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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Women in Wine

In the early days of Sonoma County wine (by the early days I mean the 1980s) the first time I thought maybe there was something different, something special, about a female winemaker was when I discovered Simi Winery had a winemaker named Zelma Long. I loved Simi wines at the time. There was something distinctive, maybe a light, feminine touch, I'm not sure. Zelma got her start in the 1970s with Mondavi which was certainly the place to learn about wine at the time. She's making wine in South Africa now.

It was definitely a male-dominated field then (as were many occupations). It's not so now. Here are a few of my favorite places with women winemakers.

Arrowood
Heidi von der Mahden studied under the late Mike Lee of Kenwood Vineyards. At Arrowood she started off by working for Dick Arrowood until he left. Mike Lee and Dick Arrowood were two of the best in Sonoma County.

Carol Shelton Wines
Carol has been in the wine biz for over a decade. Her wines, mostly Zinfandels, have won lots of awards.

Chateau St. Jean
Margo Van Staaveren is in her fourth decade at St. Jean. Yes, it's now a big corporate winery, but if you try her reserve wines rather than just the "grocery store" wines you'll see she knows what she is doing.

Inman Family Wines
Kathy Inman came to my attention just a few years ago when I first tried her Pinots at an open house for several small wine producers. I immediately gave them a "wow" and took home several.

Merry Edwards Wines
Merry Edwards was another of those "wow" rated Pinot Noirs. She was the winemaker that put Matanzas Creek Winery on the map in the late 1970s. People talk about terroir where a wine tastes like where it's grown. Her Pinots do that as well as any wines.

Selby Wines
Susie Selby has two decades of making wine after starting in the cellar. She has a small hands-on operation making some big wines.

Wilson Winery
Diane Wilson has probably won more awards at the local Sonoma County Harvest Fair than anyone has a right to expect. The Wilsons own several wineries in the county. All are highly rated.


Helen Turley, California's best-known winemaker


Women Winemakers of California