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Robin Epperson-McCarthy, owner and winemaker at Saltbird Cellars, won the Les Dames d’Escoffier International Legacy Award. (Credit: Madison Fender Photography)

Saltbird Cellars owner and winemaker Robin Epperson-McCarthy is heading to California this summer after winning a prestigious Les Dames d’Escoffier International Legacy Award.

Established in 2009 and supported by The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, LDEI’s Legacy Awards recipients receive a weeklong mentorship to work alongside other accomplished LDEI members in the food, fine beverage and hospitality industries.

Epperson-McCarthy, who has spent more than a decade working in viticulture both on the North Fork and abroad, was given the Beverage and Hospitality Award, earning her a weeklong mentorship at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, California, where she’ll be focusing on marketing and brand development, instead of winemaking.

“For me it is recognition of the work I have been putting in since entering the Long Island wine industry in 2003,” Epperson-McCarthy said. “I hope to gain a colleague that has similar background experience who can give me advice on where to focus to expand my little wine brand. Also, [to find] another level of wine marketing savviness that a weeklong hardcore boot camp can instill.”

Wente Vineyards is considered the country’s oldest continuously operated family-owned winery, founded in 1883. In August, Epperson-McCarthy will be working alongside president of Wente Family Estates, Amy Hoopes, who has overseen all global marketing and sales operations for the family-owned wine portfolio.

“We have so much to learn from the people that have come before us,” Epperson-McCarthy said. “I have been blessed with many mentors here on the North Fork in regards to viticulture and oenology. By having Amy Hoopes as a mentor, I can learn what it takes to push Saltbird Cellars beyond a small production winery to become a North Fork legacy.”

Epperson-McCarthy applied for the Legacy Award at the encouraging of two other New York Les Dames, Julia Stambules, president and owner of JS Public Relations, and wine and spirits writer Amy Zavatto, who both wrote a letter of recommendation on her behalf.

“Dames are more than just the women excelling in food, wine and hospitality; they are the women who are positive influencers on their community,” Epperson-McCarthy said.

Les Dames d’Escoffier International Legacy Award competition is open to women who live in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and France who have a minimum of four years of industry experience. Epperson-McCarthy is one of seven women to receive the honor this year.

“I hope this is the start of many LDEI Legacy honorees coming from the North Fork,” she said. “I strongly encourage other women in the North Fork wine industry to apply for the 2020 Legacy Awards.”