Wine's Future is Female
We celebrate Women’s History Month by profiling a few of our favorite female winemakers.
Winemaking is often described as a male-dominated field, but in reality, women have been power players in this industry for a long time. Do names like Heidi Peterson Barrett, Zelma Long, Cathay Corison, or Merry Edwards ring a bell? We could list so many more, and we’ve assembled a roster of favorites below, all of whom have been featured on SommSelect. We invite you to raise a glass to these legends and up-and-comers—and keep an eye out for their wines in future offers!
Meghan Zobeck | Passionate about low-intervention winemaking, Meghan Zobeck has a heart for sustainability and has spent the last few years transitioning the vineyards at Burgess Cellars to regenerative farming—a practice that helps the vineyard function as a holistic environment that partners with nature rather than trying to conquer and tame it. Zobeck shifted from a career with the NFL to a career in wine, and hasn’t looked back since. From working harvests in Chile, Piedmont, Bordeaux, and more, Zobeck not only has international experience in the field, but has had her hands in several of your favorite Napa Valley classics. Screaming Eagle or Stag’s leap sound familiar?
Iliana Malihin | Celebrating her native homeland on the isle of Crete, Iliana Malihin has taken forgotten vineyards around Melampés and introduced sustainable farming practices to enhance the beauty of her terroir. Focusing on the local white grape Vidiano, Malihin has made an international name for herself while doubling down on her desire to revive the grape—not only locally, but internationally. SommSelect’s Mark Osburn was lucky to visit Malihin’s vineyards last spring, which you can read about here. With her incredible attention to detail, wines that show incredible vitality, and an extensive knowledge of the southern shores of Rethymno, Malihin is definitely one to watch.
Vanessa Robledo | Growing up working alongside her parents in their Napa Valley vineyard, it’s no surprise that Vanessa Robledo eventually took over the family business. By age eight, Robledo was helping in the vineyards, and by 12, she was translating for her Spanish-speaking father during business meetings. Under Vanessa’s care, the Robledo Family Winery has blossomed and increased its production from just 100 cases in 1997 to around 20,000 cases a year today. You can see Vanessa on screen in the documentary “Harvest Season,” which chronicles the contributions and history of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the wine industry.
Cathy Corison | Ask anyone in the wine world about Cathy Corison, and you’ll hear the same refrain: Corison is a household name known for her nuanced California Cabernets, and she’s not only respected but adored by everyone who meets her. With a reputation like that, how could you not want to know more? After a wine appreciation course wooed Corison into a life of winemaking, she had a hand in harvests at vineyards all over California before Corison Winery was born.
Maria Sole Giannelli | A newly minted celebrity on the Italian wine scene, Maria Sole is an advocate for biodynamic farming and natural winemaking, and her wines are stunning expressions of the land they come from. Sole’s farm, called Ficomontanino ("Little Fig Mountain"), is in southeast Tuscany—where her grandfather once bred horses, produced olive oil, and planted the property’s first vines around 40 years ago. Passed down through the generations, Maria Sole has reimagined her family’s vineyard, taking over in 2014. From her assorted Sangioveses to an incredible Mondeuse (from vines her grandfather planted), her wines have wowed the SommSelect faithful with their purity and authenticity.
Veronica Ortega | Known for her elegant, balanced wines made from local grapes in Bierzo, Spain, Veronica Ortega has a passion for delicious, sustainable wines. Hailing from Cadiz, it was her love for Mencía that brought her to northwest Spain. Since her arrival, she’s been blurring the lines between “conventional” and “natural” methods of winemaking. With the majority of her 20+ small vineyards spread between Valtuille and Cobrana, Ortega makes DO-classified wines while keeping up production of villages and single vineyard vintages as well. Polished with a natural edge, Ortega’s wines bring zest and exciting energy to the Bierzo region.
Chiara Condello | Tucked between the Appenine mountains and the Adriatic Sea, the high-elevation winemaking villages of Italy’s Romagna region have been reborn—thanks to brilliant Sangiovese-based reds from talented producers like Chiara Condello. In 2012, Condello started her first foray into winemaking—a summer job at her father’s winemaking estate, Condé. When harvest rolled around, she couldn’t bring herself to leave. Three years later, Condello produced her first solo vintage and hasn’t looked back, producing perfumed, finessed Sangiovese reds that have found their way to SommSelect repeatedly.
Martha Stoumen | Stoumen is a California winemaker who’s changing the game with her natural wine approach. A first-generation winemaker, Stoumen spent eight years apprenticing under other winegrowers prior to founding her namesake label in 2014. Pushing the boundaries of what you might think of as “California wine,” Stoumen’s is a practice based on patience and minimalism. Unique, authentic, and full of personality—Stoumen’s wines transcend expectations and open up a world of possibilities for the palate.
Dawna Darjean Jones | Louisiana native and first generation African-American winemaker Dawna Darjean Jones has been breaking down barriers in the wine industry since the early days of her winemaking journey in Napa Valley as a plant pathologist, studying and working on the diseases that affect wine grapes. Her first vintage in 2010 was a Napa Valley Merlot, and the team at Darjean Jones Wines has been producing unique and adventurous Napa, Sonoma Coast, and the Russian River Valley wines ever since.
Elisabetta Fagiuoli | Behind the historic Tuscan winery Montenidoli is the indefatigable Elisabetta Fagiuoli, hailed as one of the true queens of natural wine. The formidable signora completely transformed her farm from an abandoned property to a bustling bastion of biodynamic winegrowing. A pioneer in the San Gimignano region, Fagiuoli’s name is synonymous with the passion of preserving the land in Tuscany for future generations. With 24 hectares of remote hilltop vineyards surrounded by woodlands, Montenidoli has spectacular vistas of the surrounding hillsides—and spectacular wines to pair.
Mercedes García Rupérez | Established in 1870, Bodegas Montecillo is the third oldest winery in Rioja, where Mercedes García Rupérez serves as Chief Winemaker. Rupérez took the winery, which historically specialized in classical styles of Rioja, to a modern plane. Continuing to ensure the quality of existing wines in production, Rupérez has expanded its offerings, showing off a unique expression of the region while maintaining a passion for the land true of the century-old winery. There’s no doubt that the changes made by Rupérez in her 10+ year tenure will help Montecillo maintain its relevance as the wine industry continues to expand and grow.
Danielle Meunier | Meticulous and thorough, Danielle Meunier’s Château Haut-Ségottes produces exceptionally crafted wines year after year. Having existed in her family for four generations prior to her taking the helm, Haut-Segottes continues to capture the essence of Meunier’s dedication to not only her family’s Château, but also the winemaking traditions of the region. It’s no wonder Bordeaux’s locals refer to Meunier as a vigneronne extraordinaire!
Tara Gomez + Mireia Taribó | Wife-and-wife winemaking team Tara Gomez and Mireia Taribó built a bridge from Catalonia to California. Their winery, Camins 2 Dreams, sources grapes exclusively from vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills with a focus on Syrah and Gruner Veltliner. Gomez, hailing from the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, spent two harvests at Castell d’Encus in Spain, where Mireia was the winemaker. Returning home in 2010, Gomez took over the Camp 4 Vineyards purchased by her Chumash Tribe and started Kitá Wines in the Santa Ynez Valley. In 2017, Gomez and Mireia created Camins 2 Dreams born out of their shared love of wine, winemaking, and each other.
Naoko Dalla Valle | Since founding Dalla Valle Vineyards in 1986, Naoko Dalla Valle has been adamant about one thing: she believes great wines are made in the vineyard. Over the years, Dalla Valle has quietly earned the reputation as one of Napa’s most respected vintners, bringing Dalla Vale to legendary status with its expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. In 2017, Dalla Valle’s daughter Maya joined forces with her mother at the family vineyard—the mother-daughter duo works together to preserve their vision for the future of farming and winemaking at Dalla Valle.
Theodora Lee | Lee founded Theopolis Vineyards in 2004. Known to those in the wine world as “Theo-patra,” Lee arrived in California’s Bay Area by way of Texas in 1987. It wasn’t wine that lured her to California though, but a career in law. But, like any good story, Lee found her way to wine through a handful of her law firm mentors, many of whom were vineyard owners. After taking a few courses in viticulture, Lee decided to develop her own vineyard, and has been producing elegant and balanced wines in Mendocino County ever since.