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With Oswalt, Epicurean Wines Becomes Female-Owned Business

May 24 2019, SEATTLE —  Epicurean Wines, a premium Australian wine importer, has a new Owner and President: Cindy Oswalt. After joining the company in 2004 as a part-time accountant, Oswalt has ascended through the ranks, assuming leadership as majority owner in 2019; her business partner, Brian Klassen, owns a minority share.

This makes Epicurean Wines one of a small but growing number of female-owned beer, wine and spirits businesses. While women account for 60 percent of U.S. wine consumption, only 7 percent of Washington state winemakers are women. 

“Wine is still a very male-dominated industry,” Oswalt says. “It’s important to have visibility for female-owned businesses, and I’m honored to be leading the way for other women in the food and beverage world.”

Epicurean Wines has an entirely Australian portfolio, amassed over nearly two decades and founded by the late Benjamin Hammerschlag. His sister, Sarah, also retains a minority share.

“Ben built a company that reflected his vision of wines that display both power and balance,” says Sarah Hammerschlag. “The brands he imported all have strong, passionate families behind them, and the wines speak to the appellations they are from.”

The company owns two labels and imports a full spectrum of varietals and styles: from iconic, old-world Barossa Valley wineries, such as Langmeil and Kaesler, to the approachable Unico Zelo winery, which offers Mediterranean varieties with an Australian twist. They represent varied geographic areas, all emphasizing the country's unique terroir.

“Australian wines are high-quality, well-balanced and a good value compared to other categories,” Oswalt says. “You can put an Australian Cab up against a California Cab it will compete all day long — while costing less out of pocket.”

Since taking ownership, Oswalt and Klassen have driven rapid growth and portfolio expansion at Epicurean, targeting new and up-and-coming regions.

“We’re successfully building back up the company after the category had been struggling to compete for a few years,” Oswalt says. “We’re bringing wineries back to our portfolio that had left; bringing on new ones; and bringing back the Australian category.”

An Australian wine boom in the mid-2000s helped springboard Oswalt to join the company full-time, gradually expanding her role to include everything from supplier relations to packaging and executive assistant duties. This crash course gave her an intimate familiarity with the portfolio — and made her fall in love with wine, Oswalt says.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a wine snob, but before I started this job, [Trader Joe’s] 2 Buck Chuck was okay,” Oswalt laughs.

Oswalt is excited to lead Epicurean into the future, exposing consumers to the rich offerings of a region that may be new to them. They are also focusing on Australian craft spirits, including Applewood Distillery Gin, Økar Amaro and a Tasmanian whiskey from Hellyers Road Distillery.

Epicurean Wines are sold at specialty wine shops throughout the U.S. For more information, visit their website or follow them on Facebook.