Women of Wine (From the 2011 Fall issue of SONOMA)
Anne Moller-Racke loves the light in the Carneros region, the big sky, the breezes. It’s where she lives, in an old refurbished farmhouse, and it’s the viticultural area where she has grown grapes for 30 years, ever since leaving her native Germany for a working “adventure” at Buena Vista Winery. Now she’s the winegrower and president of Donum Estate and Robert Stemmler, both ultra-premier pinot producers.
Moller-Racke resists the notion that she’s lauded as a legendary pinot grower, shaking her head demurely, countering, “I was lucky.” Her farming ability is rooted in her love of the outdoors and the fact that she was blessed with a scientific mind. She speaks of her connection to the land, of the intuitiveness she believes is intrinsic to being a woman. “I walk the vineyards and I get to really know them. And I realize I am not growing grapes, I am growing wine.”
The world of winemaking has always belonged to men, and still does, she believes. The wineries she runs are owned by the German company Racke, her first husband’s family. Men, she says, tend to be dictatorial, but Moller-Racke enjoys a team approach: “I don’t micromanage people,” she says. “I give clear guidance and direction. And a smile goes a long way.” When people see she is competent, it no longer matters whether she’s a man or a woman.
She likens growing vineyards to raising children–it takes a long time and you have to pay very close attention. You must respond to what they need, nurture them carefully to bring out their best. And she would know, because she has two: her strikingly pretty doppelgänger, named Dorothe, 31; and Hannah, 14, her bright-eyed sprite.
Moller-Racke is passionate about pinot. “It wants to show the land. It’s transparent,” she says, using a term from her other great love, art. “Like watercolor.” Her home’s high walls are a splendor of contemporary work: Linda Simmel, Laura Kimpton, Brigitte McReynolds. “Wine changes, but art stays the same. The commitment to wine isn’t long. It’s gone in an evening. Art lasts.”
Moller-Racke bought her home on
nine acres in 1999. Here, she tends chickens and grows roses, 200 bushes, 25 varieties, in rows like vineyards. Here, because every woman needs something all her own, she planted seven acres of pinot noir in 2001, the Anne Katherina vineyard, which results in 300 cases a year of her Blue Farm Carneros Estate Grown Pinot. Here, she lives life in full. Moller-Racke smiles, surveying what she’s built. “It feels good.”
(From the 2011 Fall issue of SONOMA)