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Kathy Womack's art, Women in Wine

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Raise A Glass

Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Wine and Food Week

The 20th Anniversary of Wine and Food Week is upon us, and The Ladies of the Vine Tasting, Panel, and Luncheon features many vibrant women in wine. However, we went behind the scenes to talk to a few of the women who were making it happen. 

The luncheon spotlights the fabulous females in the wine industry in the Houston and Texas-based area. "More women now than ever are becoming more involved in the winemaking and master sommelier community," says Monique Studak. "Only five percent of the wineries in California are owned by women. The number of lead female winemakers is approximately 17 percent. Still, the graduation rate from UC Davis's continuing education viticulture program is as high as 64 percent in some years, so a wave is coming." With that knowledge, women might not go into winemaking but rather as vineyard owners, working in labs, or moving into sales.

Monique Studak has been in the wine business for 30 years, predominantly on the sales side, while simultaneously putting together educational programming and giving wine presentations to connect with others about wine. She has a variety of certifications behind her name and teaches at the Texas Wine School.

After 16 years at E&J Gallo Winery and seven years with Pernod Ricard, she stepped out in 2021 to start Thirst For Knowledge, Monique's own company promoting wine education, moderating panels, and sales training.

The circle of women in wine have brainstormed and deliberated about who and what they want to showcase during the luncheon that will be fun yet empowering for women. 

In Kathy Womack's 16th year of doing Women in Wine, she was painting then, and it went hand in hand, so it's only natural that she is back for a homecoming of sorts at the luncheon. Constance McDerby invited Kathy out for the 20th anniversary. Of course, Kathy is reviving the Women in Wine poster and bringing her original pieces to multiple events.

Kathy first realized her talent for art in elementary school when she was recognized for a school-wide art contest. The notable event made her want to live out her talent, which turned into attending art school in Houston and working as an illustrator with her degree in visual communications. She worked at The Statesman in Austin for six years before leveraging her brushes and more creative side in 1998 when she started painting and launched her first Women in Wine show shortly after. And as they say, the rest is history.

"The key to life is doing what you love," Kathy says. "Everybody should find their talent."

This new generation of females supporting one another is ten-fold, shared Kathy, compared to when she was coming up in art circles. Women tend to rally and show up for each other, and this is more evident through social media, but it's happening in every community. 

For Kathy, a foodie at heart, she might have gone to culinary school if she was not an artist. "It's the best time to be an armchair chef; all the recipes and sites on social media make it easy to share great ideas." Kathy has never cooked more than in the past five years and is inspired daily. She is introverted, keeps small circles and prefers solitude, which is ironic looking at her art with groups of very social women.

Next, Kathy hopes to jump into large-scale pieces, focusing more in quantities and scaling back on the shows and art festivals and is opening a studio in Houston this summer. Returning to her home base of Houston, a large audience of collectors is here to welcome her back. 

Constance McDerby of Food & Vine Time Productions, an anchor in our community, shared how Wine & Food Week came to fruition as a group effort with a team of excellent volunteers. Sherri Verret Segari, the Culinary Director, started as a volunteer, but was quickly recruited to organize the culinary talent for all Wine & Food Week events. Jennifer Thomson makes the magic happen, and pulls pieces together in her role as Production Manager and Procurement Specialist. A graphic designer helps manage the websites and designs all the promotional material and beautiful visuals. Another staffer, a culinary curator, has been with the team for 12 years. The Director of Volunteer Operations, a volunteer role, started in the Galveston Food & Wine event and has been in the role for 22 years. Volunteers live all over Texas and will drive hours for events and work multiple days. It's like a wine family explained Constance. They travel together and have developed lifelong friendships by sharing a glass of wine and a laugh. Appropriately, Constance's tagline is: raise a glass, share a laugh, meet a new friend, and take it all in.

"I'm so blessed and want to give back in any way as others have been so gracious paying it forward and teaching us what we didn't know, that we always try to be that for others," shares Constance. 

"There is a constant evolution of styles with wine and opportunities to learn," says Monique. "When our food changes, we get more excited about our wine opportunities and the expansion of our wine offerings." 

If you like wine, the conversation evolves based on your own life experiences. What you like today might differ two years from now because you went to Argentina, Tuscany, or right here in the Woodlands. 

On a local level, Women of Wine charities have raised over $734,000 since its inception. It is run by all volunteers and no paid staff. Their goal is to raise and give back one million dollars through three to four events a year by their 20th anniversary in 2027. 

Volunteers are the lifeblood of every organization. The hundreds of Women of Wine volunteers make it happen every year and are passionate about helping to support other women in a time of need through the generous donations that benefit The Houston Women's Center. 

Grape Trends

According to Monique Studak, Gallo Winery put much effort into pushing the prosecco market when introducing La Marca. Everyone recognizes the light blue label of sparkling wine; bottles are popping all over the U.S. every weekend. “There is a funnel of really talented people making very thoughtful decisions,” shares Monique. “Rose, for instance. We weren’t drinking this much rose eight years ago.”

Monique shared that sparkling wine is now being produced in England. Most of England was out of the grape-growing zone because of its cooler climates without warmer summers, but now, it’s warmer than it used to be. This is perfect for high-acid wines and grapes with beautiful bases for sparkling wines. 

  • A formidable panel of female wine experts rounded out the 2023 Ladies of the Vine.
  • The effervescent Monique Studak, Thirst For Knowledge, returns as the moderator for Ladies of the Vine Tasting Panel & Luncheon
  • Kathy Womack's art, Women in Wine
  • Women in Wine by Kathy Womack
  • Kathy Womack's whimsical art is eye-catching.
  • Kathy Womack's timeless art is sought after by Houston collectors.
  • Aptly themed: Women in Wine, by Kathy Womack.
  • Kathy Womack revamps her infamous Women in Wine poster for the 20th anniversary of Wine and Food Week.
  • Monique Studak, President of Thirst for Knowledge loves to help people discover wine for the first time.
  • Constance McDerby is the Co-Founder of Food & Vine Time Productions, which produces the upcoming Wine & Food Week
  • Kathy Womack, Special 20th Anniversary Wine & Food Week Guest and artist of the anniversary poster.
  • Chris Shepherd and Lindsey Brown will be inducted into the Wine & Food Week Hall of Fame
  • Patricia Sharp—Food legend and journalist Patricia Sharpe was honored in 2023 and returns as a special anniversary guest and culinary judge.
  • Caviar –More than 35 incredible chefs compete for the title Chef of Chefs with delicious bites during The Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting & Chef Showcase.
  • Ballet –The Vitacca Ballet was a feature at Rose Way and will return for a command performance during the 20th Anniversary celebration.
  • The Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting & Chef Showcase gives guests the opportunity to slip into their finest attire and be in the company of wine enthusiasts
  • Guests sharing a glass of wine!