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Movers & Shakers: Kanchan Schindlauer pairs wine & wit, while also confronting gender bias

Welcome to Movers & Shakers; a series where we look deep into PNW life for people who are making moves, doing big things, and who are just - in general - being rad. Seattle is full of multi-talented and multi-faceted people, many at the intersection of technology and the arts. How do they find the time? What's their secret? Well friends, we're here to find out. Meet Movers & Shakers; aka Seattle Refined attempting to capture the not-so-secret lives of impressive locals. Have a recommendation for us? Email hello@seattlerefined.com.

Kanchan Schindlauer pairs wine with wisecracks at Chipmonkey Wine — think customized cards for any and every occasion like, "Sorry, your in-laws are financial leeches" and "Sorry I was so bossy." And a bonus? All of this paired with some world-class wine.

It was during a life-changing trip to Styria (a fairy-tale-like Austrian state famous for wine and castles) with her then-Viennese-boyfriend-now-husband, that Schindlauer found herself smitten by the local wine.

"I was curious to learn more and picked up a few wine books," she said. "As someone who seldom reads for pleasure, I was extremely surprised to find I couldn't put them down. My passion for wine was born. And to think, it was under my nose the whole time."

Schindlauer was the funny kid growing up, and still finds humor to be her favorite way to connect with people. Never without her witticisms.

"Chipmonkey is actually a combo of my kids' nicknames, Chipmunk and Monkey," she said. "After all, they are my reason for everything, including- I joke - why we drink."

Chipmonkey Wine was born out of Schindlauer's desire to send delicious wine with a super personal touch to a dear friend who had suffered a terrible loss. (You can read the full story here).

[Life event? New wine delivery service has some SASSY vino for that]

"I created zany wine pairings relevant to my friends' life. For the well-wishers who often overstay their welcome, I matched a robust Aussie Shiraz because, 'if your dark stained teeth don't scare them away, at 15% alcohol, your slurring certainly will.' My hope was to just bring her a smile during such an unimaginably tough time. It worked. On the encouragement of this friend and others, I turned this crazy idea into Chipmonkey Wine," said Schindlauer.

The wine industry is still somewhat a boy's club and largely patriarchal in nature.

"Gender bias in our industry occurs on many levels. When discussing my business, I've often experienced this overall pandering sense of, 'Oh, what a cute little hobby,'" she said. "Many of the questions I've been asked would not have been asked of male counterparts. My hope is that will fade with success, but I do see male peers in the industry with new businesses who have been happily immune to the extra hurdles."

Sadly, gender bias ranges from such passive examples to the downright, systematic and horrific. Schindlauer says a recent article in the New York Times that exposed widespread sexual harassment, assault and abuse of power within the Court of Master Sommeliers has been a very sobering reality check for her industry.

"The level by which concerns were pervasively not addressed and swift action not taken, at the expense of so many women, is inexcusably appalling," she said.

There are many great folks in the wine industry, but when it comes to dismantling gender bias, harassment and flat-out assault at all levels, it is clear profound work remains to be done. For Schindlauer, the gratifying aspects of being a business owner come from the sense of accomplishment along each step of the way.

"When I feel frustrated about hurdles that lie ahead, I force myself to look back and remember all the challenges that I was able to already overcome," she said.

Innovation is the name of the game for her. Now that winter is upon us, and we're all scrambling for fun indoor activities - you might want to check out Chipmonkey’s newest baby, an interactive, wine-trivia game — no wine-expertise needed. Schindlauer champions our own wine industry in the evergreen state.

"The grapes grown in Washington have splendid potential, in the right artisan hands, to make spectacular wines. I love being in a position to help promote the industry here and to support those in our own backyard," she said.

While most folks pick out a wine once they have decided their dinner menu, Schindlauer does this in reverse.

"I think about what I feel like drinking, and then decide what to eat for dinner. For snacking and entertaining, it's hard to beat truffle popcorn with a sparkling rosé, or a cured meat plate with a slightly chilled dry Lambrusco," she said.

The wine maverick lets us in on a little secret. Sshh..even certified sommeliers drink grocery store wine.

"I'll pick up a bottle or two of sparkling rosé, like Mumm Napa or Roederer Estate Brut rosé," said Schindlauer. "I don't hit the grocery store to find a coveted gem, but there are plenty of drinkable 'Tuesday night' finds there."

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