery’s rich history.

Nicole Hitchcock - J Vineyards Wine

Nicole Hitchcock was born and raised in Carmel, CA, and discovered her passion for the wine industry when working alongside sommeliers in various restaurants. After graduation, she worked a harvest at Robert Mondavi Winery, following that with a two-year stint as Sales Representative and Fine Wine Market Specialist in the Bay Area for E & J Gallo Winery. In February 2004, Nicole traveled to western Australia to work a harvest at Houghton Winery in Nannup. After that, she returned to the U.S. to assume the position of enologist and eventually, senior winemaker for E & J Gallo Winery in Livingston.

During this six-year period, she gained further international experience by participating in harvesting activities in Gallo-partnered wineries in Argentina. Nicole was named assistant winemaker for Gallo of Sonoma in mid-2010, where she worked alongside Gina Gallo, crafting Chardonnay and Malbec. Three years later, she became quality manager for E & J Gallo Winery in Healdsburg, a position she held for nearly two years. In April 2015, she was named head winemaker for J Vineyards & Winery.

Kate Mead - Wyoming Whiskey

Being a co-founder of an excellent whiskey brand is already a very cool title that not many people can claim. Doing everything on horseback is even cooler; say howdy to Kate Mead! Mead is one of three people who’ve made sure that Wyoming Whiskey can be enjoyed all throughout the United States. The idea of Wyoming Whiskey was hatched on the Mead Ranch, just outside of Jackson, Wyoming, by its Founders, David DeFazio, Kate Mead and Brad Mead in, June of 2006.

In the living room of the fourth-generation ranch home, a Mission Statement was crafted to guide the venture: “To produce Wyoming’s first premium whiskey, using regional ingredients, through a select process that promotes Wyoming’s natural and human resources.” The idea to make bourbon sprung from a conversation between Brad and Kate, and David was tasked with figuring out how to bring the idea to life. The Meads, cattle ranchers and attorneys by trade, sought to diversify their operations and construct a distillery at the site of an old roping pen on their ranch in Kirby, Wyoming. Today, Wyoming Whiskey can be found in all 50 states, bringing you a taste of the West.

Cynthia Lohr - J. Lohr Wine

Cynthia Lohr has wine in her veins. As the daughter of wine industry pioneer Jerry Lohr, Cynthia spent some of her youth in the vineyards and at the wineries, absorbing aspects of the wine industry firsthand. Cynthia joined the family business as director of communications for J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, and in 2009, she was named marketing vice president.

Cynthia’s efforts to champion the family business led to J. Lohr being recognized as the 2010 “American Winery of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Beginning in 2016, Cynthia transitioned to the role of trade and brand advocate for J. Lohr. In 2019, Cynthia was named chief brand officer. In this role, Cynthia continues to collaborate with J. Lohr’s internal teams on initiatives that impact the company’s leading direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales and brand alignment and elevation strategies. Cynthia has excelled in her career, garnering recognition from places outside of the company. In 2019, she was nominated for Wine Executive of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Furthermore, she was ranked in the Top 100 Women of Influence by the Silicon Valley Business Journal in 2021. We can’t wait to see what else Cynthia will accomplish.

Join us in celebrating these women-led brands by stocking up on these bottles and exploring their uniquely crafted recipes found in our Powered By Women Cocktail Book created by our Beverage Marketing Team.

Enjoy responsibly, Cheers!


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