By Jan Mercker
Nine years ago, a whirlwind move for her husband’s job dropped Erin Lombardi in Loudoun with a young daughter and no friends or family connections. Nearly a decade later, she’s found her tribe. As director of business development at Tarara Winery near Leesburg, Lombardi is on a mission to help other women connect, collaborate and find each other.
Lombardi and her team have developed the winery’s new Find Your Tribe meet-up series while also focusing on building collaborations with some of the area’s most dynamic women in the arts and business.
“Women wear so many hats, and we never take time for self-care. We never take time to do things just for ourselves with other women who are looking for the same. When women can come together and do things they love and enjoy, great bonds can be formed,” Lombardi said. “Find Your Tribe is meant to be a part of that. It’s meant to foster connections. It’s meant to be a space where women can come and be themselves.”
The bi-monthly Saturday morning meet-ups offer classes by local yoga and barre studios followed by a low-key wine tasting and a chance to hang out with new friends. This fall, the winery will be expanding the series to include arts and crafts and mindfulness workshops, Lombardi said.
Lombardi is also working to build partnerships with some of Loudoun’s talented women. She’s taking over logistics and promotion for Tracy Hamlin’s second Sweet Jazz Festival at Tarara on Oct. 12. Hamlin launched the first Sweet Jazz event last fall, and Lombardi has made it a personal mission to boost this year’s festival.
“It was a successful first event with a lot of learning experiences,” Lombardi said. “Now she’s got me and we are rocking and rolling with it.”
The winery also is on the verge of announcing a partnership with a bestselling self-help author who will offer workshops and have her own line of Tarara wines, Lombardi said.
For Lombardi, 35, the push for fostering sisterhood comes from her own experience as a mom of three girls and the experiences of friends and neighbors. What she found is that women, especially in a fast-growing area like Loudoun, need low-pressure meet-up opportunities with no kids or spouses.
“A lot of it came from seeing what’s happening on social media and women saying, ‘I don’t have any friends. I’m new to this area—somebody just be my friend,’” Lombardi said. “Wineries kind of take the scary out of it. … It helps in the sense that it’s an open space, you’re not going to someone’s house. It’s a safe space for people to come and do things that they love and enjoy. … We’re letting those connections and those relationships happen organically.”
Lombardi, a Connecticut native, moved to Lovettsville from New York in 2010 with her husband Nick, and toddler daughter. She has a master’s degree in education psychology but taught gymnastics in her new hometown for several years before making the jump into marketing. She was hired as Tarara’s sales and marketing director in 2017 and quickly became known in agritourism circles for her dynamic, high-energy style. Lombardi is an ambassador for the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce and a member of the board of trustees for the Visit Loudoun Foundation, which offers scholarships for Loudoun students working toward tourism-related degrees. The foundation is currently working on developing internship and mentorship programs in the tourism industry.
In 2018, the Tarara reorganized its leadership structure to allow winemaker and general manager Jordan Harris to focus on production, turning over sales, marketing and business development to Lombardi and her colleague Allison Wood. This gave Lombardi the reins to focus on what she does best: collaboration.
“Partnerships are a big deal,” she said. “We’re partnering with local businesses to support and celebrate all the things that make Loudoun County unique and special.”
The winery created a special bottling for Visit Loudoun’s Summer of Love campaign, which wrapped up last week. Lombardi has also spearheaded partnerships with the Loudoun United soccer team and EatLoCo farmers markets and is a big proponent of working with local nonprofits. One of the winery’s highest profile partnerships is with the Arc of Loudoun and Paxton Campus, and the Tarara team will be a familiar sight at Paxton’s annual Shocktober events this fall. Lombardi says the winery donated more than $85,000 in tangible items like wine and tastings in 2018 and is on track to triple that number this year.
And while Lombardi’s polished style might make things look easy, she’s no stranger to the challenges facing all working moms. She and Nick now have three daughters, ages 10, 8 and almost 3. Balancing work and family, finding childcare and dealing with the stress of a spouse with a high-pressure job can be tough. Her focus, she said, is on raising good people and building her career doing something she loves.
“Nick has a deployable job so he’s out of the country half of the year, which means he misses half of our lives and half of our kids’ lives. My job is easy compared to what he does.” she said. “If I can build something for our family where my husband never has to miss another day of their lives, it would be the biggest gift. He has sacrificed so much for our family. That’s what gets me going and that’s what lights my fire every day.”
Lombardi chalks up a lot of her success to her own western Loudoun tribe, which she describes as a very diverse group of women from their mid-30s to mid-50s with a range of jobs and backgrounds.
“What’s so great is you have all of these type-A women who can sit back and enjoy each other’s company,” she said. “It’s such a relief because at the end of the day when my husband is gone, I have that core group of women that I can call and say, ‘I’m not making it to pick up my kids—you’ve got my back right?’ And they do. It’s allowed me to let my guard down and do the things I need to do because I have that solid foundation. If I need help, I know that they’re there.”
Tarara Winery’s next Find Your Tribe meet-up takes place Saturday, Aug. 24 at 10 a.m. and features a class with Pure Barre of Leesburg followed by a wine tasting. Admission is $20 and includes the class and wine tasting. A portion of proceeds will go to the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter. Go to tarara.com/find-your-tribe for a schedule of Find Your Tribe events this fall.