NJ’s most talented women in the food and wine industry


Crystal Springs Resort Sommelier and Wine Director, Susanne Wagner, talks about her job overseeing one of the best wine collections in the world. March 11, 2021


Women may be the boss in their home kitchens, but not in professional kitchens.

They may have their own homes and apartments, but few own restaurants and cafes.

At home, they may pour more wine than men for themselves and friends, but more men do the selecting and pouring of wines at restaurants. And as far as owning their own farms? The word modicum comes to mind. 

Need statistical proof? Women represent fewer than 7% of the head chef positions at restaurants nationally, according to Women Chefs & Restaurateurs, a national organization based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And 33% of restaurant businesses are majority-owned by women. As for winemaking, an estimated 10% of winemakers in California are female, a mere 5% in New York. As for farmers, women represent 36% of the nation’s producers.  

But women — hear them roar — have made significant inroads. 

“The food and wine industry is still male-dominated,” said Leia Gaccione, chef/owner of South + Pine in Morristown and Central + Main in Madison. “But we’ve come lightyears ahead of where we were in the past decade or so.” 

As we bring Women’s History Month to a close, we salute the following seven women, who are proof that New Jersey’s vast food and wine industry has progressed. It has been made that much better by women who can cook marvelously, bake beautifully, build restaurants creatively, farm smartly and master wines brilliantly.   

The wine wizard

Susanne Wagner, wine director, Crystal Springs Resort, Hamburg

German-born Susanne Wagner, wine director at Crystal Spring Resort, buys all the wines for the sprawling resort. She oversees its 45,000-plus wine bottles, one of the world’s best collections. She pairs the wines for the elegant wine-tasting dinner at Restaurant Latour, the resort’s four-star restaurant. She recommends wines to its well-heeled guests. She teaches a course on wine. She is arguably the Garden State’s most knowledgeable sommelier.

So it would seem a no-brainer to conclude that Wagner is a consummate wine lover.

Wrong. Wagner doesn’t drink wine. Make that, hardly drinks wine.

“I may have a couple of glasses a year,” said Wagner, 57, a Hamburg resident and mother of one. “I don’t really like it.”

She never has. 

“We didn’t drink it in our house. I never had an interest in drinking.”

She’s big on spitting it out; she has a spittoon. “I taste a lot of wines. I always spit it back out. If I do have a few sips, it goes straight to my head. I’m better off just tasting.”


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