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Celebrating Pioneering Women of Michigan Wine

by Jenelle Jagmin

Would you be surprised to learn that the first American woman to earn the title Master Sommelier is from Michigan – or that the Winemaker of one of Michigan’s largest wineries is a woman? It’s Women’s History Month. Help us celebrate women’s contributions to our beloved state’s wine industry by learning a little more about the women who help make it tick.  

Madeline Triffon is the first American woman and second worldwide named Master Sommelier. She currently serves as Chairman Emeritus of the American Chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers and has also served as Scholarship Chair. For over 30 years, Madeline has directed wine programs and events in the Metro Detroit area, mentoring dozens of service professionals over the years. In 2011, Madeline joined Plum Market as the in-house Master Sommelier. There she directs winetasting events, hand selects wines for sales, and serves as a corporate wine educator.

Madeline is a steadfast supporter of Michigan wine, and has actively worked with the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council on events promoting the industry. She has also judged the Michigan Wine Competition for many years. She is a true gift to Michigan’s wine industry, and is held in high regard among peers and professionals worldwide.

Another innovator in Michigan’s wine industry is Nancie Oxley, Vice President and head winemaker at St. Julian Wine Company. Nancie manages an enormous catalog of wine production and is an outspoken advocate for Michigan fruit. A true passion for excellence guides Nancie in her winemaking – along with a proclivity for adventure and creativity. Despite the northern latitude, Nancie experiments with planting grapes that push boundaries - climatically speaking. This winemaking pioneer is even growing Tempranillo – a grape variety that is widely planted in the hot vineyards of Texas and Spain. Nancie is a widely-respected leader in the industry, with walls of wine medals and awards under her belt. 

Women’s contributions to the Michigan wine industry are diverse and many. Here are a few more examples of women leading the way in Michigan wine:

Congratulations to Chantal-Marie Lefebvre, owner and vineyard manager at WaterFire Vineyards. Her vineyard is the first outside of California to be awarded a Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certification.

Stop in to see the power duo, Lauren and Melanie – cousins who grew up among their grandmother’s vines and went on to create Lazy Ballerina Winery, with tasting rooms in St. Joe and Bridgman.

Prepare to be swept off your feet at dreamy Sandhill Crane Vineyards, where winemaker Holly Balansag creates award winning wines from grapes grown at the estate.

If you’ve attended a wine event on the Leelanau Peninsula, you’ve likely encountered the handy work of Lorri Hathaway. Lorri is executive director of the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail, is spearheading efforts to market the Grand Traverse Wine Coast, and she co-wrote the book of the industry, The History of Michigan Wines.

Thank you to all the hard-working women of the Michigan wine industry. We salute you! 

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Jenelle Jagmin is Promotion Specialist for the Michigan Grape & Wine Industry Council, a program within the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development to provide for research, education and the promotion of the Michigan wine grape and wine industry. More information can be found at michiganwines.com. Follow @Michiganwines on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

Photo 1 features Master Sommilier Madeline Triffon; Photo 2 features St Julian Winemaker Nancie Oxley; Photo 3 features Sandhill Crane Vineyards


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