March 29, 2021

Review: Teneral Cellars RBG Wine Collection

This post was sponsored by Teneral Cellars as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

Over the last year, it’s been interesting to see more companies taking a stand on political issues – whether on mask wearing or the BLM movement. (To be clear, I don’t think either of those topics should be considered political, but I know to some they are.) I know people who only patronize more activist brands, but if I’m being totally honest, I’m still not entirely sure of how political I want my consumer brands to be. However, while I don’t need a company to take a political stand, I love when I find a company that does align with my values – and it makes me become a superfan. (If you’d like to read more on this topic, I recently loved this book on building a “Fanocracy”.)

Well, Teneral Cellars has an extremely powerful mission – and while it may be polarizing to some, it has certainly made me into a superfan rather than just a customer. One of Teneral Cellars’ core beliefs is in women empowering other women – and female empowerment and diversity are two things I am extremely passionate about. In my full-time job, I run three different women’s groups that foster connectivity, mentorship, and finding ways to boost our leadership skills and strengthen our personal brands in a male-dominated industry. So when I was invited to taste and review these wines, I jumped at the opportunity to support a woman-owned winery and help boost the profile of Teneral Cellars.

Over the course of a virtual tasting, I discovered that not only do I think the wine is delicious, but I am so impressed by the owner, her vision for the company, and the mission and values behind Teneral Cellars. As a result, I ended up scheduling a call with owner Jill Osur to ask how I can be a part of helping to make her wines a success. Teneral Cellars is the whole package!

(Before I go any further, I should note that I received two sets of Teneral Cellars’ RBG limited release collection as a gift to review; however, I have no other affiliation with Teneral Cellars and am not being compensated for this post.)

So first, as a bit of background – Teneral Cellars is located in the American Viticulture Area (AVA) of the aptly-named Fair Play, which is in El Dorado County just north of Sacramento, California. (In that area, many of the vineyards produce grapes for other regions, since there aren’t many winemakers in El Dorado.) However, while Teneral Cellars believes in creating wines that speak to their terroir (see their wine philosophy here), they are also committed to purchasing grapes from female-owned vineyards. As they grow, they plan to bring in more carefully-selected grapes from all over the world – creating a trust level so that when people come to Teneral Farms, they know they’re getting a high-quality experience, with no glyphosate or other chemicals, all grown via sustainable practices. How impressive is that?

I learned from Jill that across the US, only 10% of winemakers are female, and only 0.1% of US winemakers are black. Meanwhile, 60% of wines are purchased by women – so the professionals don’t even represent the customer. Teneral Cellars is committed to creating a company that has a diversity of voices and experiences, and reflects the diversity of their customers, which I love so much!

So what does “Teneral Cellars” mean? Well, the actual definition of “teneral” is an adjective used to describe a dragonfly who has recently moulted – and it’s pale, soft-bodied, and extremely vulnerable. But within a few days of reaching this state, the dragonfly’s wings get their color, and it’s able to take off and fly. Teneral Cellars has redefined the word, and uses it to mean “the act of claiming your power within, to transform the world with grit and grace”. I love the philosophy of always trying to become a better version of yourself tomorrow – anyone who knows 50by25 knows that I am constantly striving to do just that 🙂

Speaking of women who strove to make each day better than the last… Teneral Cellars chose to honor Ruth Bader Ginsberg (“RBG”) for their March celebration of women’s history month. As Jill puts it, “what better woman to focus on? So many freedoms that women have can be traced back to her.” I love Ruth Bader Ginsberg – I’m currently in the midst of reading Conversations with RBG, and I also thoroughly enjoyed watching On the Basis of Sex with my friend Heather pre-COVID. I feel a special kinship with RBG as we share the same alma mater, Cornell University, and I can relate to many of her experiences as a career-focused woman in a male-dominated field.

To celebrate RBG’s legacy, Teneral Cellars recently released a limited collection of three wines in her honor. Each wine label was designed by a female artist using their own RBG inspiration. I thought the bottles were absolutely stunning, with unique artwork that was created for each bottle! And $10 from every RBG collection three-pack sold is being donated to the National Women’s Law Center.

The RBG collection has three wines – the “Supreme” sauvignon blanc, the “Notorious” cabernet sauvignon, and the “Dissent” zinfandel.

I was lucky enough to be led through a guided tasting of the limited release RBG collection by Jill and her VP of customer experience, sommelier Vicki Tomiser. I loved how down-to-earth Jill and Vicki were in their presentation of their wines! No pretension here – Vicki told us that if we like our wine extra cold with an ice cube in it, who is she to judge? 🙂 I love that attitude – we need to build each other up for our unique strengths, not nitpick our quirks.

The Supreme sauvignon blanc is a white Bordeaux-style blend, which had a light lemon curd taste. However, it has 5% semillon blended in, which gives it a little bit of weight. Vicki suggested pairing it with goat cheese (which I immediately ran to my fridge to do). While I often prefer oaked whites, I found that this was really delicious and refreshing and still had some heft to it – and I would absolutely buy it again. Vicki also encouraged us to make sure we swirled the wine to help volatize the esters – essentially, stirring up the scents so you can smell the bouquet / nose better.

I found the lemon-y notes of the Supreme sauvignon blanc also went really well with a Meatless Monday dish of farro, swiss chard, roasted potatoes, and leeks.

Next, the Notorious cabernet sauvignon. This is an oak-aged blend of 80% cabernet sauvignon, 10% cabernet franc, 5% merlot, and 5% petite sirah. While discussing this wine, Vicki used an awesome analogy I had never heard – about winemakers using everything in their “spice box” (the oak, the grapes, the terroir) to make the perfect blend. This was indeed a delicious one! I loved the full body and hints of cocoa and dark fruit.

I enjoyed this Notorious cab sauv while watching “Chill with Jill” (more on that in a bit) and eating a yummy quinoa and cranberry stuffed acorn squash.

Finally, what I consider the piece de resistance – the Dissent zinfandel. This is a blend of 96% zinfandel, 4% petite sirah. Vicki said that she can tell you a pie for every wine, and describes this as a blueberry crumble. There is a bit of underlying cocoa / earth at the finish – and it just makes it so rich and toasty! It was also helped by the oak aging – 15 months in 85% new American Oak and 15% new French Oak. I asked Vicki about the oaks, and she explained that the new American Oak imparts a stronger flavor than the French, and the Zinfandel is a strong enough grape to stand up to that. I loved this wine so much, and when I shared it with a few friends, one was so bold as to say it was possibly the best red he’s ever had!

Although I originally intended to pair this phenomenal Dissent zin with these char siu style pork chops over sesame noodles, in celebration of getting my first COVID vaccine, I realized that wine isn’t advised immediately post-vaccine. Instead, I enjoyed the zin a few days later, on a date up in the mountains with some decidedly less-fancy Thai curry takeout after a full day of skiing. These wines can definitely be dressed up or down!

So how can you get Teneral Cellars wine? You actually don’t go to your local liquor store, or even the winery itself. Like the teneral state for which the winery is named, Teneral Cellars is all about transformation. Jill described the current three-tier system by which most alcohol distribution occurs – where each step increases the cost / price. Jill realized that there was an opportunity to upend this antiquated system by created Teneral Cellars as a digitally-native vertical brand, so Teneral Cellars doesn’t have a tasting room, and their wines are sold exclusively online. While it’s an elevated wine brand, they’re able to offer their wines at a much more reasonable price point because of this digital strategy.

Plus, their refreshing digital strategy offers some neat innovations – like how Teneral Cellars puts a QR code on each bottle of wine that links you to a video discussing Teneral Cellars’ five belief statements. As Jill explained it, she wants people to start conversations over these wines. What better way to perhaps challenge your current beliefs than in candid conversation with close friends over a delicious glass of wine?

And to help make those conversations even more specific, and make more of an impact on the world, Teneral Cellars chooses a different theme / cause every quarter (visit their sip with purpose page to help influence which cause will be next). They then give 10% of their sales back to nonprofits that support women’s empowerment, allowing you to purchase with purpose, and host a number of online events to educate people and give back to the community while spreading their mission.

I cannot say enough how much I love that Teneral Cellars is combining so many of the things I’m passionate about – digitization and using technology to shake up distribution (which is exactly what I’ve worked on for the last 15 years in my career as a consultant), women’s empowerment, wine, and community-building. I have always been passionate about brands that create a community and help me connect with other like-minded individuals (the wonderful community at Peloton Reddit is the main reason I fell in love with those workouts), and I’m so impressed by how Teneral goes above and beyond to build community and help other women become the best possible versions of ourselves.

Last week, I invited a small group of my female Women in Technology coworkers to join me for a late night happy hour, and we enjoyed watching a “Chill with Jill” Q&A session where Jill interviewed best-selling author Charlene Li, an expert on digital transformation and disruptive growth strategies. (You can watch the video here, if you’re interested.) I am looking forward to more of these “Chill with Jill” sessions to learn from inspiring female leaders in various fields!

On a lighter note, if you still want to get in on the end of the RBG collection events, there is actually an event this Wednesday to celebrate National Crayon Day; participants can join a “Virtual Coloring Conversation” with artist Rene Cross Washington on Facebook Live, and decorate a gorgeous coloring page of RBG herself. As Teneral Cellars describes the meaning behind this: “Coloring has the ability to relax the brain; it prompts the same state as meditating by decreasing the thoughts of a restless mind.” This is something I know I especially can use!

Finally, I mentioned those free events, but Teneral Cellars has also created a wine club called “The Swarm” that offers discounts, backstage access to their impressive Board of Directors, and additional exclusive events. Swarm membership is a subscription service that has no extra fee; you can sign up for three bottles per quarter with a 20% discount and $10 flat rate shipping, or six bottles per quarter with a 25% discount and free shipping. And anyone who buys a case gets 30% off! (I may need to buy a case of the Dissent zin if they still have enough left – not only is it delicious, but it’s a great gift for my girlfriends.)

Let me know if you end up joining The Swarm or want to join me for any of the free events listed monthly on the Grit and Grace blog – I’d love to connect virtually over a glass of Teneral Cellars wine!

Teneral Cellars provided me with six bottles of wine in exchange for this review, but all opinions expressed are my own and I was not pressured for a positive review.


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