Women WinemakersWomen Winemakers at Women of the Vine Pour The Fruits of Their Labors: by Laura Ness

Wonderfully, the world of wine has been made ever more magical by the fact that so many wines are increasingly being made by women. You’d be surprised to learn how many women winemakers are behind the rather significant brands you’ll find on your store shelves, and even more delighted to find how many are squarely behind elite, exclusive labels that will blow your mind.

Women Winemakers Heidi Barrett I’ve always had a fondness for wines made by women winemakers, including Milla Handley of Handley Cellars (Anderson Valley, Mendocino) and Pam Storrs (Storrs Winery, Santa Cruz), and have followed the careers of stars like Alison Crowe and Jaime Dowell, both of whom served at Bonny Doon, but have since branched out to do their own thing. Jaime is at Napa’s tony and way popular Napa-based Alpha-Omega, and Alison is with Garnet Vineyards, a brand that focuses on Monterey, Sonoma Coast and Napa grapes to produce value wines that really rock.

It’s a rarity to attend a function where so many female wine luminaries are in attendance, on both sides of the tables, but that’s what Women of The Vine’s Grand Tasting Event, held on International Women’s Day, March 8, at The Meritage in Napa Valley, was all about. Presented by MORE Magazine, MORE Uncorked and Women of the Vine, a collaborating of award-winning winemakers and sustainable grape growers, the event was the brainchild of founder and writer, Deborah Brenner, who authored the book, “Women of the Vine: Inside the World of Women Who Make, Taste and Enjoy Wine.”

Women Winemakers Karen McNeilIn the center of the room was a gorgeous display of sterling jewelry by Carolyn Pollack, while renowned “Wine Bible” author and educator, Karen McNeill, was autographing her books. It was a beehive of activity, as the women winemakers went around meeting and greeting one another, many trying each other’s wines for the first time.


10 Wines to Try: Made By Women Winemakers

1. Pam Starr’s Crocker & Starr 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, exquisitely made by Pam Starr. Flowing with flavors of citrus orchard, crisp pineapple, lime zest and tangerine peel, this wine is simply electric! Oh, maybe that’s because the vines are beneath a power line…

2. Melissa Stackhouse’s J Vineyards Cuvee 20 Sparkling – this woman just can’t lose, with the creamy mousse, brilliant lemon cream pie and grapefruit rind.

3. Elizabeth Spencer’s ExS 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino – Lovely and most certainly Elizabethan in every sense of the word, Elizabeth Pressler delivers a crisp citrusy and richly white peachy and minerally wine.

4. Heidi Barrett’s La Sirena Moscato Azul, made from Muscat Canelli, is off the hook in the “highly interesting” department. It starts off with a deceivingly sweet nose and then kicks you in the teeth with its true to the grape’s sassy inner core. A lot like the winemaker! She kept saying, “No, it’s not sweet! It is NOT a dessert wine!” The beautiful blue bottle matches the color of the mermaid on her label.

5. Mari Wells Coyle, consulting winemaker at David Girard Vineyards, has her own label. Her fantastic 2012 Coda Blanc, a deliriously delicious blend of every Rhone white, displays huge ripe melon, white fig, starfruit, lush lime and star anise. The finish is languidly rich and tropical, yet still light on its feet.

6. Alison Crowe’s Garnet Vineyards wines are truly exceptional, both for their site typicity and their succulent price points. I can’t decide which I like more: the 2012 Monterey Pinot Noir or the 2012 Sonoma Coast. Wait, that’s easy. The Monterey Pinot is so much brighter and lovelier with its great balance and inherent richness that comes from the incredible fruit and not the oak.

7. Nikki Pruss’s Nicolette Christopher 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, demonstrated why you should sometimes wait to open a wine…this is just starting to blossom, and it is so beautiful, I thank them for hanging onto this until it was ready to be truly appreciated.

8. Penny Gadd-Coster’s, winemaker at Rack & Riddle, also makes “Breathless” sparklers for Rebecca and Cynthia Faust. The Blanc de Noirs is a lovely swirling dervish of cranberry and raspberry along with bright citrus notes.

9. Julianne Laks of Cakebread Cellars says her signature wine is the Napa Valley Chardonnay. The 2012 version is lovely, with its fragrant pear, guava and oaky apple pastry notes. It finishes with a white-gloved air of sophistication.

10. Alicia Ysias of HandCraft Artisan Collection, presented her California appellated Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Both offer yumminess consistent with the price point, with the Chard being slightly more accessible with its saucy dosage of Malvasia Bianca.

Wineries Pouring at Women of the Vine

Stephanie Putnam, Raymond Vineyards

Julianne Laks, Cakebread Cellars

Herta Behensky Peju, Peju Province Winery and Vineyards

Katie Madigan, St. Francis Winery

Elizabeth Pressler, Elizabeth Spencer Wines

Alicia Ysais, HandCraft Artisan Collection

Stacy Clark, Charles Krug Winery

Sonja Magdevski, Casa Dumetz Wines

Susan Lueker + Megan Schofield, SIMI

Kelly Fields, Joseph Phelps

Nova Cadamatre, Robert Mondavi Winery

Robin Bogue, William James Cellars

Louisa Lindquist, Qupé & Verdad

Lauren Ackerman, Ackerman Family Vineyards

Alison Crowe, Garnet Vineyards

Amelia Ceja, Ceja Vineyards

Sharon Cohn + Cynthia Faust, Breathless

Jana Harvey, Scott Harvey Wines

Cassidy Ward, Hidden Ridge Vineyard

Lisa Bishop Forbes, Chalk Hill Estate

Melissa Stackhouse, J Vineyards

Shauna Rosenblum, Rock Wall Wine Company

Mari Wells Coyle, David Girard Vineyards

Pam Starr, Crocker & Starr

Margaret Davenport, Windsor Oak Vineyards and Winery

Karen Meyer, Meyer Family Vineyards

Nicki Pruss, Nicolette Christopher

Sue Pey, Pey Vineyards


Laura NessLaura Ness, aka “Her VineNess,” is an accomplished wine journalist and wine critic whose passion for wine was ignited by a visit to France, where she had the unmatched pleasure of tasting Sancerre in the medieval town of Sancerre – splendid!— and then a Saumur, after visiting the Chateau de Saumur in Chinon. The concept of terroir came alive in those incandescent moments. She regularly judges wine competitions and serves on the tasting panels of the Pinot, Cabernet and Chardonnay Shootouts. She was instrumental in helping define the unique sub-regions of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in concert with Appellation America. You can usually find her sipping and smiling in Mendocino, Livermore, the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains and Paso Robles. Laura writes extensively for many industry and consumer publications, and has weekly wine columns in several Bay Area newspapers. She blogs, irreverently and sporadically, at myvinespace.com.

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