By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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“This is who I am,” she says, posing with a Texas-size rodeo belt buckle on the bar to boot.
Charlton is the whirlwind behind Working Girl Wines and Olympic Cellars, which she bought back in 1999.
Since then, at the big old former dairy barn at 255410 U.S. Highway 101, Charlton and partners Molly Rivard and Lisa Martin have personified their brand: a winery run by women, a place for summer concerts, chocolate and cheese tastings, and even a September grape stomp.
But now Charlton is stepping away from all that.
She’s transitioning out of daily operation of the winery to spend more time with Ralph, her husband of 20 years.
Hold on, now.
Although Charlton has devoted some 15 years to Olympic Cellars — and many years before that to her first career at Texas Instruments — she is not retiring.
To know Charlton is to know she is not the retiring type.
This new chapter in Charlton’s life opened last year.
Ralph had grown so busy in his work that Charlton joined him in hopes of reducing his load.
“It was time that we cut back,” Charlton said. “Ralph was turning 65.”
But the cutting back didn’t happen. The business, a self-defense program called Target Focus Training, grew, “and we were working more than ever,” she said.
“Last year, I was miserable. I was working two businesses, one that I love with all my heart,” Olympic Cellars. “The other, well, it was a job, and to me, it didn’t have any soul.
“I couldn’t do both, and I chose my husband over the winery.”
Then, once she committed her energy to Target Focus Training, Charlton said, she found its soul.
“We had begun moving the business from mostly male, testosterone-oriented self-protection training and products to also focus on women,” Charlton explained.
Target Focus Training, with its classes, DVDs and books, teaches basic self-protection that Charlton said does not make its users dependent on a firearm nor on martial arts skills.
Instead, Charlton said, TFT teaches women how to defend themselves with their bare hands and with the knowledge of particular male body parts that, when hit, render the attacker nonfunctional.
In addition to training classes in Las Vegas, Dallas and New York City, TFT markets books: How to Survive the Most Critical 5 Seconds of Your Life and, to be released in August, a guide for women titled Surviving the Unthinkable.
“I am taking it to the women,” Charlton said.
She took care to emphasize that she and Ralph will continue to live in Sequim and that this summer and fall, she’ll stick around for her favorite events at Olympic Cellars.
Charlton is working on those Saturday night concerts in August, for example, and negotiating with bands from across the Pacific Northwest.
Then, there will be bottling in September and, Charlton said, “we’ll have one last grape stomp,” that harvest celebration in which guests hop into grape-filled barrels to get their feet wet.
Meanwhile, Martin, who came to work at the winery about six years ago, gradually is taking on the operational work.
As she works with Rivard, the longtime tasting-room manager, and Virginie Bourgue, Olympic’s winemaker, Martin plans to add yet another aspect to Olympic Cellars.
Martin’s husband, Tom, is the man behind Fathom & League, a microbrewery in Carlsborg; his ales and stouts are made in small batches and sold in a few restaurants and at events such as last weekend’s Beat the Blues Barn Dance in Sequim.
The Martins are in the process of bringing Fathom & League under Olympic Cellars’ roof and could be pouring wine and beer by summer.
Charlton, meanwhile, already is looking forward to the winery’s outdoor concerts on August Saturday nights, several of which sold out last year.
“I wouldn’t miss them,” she said.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at email@example.com.