Wine Spectator honors Susana in USA Mother's Day.

Working mothers everywhere are all too familiar with the difficulties of balancing professional life with family life. Mothers in the wine industry face their own particular challenges, such as grape harvests that refuse to observe children’s bedtimes and frequent travel for sales trips. For Susana Balbo, who founded Argentina’s Dominio del Plata in Mendoza, the trying years of winemaking-plus-childrearing has paid off with what they say is the ultimate gift: her children have joined the family business. In honor of Mother’s Day, which falls on May 10 this year, we spoke with Susana and her two children, Ana and José, about their experiences.

“It is never easy for a mom to do both—to work and have a company and to raise a family,” Balbo says. “You feel guilt on a daily basis. When you’re at work, you’re thinking of your kids. When you’re with your kids, you’re thinking about work.”

To call Balbo trailblazer is no exaggeration. Her family is tie to winemaking but broke with tradition when they set off on their own ventures. When Balbo graduated from university, in 1981, she became the first woman in Argentina to hold an enology degree.

Susana is grateful that she was often able to bring her children to her workplace when they were small. They would run around the winery while she worked; thank goodness wineries are kept so clean, she says. This exposure to the world of wine at such an early age instilled a passion for the business in Ana and José.

Ask Jose and Ana what they admire about their mother and they can’t stop gushing. “My mother is really open-minded, because she has an entrepreneurial spirit,” says Ana. “I said, ‘Mom, I want to open a restaurant.’ She said, ‘OK, let’s do it!’ ” After working in Buenos Aires at a large corporation, Ana, who is now Dominio del Plata’s marketing and communications manager, was impressed by her mother’s ability to bring both intimacy and professionalism to her small business.“From early on, I decided that I wanted to build upon my mother’s work,” says José, now 30. “The idea has always been to give a continuity to all that my mother has done.” In 2009, after training formally at the University of California, Davis, he assumed the responsibilities of winemaker, under his mother, and export sales. José now also runs his own wine label, called Vaglio.

Balbo “never says, ‘No, it can’t be done,’ and she has a high tolerance for failure,” adds José. “That allows her to take a lot of risks. It’s essential to success.”

 “Receiving orders from your mom is something you need to get used to,” laughs José. “But at the end of the challenge is something very rewarding, to build a project that is an expression and an extension of your family”.

Wines Made by Susana and her Children

DOMINIO DEL PLATA BenMarco Expresivo Mendoza 2011.
This dark red features crisp acidity to its candied plum, dark cherry and cassis fruit, with red licorice, spice and mocha lining the vibrant finish. Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tannat, Bonarda and Petit Verdot. —N.W.

DOMINIO DEL PLATA Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Susana Balbo Signature 2012.
A flashy red, showing ripe cassis and racy cherry coulis notes, wound with a structured layer of spice, mocha and licorice.—N.W.

DOMINIO DEL PLATA Malbec Mendoza Susana Balbo Signature 2012.
This ripe red shows a candied to its edge the dark cherry and plum sauce notes, leading to an aftertaste of licorice and mocha.—N.W.

DOMINIO DEL PLATA Malbec Mendoza BenMarco 2012.
Juicy, with forward plum pudding and cherry puree notes, followed by hints of mocha and spice.—N.W.

Note from Wine Spectator: In Mom’s Footsteps.