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A Message from Grand Event Director Tracy Lynne Parker

Dear Members and Friends,

I hope this message finds you all safe and well, it’s time to share some joyful and exciting news! 
While we had anticipated sharing the announcement of our award recipients during our dinner and awards ceremony at our 2020 Grand Event and historic 30th Anniversary; unfortunately as you may know due to the pandemic, we were unable to hold the event in May. We’ve decided not to wait until we are able to reschedule the event as we would like to share the wonderful news with you now.

During our Grand Event, we honor women who have been influential in the wine industry and/or in Women for WineSense. The Chapters across the Nation submit nominations for the following categories; Rising Star, Lifetime Achievement and Hall of Fame, the National Board of Directors have selected the recipients for their well-deserved awards. I had the pleasure and honor of presenting the awards, of course with all the proper social distancing, and mask wearing protocols in place, including long-distance phone calls and photos to these four lovely women: 

Our Rising Star Award Recipients, Amy Gross and Maryam Ahmed
Our Hall of Fame Award Recipient, Julie Lumgair
Our Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient, Gabrielle Leonhard O’Connell

We thank these dedicated and inspiring women for supporting Women for WineSense in so many ways!

The awards are beautiful hand-blown glass decanters with the award category and our 30th Anniversary logo etched into the side including one of our logo colors, truly one of a kind. These were custom designed and hand-blown by Adam McLaughlin, of West County Glass.


Tracy Lynne

Meet the Honorees

Maryam Ahmed, Rising Star

Maryam is a creative entrepreneur based in Napa, CA. She works with visionaries and organizations to implement ideas and launch products that positively impact change at a local and global scale. Maryam offers program development and experience design, operations and scaling support, and facilitation and workshops. Most often, her work takes place at the intersection of chefs, sommeliers, activists, sustainability experts, creatives, and organizations focused on the empowerment of the BIPOC community and the advancement of women.


Maryam’s previous work includes nearly five years as the Director of Public Programs at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in California. While there, she created consumer and trade education programs, such as wine and cooking classes, festivals, and conversation series, through which she focused on collaborative development with industry peers and partner organizations. In her time at The CIA, Maryam scaled her department from three to thirty staff members, while creating new revenue streams, implementing strategic onboarding and training methods, and maintaining a significant leadership role at the CIA at Copia in Downtown Napa. In addition to her role at the CIA, Maryam has extensive experience with restaurants, events, wineries, beverage distribution, and sales analysis.

Maryam is a graduate of Cornell’s Hotel School (2011) and the Walla Walla Enology & Viticulture program (2015). She is an active member of the San Francisco Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a member of the board of The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, and the creator of the biannual Diversity in Wine Leadership Forum.


In her spare time, you can find Maryam in her garden, trying new recipes and wines, designing t-shirts, and hosting her friends for dinner or darts. Above all, she remains committed to excellent hospitality and the celebration of people that lend creativity, quality, and opportunity to their industry.

“I am honored by this recognition from Women for WineSense, a community that I have enjoyed being a part of for several years. As a woman of color, I'm energized by the conversations taking place in the hospitality industry and how we will continue to advocate for and highlight the incredible work of BIPOC women. This award is dedicated to the women who have supported my journey into leadership and to the women for whom I intend to do the same.” - Maryam Ahmed


Follow Maryam on Social Media

Instagram: @goodfriendsgoodfood


Amy Gross, Rising Star

Amy Gross is the Founder and CEO of
VineSleuth. VineSleuth builds flavor-based beverage recommendation integrations for digital menus, apps & websites for wineries, breweries, restaurants and bars. In building VineSleuth, Amy secured partnerships with the sensory science team of Cornell University, leading wine educators, wine makers, an applied mathematician and a nationally recognized brewmaster, as well as a position for the business in the initial IBM Watson ecosystem. Her work in artificial intelligence at VineSleuth earned her recognition as one of the top 30 women in Artificial Intelligence in Texas.


VineSleuth came about after a vacation to Napa with her husband and 2 other couples in 2009, when she wondered why the 6 of them enjoyed wines differently. Since then she has developed the B to B business of VineSleuth, several consumer wine applications, produced a wine pairing  ebook, written a wine blog and served as an international wine judge. Amy lives in Spring, Texas, a suburb of Houston, with her husband and three children.

“It is truly an honor to be recognized as a Rising Star by the  Women for WineSense for innovation in the wine industry… especially as I think of those who have been recognized before me and all they have done! I do not take this honor lightly and will continue to innovate. Building VineSleuth has been a labor of hard work and which has benefitted from  mentorship, much of which has happened through Women for WineSense. Women in this organization have advised me by inviting me to share my ideas and guiding me with their ideas.  For all of that, I am truly, truly grateful. I look forward to the opportunities I will have to give all of that back to those who come alongside and behind me. There’s plenty of innovation to come, plenty of room at the table… and plenty of bubbles with which to toast and celebrate!”  

-Amy Gross


Follow Amy on Social Media

Business website:


VineSleuth Facebook:

VineSleuth Instagram: @vinesleuth

VineSleuth Twitter:

Personal Instagram: @amy_c_gross

Personal Twitter:

Julie Lumgair, Hall of Fame 

Julie Lumgair is a highly awarded consulting and hands-on luxury tier winemaker and winegrower with fifteen vintages and 23 varietals of fine wines made in ten of Napa Valley's world-class AVA's, Italy, and Sonoma's famed Chalk Hill, Russian River, Alexander Valley and Knight's Valley AVA's. Her calling cards are consistently producing wines that garner acclaim, distinct vineyard expressions, excellence in operations and a passionate attention to customer delight and relationships. On a personal note, she is a Southern hostess at heart, both in the winery and at home.  She grills a darn good steak and makes killer cornbread with her grape-grower husband and muse, Douglas.

For this fifth generation family farmer, optimizing precise vineyard expression and the full beauty of each wine and vintage is realized by carefully "following the field" and "listening to the barrels," nurturing them on the journey. Her couture winemaking approach is precise and hands-on, vine to table, tailoring each detail and decision to act, or patiently wait, to guide the wine style in harmony with the ever-changing agricultural environment. Thoughtful and creative plans for each wine, individually tailored by clone, block, varietal and vintage, add up over time to a portfolio of elegant, age-worthy wines with a stylistic thread driven by notable aromatics, rich textures and layered delivery.

Julie's wines have consistently achieved over fifty 90 to 95+ scores from critics including Robert Parker / The Wine Advocate, James Suckling, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Jeb Dunnuck, Wine & Spirits and industry press. Her wines have been awarded "Top Ten" and "Year's Best" lists, "Wine Spectator's "Winery to Watch" and over 50 Sweepstakes, Best of Show, Best of Class and Double Gold for a variety of her "full-bodied, impressive purity, density, richness...high-class" (R. Parker) wine styles. Julie joined Napa Valley's J. Moss Winery team for Chardonnay in vintage 2010 and became consulting winemaker for the growing full wine portfolio in vintage 2012 through the present.  Proprietor / Winemaker James Moss noted "Julie has been a great addition to J. Moss as we refine and expand our artisan wine portfolio and sourcing from some of Napa Valley's finest family vineyards." In addition to J. Moss, she is winemaker for another artisan brand launching in 2020 and has made exceptional wines as head winemaker at key estate properties including Windsor Oaks Vineyards & Winery, Ideology, Lake Sonoma / Valley of the Moon and additional consulting winemaker roles at Castello di Montegiove and other private clients. Since 2013, she has been Chair of the Napa / Sonoma Winemaking & Viticulture Roundtable of Women for Winesense.  She is a frequent winemaker panelist for Napa Valley Vintners top trade and media conferences and VIP immersions.  She serves on the Program Committee for the largest wine industry trade show in North America (Unified Wine & Grape Symposium), Advisory Board of the Innovation + Quality (IQ) Luxury Wine Conference and has served in past years on the Board of Napa Valley Wine Technical Group and several committees of Sonoma County Winegrape Growers. Her wine industry track record is complimented by 15 years as a Fortune 500 brand management senior executive.  Her work spanned national oral care products, then food brands, receiving both the American Marketing Association's top honors, National Gold Effie and Gold Edison Awards. 

Julie's philosophy is life-long learning.  She grew up farming, learning sensory science in her first career, then applying those lessons along with "roll up the sleeves" technical and analytical skills learned from many renowned mentors in the vineyards and cellars while studying in formal continuing education (U.C. Davis, technical organizations and publications). As she launched and grew her first winery, she had the opportunity to sell over 300 tons of grapes per vintage to over 30 different wineries, and was fortunate to make 7 of those clients' wines in her cellar. Combined with her own vineyard and cellar trials, this collective wisdom comparing multiple winemaker's approaches on the same vineyard blocks over 8 vintages was a revelation, deeply informing her style and ongoing trials to this day. Prior to wine industry education, her first alma mater is the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with high honors and a whole lot of Tennessee Volunteer spirit.

“It's a thrill and humbling to be honored by a group that has meant so much for so long.   I wish to extend special and deep thanks to some very special WWS members that I have had the privilege of working with over many years as we met, set a vision of growth, self-improvement, retention, overall excellence and a "good chi" style welcoming community fellowship.  Cheers and thanks to Lisa Bishop Forbes, who invited me to join in 2009 and then Chair the Napa / Sonoma Winemaking and Viticulture Roundtable in 2013.  She supported me making it anew. Respect and love to the other 4 of our "5 Musketeers," in our Roundtable Program Committee since 2016, Melissa Castro, Jennifer Higgins, Alicia Sylvester and Marisa Taylor.  Simply one of the greatest teams of doers and joyous souls through good and bad that I've had the privilege to serve with. And of course, our two founders, Michaela Rodeno and Julie Johnson, two people I'm honored to consider mentors and friends.  In summary, WWS is a beautiful living vision as relevant going forward as it was in our first 30 years.  Helen Keller sums it up best, “Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  Thank you to everyone in WWS so much!”
- Julie Lumgair


Follow Julie on Social Media


Instagram: @Julie Lumgair

Gabrielle Leonhard O'Connell, Lifetime Achievement

Gabrielle Leonhard O’Connell is Vintner and Director of Winemaking of O’Connell Family Wines, which produces Gabrielle Collection, Pietro Family Cellars and O’Connell Family Vineyard Estate OCFV Cabernet Sauvignon. The family portfolio of wines is known for boutique, gold medal Cabernet Sauvignons from the O’Connell Family Estate Vineyard in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley and their elegant Chardonnay and sumptuous white Bordeaux style Sauvignon Blanc. 

Gabrielle specializes in distinctive, small production Cabernet Sauvignons that show a sense of place and her style of artful blending, which is summarized in her 97 point Wine Advocate awarded INTE-GRATION I, a multi-vintage (2005-2014) Cabernet that expresses the essence of their historic estate vineyard (dating to the 1850’s) in a bottle. 

A forward-thinking vintner, Gabrielle believes in biodiversity, purity of the growing environment and sharing the bounty that a vineyard based lifestyle produces. She established the CCOF Organic Certified estate vineyard and gardens as a diverse ecosystem to ensure overall vineyard health- one of few Napa Valley estates that is 100% organic- both vineyard and gardens. She believes this complex environment sustains healthy organisms that maintain a naturally robust vineyard to create beautifully complex wines. The olive grove, orchard, lavender field, herb and vegetable garden are the ingredient source of her GC Napa Valley line of culinary and lifestyle enhancing products, embodying the natural luxury of wine country living. These products and innovative food & wine pairings are featured at Gabrielle Collection taste, the winery’s tasting boutique in downtown Napa. Gabrielle has another passion: Olive Oil. She has completed the certification curriculum at UC Davis to be an Olive Oil Taster; was founder of the Olive Oil Culinary Guild- a training program for chefs on olive oil sensory evaluation and quality; and of MOPREP- an organization to preserve the historic olive trees in California. She is currently authoring The Ultimate Guide of American Olive Oil and grows historic Mission olives to produce GC Napa Valley Certified Organic Estate Extra Virgin Oil. Gabrielle’s previous careers centered in horticulture and entrepreneurship. She was founder of Living Interiors, an interior horticulture company, that included design, installation and maintenance of interior plantscapes for over 750 large commercial clients in the Bay area and beyond, winning the coveted Strybing arboretum award for best design project. Her passion to support entrepreneurship led her to establish a private Small Business Incubator in San Francisco, supporting artisanal food producers. Gabrielle’s activities in the wine industry include former National Board President of Women for WineSense, judge at wine competitions, honored as a female leader in Sustainable Farming by Napa Valley Grape Growers. She leads the growth of O’Connell Family Wines as President, Director of Winemaking, Creator/Director of the winery’s Wine Country Foodie and Wine Country Lifestyle Programs and a traveling ambassador for the winery.

“The Lifetime Achievement Award from Women for WineSense was an unexpected honor that I truly treasure. For seven years, many of those as National Board President, I had the opportunity to meet wonderful women in the wine industry, many becoming lifetime friends. I appreciate that Women for WineSense offers the platform for sharing industry information and creating a vibrant network to further wine education and career development in a supportive environment for the female sector of the industry. I just wanted to get things done that might make a difference and am so honored that our collective volunteer work helped further the mission of Women for WineSense as the premiere education and networking organization for wine aficionados and industry professionals. During these seven years, we were able to launch several projects, including the Round Tables. It was our vision to establish intimate roundtables for information sharing, brainstorming and problem-solving in a trusted environment. I’m so delighted that these roundtables have sustained and grown over the years. When I first joined the National Board, I was not yet in the wine industry. Now that I am actively engaged and growing our family winery, O’Connell Family Wines, I appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with fellow vintners and others in the wine industry. It is especially important to relate to other females in the industry, as we together become influencers in the growth of the wine industry. I have a personal interest in sustainable and organic farming with the inclusion of biodiversity in growing practices, as I have concerns about the wine country as a mono-crop agricultural community. Historically, that is not the best model and I’m always excited to hear efforts towards incorporating other crops, as is feasible and hope to encourage that direction with my fellow vintners. Another achievement that we accomplished, was to reinstate the Grand Event. I attended several prior to my joining the National Board and thought they were of great benefit- the opportunity to meet amazing women and attend valuable educational events. The Grand Event is still going strong, which gives me deep satisfaction that women are finding it relevant- and fun! I am excited to hear about Chapters evolving, growing and opening throughout the US. As the Millennials join the ranks of active wine drinkers, I think it’s important that they have the opportunity to learn about wine in an educational and social environment. An aside- we collaborated and created the current logo and mission statement, making our image more relevant and suitable to promoteChapter and National events. A very good thing in our age of social media!

I thank the board and committee volunteers for all their time spent to create these achievements and appreciate the on-going efforts by all the Women for WineSense Chapter, National Board members and committee volunteers. Thank you so much for this award, I am so honored.” -Gabrielle Leonhard O’Connell, Vintner, 

O’Connell Family Wines

Follow Gabrielle on Social Media

Twitter: AND

Facebook: AND

Instagram: @gabriellecollectiontasteplus