Welcome back to my third annual series featuring women in wine who are at the top of their game. This year we have the privilege of hearing from women in various roles – from business operations to winemakers, and even CEOs and Presidents. The accomplishments of women in a male dominated industry is worth celebrating not only on International Women’s Day, but all month and all year for that matter. These amazing women are paving the way for future generations of female leaders and powerhouses in wine. I hope you enjoy learning about their journey and winemaking philosophy and feel as inspired as I do to go after your dreams. Check back here for updates as I continue to roll out these interviews daily on Instagram.
Many of you wine Instagrammers may know the winemaker for AJA Vineyards already! Her name is Amanda Greenbaum and she goes by @sommthing.rad on Instagram and posts about all things wine, beer, and spirits… but did you know Amanda is also making some stunning wines out of Malibu? AJA Vineyards is located in the Santa Monica Mountains within the Malibu Coast AVA. The first plantings of Syrah and Cab Sauv vines went down in 2007 by Founders Todd & Heather (Amanda’s parents). This sparked the passion for Amanda when she was 14 and she has since dedicated her life’s work to making the best wines from this beautiful, coastal AVA. She currently runs all operations at the winery like a true baddie!
In addition to making wine, she’s an advocate for millennials in the wine & spirits industry. She’s done an incredible job of connecting younger wine consumers with terrific producers from all over the world. Amanda is also a certified somm, UCLA grad #gobruins, and published her own cocktail book. It’s safe to say she’s already making big waves and I love watching her brand grow! She is someone to watch out for and I truly believe her efforts and voice will have an important, positive impact on the wine industry as she continues building her resume. I’m very proud to call Amanda a friend and share her fresh POV on what it takes to be a pioneer in the wine community.
Without further ado, here’s our interview!
Me: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Amanda: I really wanted to be a pop star. I loved to sing, I loved performing and I just wanted to share that with the world. I actually took singing lessons from ages 10-16.
Me: When did you decide that wine was “it” for you?
Amanda: But I had a feeling that wine was it at the ripe age of 14. Yes, I know…way too young to be invested in such an ancient and mature topic. But when my parents bought our AJA property, I fell in love with it right away. The cold mornings waking up early to harvest with the team. The delicious grapes right off the vine. The giant de-stemmers, presses and tanks all were so interesting to me. And I realized that wine was a combination of science and art…something I was ready to get on board with. At 16, I started researching wine, shadowing our winemaker at the winery and asking my teachers if I could write papers on it…they all said yes…I’m still shocked but so grateful.
Me: Can you tell us about the name?
Amanda: AJA is an acronym that stands for “Alec, Jack & Amanda.” My parents named it after myself and my two younger brothers. It’s pronounced “Ah-shah.” We pronounced the J like the “s” in treasure because we’re my parents’ three greatest treasures.
Me: Out of all the delicious wines you make, is there a favorite release or a favorite food pairing you’d like to share with us?
Amanda: Can I share two? I absolutely LOVE our 2020 rosé with In N Out burgers, and I love our Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc with chicken or shrimp tacos. So delish!
Me: What are your hobbies outside of wine?
Amanda: Not so far away I stray…I love cocktails, mixology, and I’m a huge foodie. My fiance and I go out to eat at least once a week with a goal of trying a new place or new dish every time. And I’m always crafting new cocktails at home. I actually wrote a cocktail book during covid called Rad Cocktails! Those are some of my favorite things to do. I’m also an avid snowboarder and try to make it to the mountains a few times every season.
Me: What advice would you give to other women who want to pursue a career in wine?
Amanda: I adore this question. Truth is, women are making waves in this industry. There are more women entering this industry every day. There’s no question we’re a minority, and yes women currently in the industry, me included, have had to fight more ways than one to get the respect we deserve. But I’ve learned that if you speak with confidence and pretend like you know what you’re doing…most people will believe you do. So get out there and be strong, confident and willing to learn. Hop on in, the water is just fine!
Me: What’s your favorite thing about the wines you are crafting?
Amanda: I’m a big terroir gal. I think wine is a representation of the region it grows in, who nurtures it, the culture and appreciation around it and the community. Being born and raised in the Malibu Coast, it’s a privilege to be producing wines from this sought after region. It’s one of the most iconic areas in the world. Everyone knows Malibu; from China to Europe to South Africa. To create something so special and rare is a huge responsibility and an honor. To create that and get to share that with people is the best part.
Cheers to you, Amanda! Your energy is contagious and AJA wines are fabulous.
Thanks for sipping with us,
@smashleythegrape | The Social Grapes LLC