Zelda Petrus (43), a former cleaner at Steenberg Vineyards who now has responsibility for the high-profile winery’s front-of house cellar door sales, will soon be flying to California to learn more about wine sales and marketing in the famous Napa Valley.
This will be the first flight the Retreat-born widow and mother of one, will be taking and her week-long trip has been made possible thanks to the Great Wine Capitals, a network of the world’s leading wine-producing countries that shares international best practice in the name of advancing standards in wine tourism across the world.
Steenberg Vineyards in the Constantia Valley was South Africa’s top performer in the recent Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism Awards, winning in two of the competition’s seven categories, namely architecture, parks and gardens, and wine tourism services. The winners were announced earlier this month in Christchurch, New Zealand.
As the best local exponent of wine tourism, Steenberg Vineyards was entitled to nominate a member of its staff to visit one of the wine-producing countries within the network. In addition to Cape Town/Cape Winelands, the other members are Bilbao-Rioja (Spain), Bordeaux (France), Florence (Italy), Mainz (Germany), Mendoza (Argentina), Porto (Portugal), San Francisco-Napa (United States) and New Zealand’s Christchurch.
Says Cape Winelands deputy mayor Clarence Johnson, who is also the immediate past president of the network: “To experience firsthand how things are done somewhere else can be a powerful way of learning. It can be enriching and inspiring and create the capacity to teach others on the ground.”
He said Petrus had been chosen for her expertise as well as for her wonderful warmth and hospitality. “She is an eloquent example of the typical South African ability to transcend barriers. She began at Steenberg in 2001, initially as a cleaner in the tasting area. Keen and curious, she paid close attention and began to learn about wine and by 2004 was conducting tastings herself. She was mentored by her colleagues at work, but also taught herself and enrolled for a Cape Wine Academy course to learn more and here she is today - Steenberg’s front-of-house representative in the tasting room, the gateway to the Steenberg cellar door experience.”
Says Petrus: “After my husband died, I was very depressed and saw work as an opportunity to meet people and to learn new skills. I have been very lucky in that Steenberg was prepared to give me a chance and recognised my potential. This really is a dream come true for me. Now, I am hoping I can extend my skills still further and one day, become a wine educator.”