Dry January is here, and we’re kicking it off with one of our favorite topics: women in wine. Since SipC’s launch in 2019, we’ve been fortunate to work with BevZero, an innovative solution to the dealcoholization process that keeps the aromas and flavors of the original wine. We sat down with Kayla Winter, Director of Product Services and Winemaking at BevZero. Kayla and the BevZero team are leading the way in technological advances in the low- and no-alcohol space. We’re so grateful to work with determined, successful girl bosses around the country—cheers to women & wine! 

What inspired you to get your degree in Viticulture?

I was fortunate enough to grow up in Sonoma County, CA, where we are surrounded by world-class vineyards and wineries. When I was in 8th grade, I told my uncle that I really enjoyed the chemistry unit we were learning in science. He does IT for several wineries, and at the time J Winery was one of his accounts. He explained that winemaking involves a ton of chemistry, and actually took me with him to visit J Winery and meet the staff, tour the facility, and experience the sights, smells, and culture of winemaking. I fell in love. At 13, I thought wine was disgusting, so it was never about the product. I just enjoyed the atmosphere, the delicate balance of art and science, and the community. Of course, once my palate evolved, I learned to love wine and of course that only solidified my interest in a winemaking career. I chose to get as far out of Dodge as possible, and found that Cornell University in Ithaca, NY had an undergraduate program. I applied, got in, and the rest is history.

Tell us about your first job out of college.

Right out of college, I, like almost everyone I know, thought my first job would be groundbreaking. Incredible. The summation of all that I had worked for. In reality, it was an entry-level vineyard position that had me walking through vineyards for hours, taking samples, collecting data, and then doing it over again the next day. Beautiful locations, but I got bored of the work quickly. If I had been in the right headspace, I may have gotten more out of the position. But honestly, it wasn’t the grandiose entry into the workforce that for some reason I had anticipated. Looking back now, I can identify several things I learned from that position. Our company purchased fruit from all over both Sonoma and Napa Counties, so I got great insight into the various subregions and their terroir. I met incredible people and learned a lot about vineyard management. It really was a great job, and goes to show that if you enter a situation with high expectations, you might dwell on unmet fantasies instead of soaking in the experience to the fullest. That to me is my greatest lesson from that experience.

It's interesting how many female founders and leaders are in the low-alcohol, infused-beverage space. Do you think there is a reason for that?
We not only see many women leaders in this space, but also are learning that women are the primary consumers of non-alcoholic and infused beverages. On the surface, I think women are innovators. We see the opportunity, see the room for growth, and seize it. On a deeper level, if you wish to go there with me, I believe it comes straight from the movement of women regaining control of their lives, minds, and bodies. We struggle every day with society telling us what we can or can’t do because of our gender. Under the daily pressures of the patriarchy, women have little room to dictate their own experiences, similar to the way we feel under heavy influence of alcohol. I believe women are tired of not being in control. We are demanding social experiences where our minds and bodies are entirely present, where we are not forced to follow the whims of those around us because our inhibitions are lowered. Many of these women who are “sober-curious” are not abstaining completely from alcohol, but are choosing whether or not to drink based on occasion, present company, and how they wish to feel in that moment. It all boils down to choosing one’s own experience, which is all that anyone really wants.

Where do you see the industry going?
Up and forwards! We are busier than ever at BevZero. The demand for no/low/infused beverages is higher than ever, and a lot of people are ready to jump into the industry and develop new products. As interest grows, competition will grow, which is great for improving quality, standards, and innovation. While we are the primary developers for many of our clients, everything we do is closely aligned to the clients’ palates and ideas, ensuring that each product we make is as unique and interesting as they are. We are incredibly excited to see what fun new beverages will be born from that collaboration.

Right now, the best non-alcoholic and hemp-infused products are mostly sold online, with some securing local retail locations. Where I see the industry headed in the next ten years, there will soon be bars across the country, restaurants, small boutique shops and large grocery chains all carrying a large selection of these products. For cannabis-infused beverages, we are already seeing infrastructure being built in states that have passed legalization. New startups and beverages are built in that space every day, and eventually when national legalization happens, there will be hundreds of products in direct competition with one another. It will be interesting to see how all that plays out and who will come out on top.

What do you do to unwind?
I am a spiritual, plant and animal-loving nerd. I wind down by gardening, snuggling my pets, and finding inner balance through meditation, tarot, and constant exposure to nature. I also enjoy nerding out in role-playing games like dungeons and dragons, where you play a character from a different world and really get out of your own head for a while.

How do you maintain a work life balance? Right now, we are incredibly busy, so I’m not doing so well with the balance thing. But in general, I try to be present wherever I am, on the job or off. I turned off all email notifications, so I only see work emails when I actively log on. In an emergency, someone could always call my cell. Not having the constant ping of notifications allows me to take breaks and enjoy my evenings as myself, not my job.

Xo, Team SipC