Mom and Daughter Both Call the Williamsburg Winery Home
Deby Kidney waits for those “aha” moments. As the Williamsburg Winery’s Retail and Tasting Room Manager, she finds it fun to introduce new wine to guests.
“I love to see their faces light up,” she said. “I try to give them some kind of interesting fact about the wine and make it relatable to them without talking over their heads.”
For most of her life, Kidney connected with people in another novel way. She traveled the world as a flute player and vocalist with the United States Army military bands. Her audience included heads of state and U.S. presidents, as well as occasions such as the 2002 Winter Olympics, the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and a multitude of military ceremonies. She performed in Korea, Myanmar, Thailand, Hawaii, the Maldives, and numerous other countries. Kidney retired from the Army as a Sergeant First Class after 22 years of military service.
“I had the best job in the military,” Kidney said. “You can’t beat being able to work as a professional musician, with a regular paycheck and work daily in such a creative field.”
A pianist at age 7, Kidney is the daughter of two musicians. She knew from watching her band director father at band camp that she wanted to play flute. She earned a bachelor’s in Music Performance from Winthrop University.
After military retirement in 2002, Kidney transitioned into retail management and finally in wine. She’s a former Busch Gardens wine ambassador, who started her wine career as part of an in-home wine tasting business. Kidney has worked at the Williamsburg Winery for the last five years, pinching herself when she passes the picturesque crepe myrtles that line the property entrance.
“My drive in to the winery is beautiful; I feel lucky to work here,” Kidney said. “I always recommend that our visitors enjoy their tastings on our 1619 Wine Pavilion because the view is so pretty.”
The 1619 Pavilion is among the prettiest spots on the Wessex Hundred farm as its upper deck offers a stunning view of the Albariño and Petit Verdot vineyards. It’s named for the edict from the House of Burgesses that required colonists to grow grapes and make wine under The Acte 12 of 1619.
Seven months into her job at the winery, her daughter, Erin Sullins, joined her. Sullins started first at the Merchants Square Wine Bar and has worked in virtually every department at the winery. Currently the Wine Club Manager, she handles one of the largest clubs in Virginia with more than 1500 members.
“I absolutely love working with my mom,” Sullins said.
Mother and daughter collaborate on decisions for wine club tastings, direct shipping and promotions for members and customers.
Sullins also played flute and cherishes the memory of performing a duet of “Shepherds, Awake” with her mother at her grandparents’ church. She and her mom often pair up for a weekend of wine tasting. “Mom says I have a good nose and palate for wine,” she said. “I’ve learned that food pairings affect wine flavor so much.”
Sullins favors the winery’s Petit Verdot. If Kidney had to pick one favorite, it would be the Merlot Reserve.
Both bring the wine shop talk home — dinner together can typically lead to more discussion about wine.
“We both love what we do,” Kidney said. “It’s great to work with customers and my team here, and to teach people about wine and what happens at the winery. To be able to share it with my daughter is a very special treat.”