Over the years I’ve heard a lot of women lament the glass ceilings in the food business. When I was younger, I very clearly remember saying to a trusted female mentor, now friend, “What ceiling?” She said, “You’ll figure it out. ….”
Sure have, but I’m far more interested in celebrating women in the food and wine field who make it happen and make a difference in a tough line of work. Kimberly Tousey of Tousey Winery is an obvious example; she is a force to be reckoned with.
Kimberly astounds me with her energy, passion, and extraordinary ability to multitask. Do not even think about telling her something is “not possible.” (She’s really hard to say ‘no’ to as well!) With complete confidence in her products, incredible sales skills, and sheer energy, Kimberly wills things to happen. She manages all of this with 2, 4 and 6-year-old children, and she’s always quick to point out the very different yet complementary roles that she and her husband, Ben Peacock, play in the ever-growing New York State wine business they took over and developed from Kimberly’s father Ray nearly a decade ago.
Kimberly describes herself as the practical extrovert, sound businesswoman, and endless promoter of their edgy and modern European style wines. She describes Ben as the “rock star” who produces their products and dreams big. Kimberly says it is Ben’s management of the vineyard and exceptional palate that results in their award-winning wines. She manages the staff, education programs, promotion and sales, and so much more. Knowing both of them, there’s a lot of gray area too–they work as a team to produce and distribute top-notch wines, and educate people from near and far about their craft and products, and special Hudson Valley foods to enjoy them with.
Together Kimberly and Ben have put together a collection of 10 wines using 85% of their own grapes (most are single vintage), the remainder from treasured vines of NYS friends and colleagues. Kimberly and Ben are busting out of their space for both grape growing and their tasting room at Blue Roof in Clermont. Last year their exceptional Rosé sold out in 6 weeks.
While they look forward to growing their business, at the same time they ask themselves the same questions that many small-to-mid-size businesses ask– how much do I want to scale up, and what will the implications be, both to the quality of my product and my life?
In late 2013, Ben was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a battle that has only made him and Kimberly and their winery stronger. After a year of treatment, Ben is doing well and regaining strength. During this time, Kimberly was forced to understand that even the most driven and energetic person can’t “do it all.” So together they made decisions that are still positively impacting their business today.
One was bringing Matt Spaccanelli on board as vineyard manager. They also added a trusted bookkeeper and other support staff. Kimberly clearly recognizes her many skills and these decisions better allow her to focus on them as well her lovely family, delegating what just becomes too much.
She also credits the local community for assisting with medical bills and lifting their spirits when Ben was sick. Coming from self-sufficient European backgrounds (Kimberly Danish and Ben British), “charity” seemed awkward to accept at first. But both Kimberly and Ben express enormous gratitude for the outpouring of well wishes and contributions, including Friends Helping Friends, that helped them during one of life’s great challenges. (Friends Helping Friends is an annual community fundraiser started and sponsored by CJ’s Italian Restaurant in Rhinebeck.)
Kimberly credits many people for the growth and success of Tousey Winery. Among them are Chris Kanienberg, a Delaware-based painter and sculptor, who “got us and helped curate our brand;” and Peter Bell, a renowned winemaker and Ben’s mentor. As they make their final bottling decisions for each of their 10 wines, it comes down to three glasses. Side by side Kimberly, Ben, and Peter taste and get in sync with the profiles and characteristics of each–from there the fun begins!
Whenever I meet a strong and driven woman like Kimberly, younger or older, I quickly suss out whether they want a spiritual partnership, industry soul-sister, so to speak, or a mentor. I’m always eager to be a part of any of these relationships that often, too, result in amazing friendships. I KNOW, if we’d all stick together a little better, the whole landscape would be a heck of a lot easier, and tastier!
Laura Pensiero, a registered dietician, is founder and creative force behind Gigi Hudson Valley, which operates the award-winning Gigi Trattoria in Rhinebeck and a catering business. She is author of Hudson Valley Mediterranean cookbook.
The Tousey Wine List
The Queen of Clermont (white wine blend, with a hint of sweetness)
The Riot (A red blend with red berries on the nose and easy-going palate; ‘A fun and riotous wine for all occasions.’)
Killer Red (A soft, dark, and silky 100% Merlot)
Crème de Cassis: From a blend of 4 varieties of currants grown on the estate, along with father Ray’s honey, this lovely cassis can be added to sparkling wine or cocktails, drizzled over ice cream or gelato, blended into marinades and vinaigrettes, or simply enjoyed on its own.
Local cheeses to pair with Tousey wines:
Coach Farm: http://www.coachfarm.com/
Sprout Creek Farm: http://www.sproutcreekfarm.org/
Nettle Meadow: http://nettlemeadow.com/?page_id=17
Dancing Ewe: http://www.dancingewe.com/
Old Chatham Sheepherding: http://www.blacksheepcheese.com/
Amazing Real Live Food Company: http://www.chaseholmfarmcreamery.com/
Twin Maple Farms: http://twinmaplefarm.com/
The beautiful Tousey grounds and Blue Roof Tasting Room are located on Route 9 in Clermont.
Mailing address is 1774 Rte 9 #1, Germantown, NY 12526; 518 567-5462