F&W's #FOODWINEWOMEN series spotlights top women in food and drink in collaboration with Toklas Society. Follow the hashtag on Twitter (@foodandwine). Here, Robert Mondavi Winery’s Geneviève Janssens tells how she turned errors into positives.
Who: Geneviève Janssens
What: Director of winemaking
Where: Robert Mondavi Winery, in Napa Valley; @RobertMondavi
Mr. Mondavi taught me that there is no such thing as a mistake—only an alternate route to getting something right. Many of the techniques he pioneered at Robert Mondavi Winery had never been attempted in Napa Valley back then, in 1966, so there were many lessons he had to learn through trial and error. Always the perfectionist, he would tell everyone—from the cellar workers to the winemakers—that while they did they did their jobs well, they could still try harder. It was drilled into me that perfection is barely good enough. Sometimes that pursuit of perfection meant changing course with a blend or working with the viticulture team on trellising techniques. Mistakes were not frowned upon because so much of what we do is an experiment, and when something doesn’t go as planned…we take those results and alter them to make it work! Since I don't like the word “mistake,” here are a couple of the opportunities where I was challenged to do something differently.