Fifteen (Or So) Women We Are Toasting This International Women’s Day …And the Wines We Are Toasting Them With
James Brown claimed, “This is a man’s world” on his ridiculously-titled 1966 album “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” (because one man just wasn’t enough). While we appreciate his polite yet inadequate caveat that it would be “nothing without a woman or a girl,” we all know he was dead wrong (no pun intended).
Women have long been making strides in wine and, although the work is by no means done, it’s an exciting time to be a woman in the industry. At The Vintner Project we not only celebrate women every day in every role they occupy, but we also believe in the true benchmarks of what it means to support, empower, and elevate women – equal pay and closing the pay gap, increased representation, and going beyond the social media slogan to do the work every day, not just once a year.
With that said, we of course jump at any chance to recognize extraordinary talent in wine, so we have pulled together a by-no-means-comprehensive round-up of some of the best in the biz, along with what wines we are toasting them with this Women’s History Month. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8 is “#EmbraceEquity.” We asked each woman featured here what this means to them. Read on to see what they had to say.
And, once you’re done reading that, check out this round-up of great women’s rights organizations worth supporting.
Heidi Bridenhagen, Head Winemaker, Dough Wines
This powerhouse has more than 300 90-point+ wine scores under her belt, not to mention a degree in biochemistry (and we all know they aren’t just giving those away). Working closely with winemaker Branden Hamby, Heidi crafts wines in collaboration with a diverse group of James Beard Foundation chefs and sommeliers to create the most food-friendly wines possible. Driven by this mission as well as a dedication to sustainability of the land, food resources, and community, Heidi continues to work with its Council of Ambassadors to create positive systemic change.
Heidi on Embracing Equity:
“I have always emphasized when thinking or speaking about equity that equity does not mean ‘the same.’ Equity embraces people’s differences and understands that everyone has had a different background or ‘starting line.’ Equity is about leveling the playing field and ensuring resources and opportunities are available for all.”
Wine we are toasting Heidi with:
dough Pinot Noir 2020
Maya Dalla Valle, Winemaker, Dalla Valle Vineyards
This second-generation winemaker joined her mother – also one of Napa Valley’s most respected winemakers – Naoko Dalla Valle, creating the ultimate wine family team. But Maya wasn’t just following in her mom’s footsteps. Her pedigree is just as impressive. To pursue a career as a winemaker, Maya earned a master’s degree in viticulture and enology from Cornell University, and a Master of Business and Science in vineyard and winery management from France’s prestigious Bordeaux Science Agro. She’s also trained with some of the best, including at Ornellaia e Masseto, Bodegas Rolland, Pétrus, and Château Latour.
Maya on Embracing Equity:
“Embracing equity means envisioning an equal and just world and taking action to bring this idea to reality. It’s the future, don’t fight it!”
Wine we are toasting Maya & Naoko with:
Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
Vicky Farrow, Co-Founder & Proprietor, Amista Vineyards & Founder, Sparkling Discoveries
Not only is Vicky the co-founder and proprietor of Dry Creek Valley’s Amista Vineyards, known for its robust line of classic and offbeat sparkling wines and Rhone-style wines (made by woman winemaker Ashley Herzberg), but she is a prolific writer, and chronic wine industry ideator. Her latest creation? The Sparkling Discoveries platform dedicated to the discovery, promotion, and people of sparkling wine. Through this platform, she hopes to not only encourage others to integrate sparkling wine into their everyday moments, but also shine the light on the movers and shakers of the bubbly business through the “Sparkling Stars” program.
Vicky on Embracing Equity:
“Embracing equity means being actively engaged in stepping out of our sometimes-unconscious preconceived notions and not pre-judging others’ motivations, responses, and behaviors. It means treating everyone with fairness, respect, and dignity. It takes deliberate effort. The key is to be open to other people’s backgrounds, experiences, and points of view without judging. It requires truly listening, being curious about others, and engaging in authentic conversations.”
Wine we are toasting Vicky with:
Amista Sparkling Blanc de Blanc NV20
Theodora Lee, Vintner & Owner, Theopolis Vineyards
Fondly known as “Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards,” this trial lawyer founded Theopolis Vineyards in 2003, planting five acres in the Yorkville Highlands of Anderson Valley. Quite possibly the busiest person in wine (or any other industry!), when Theodora isn’t making wine or practicing law, she’s doing…well, just about everything else, from serving as a settlement commissioner, AAA arbitrator and mediator, author, TV personality, co-board chairperson of the Dallas Post Tribune Newspaper, and board member of the YMCA in San Francisco, among many, many other things.
Theodora on Embracing Equity:
“Embracing Equity, for me, means creating equal opportunities and fairness for all, whereby every person, regardless of race, sex, or gender, gets the resources necessary to succeed. Equity will not be achieved until all institutional and systemic barriers are removed, and everyone can participate and prosper.”
The wine we are toasting Theodora with:
Theopolis Vineyards Estate Grown Petite Sirah 2019
Sarah Hoffman, Co-Founder & CEO, Maker Wine
Sarah is one of three in the all-female leadership team behind premium canned wine company Maker. Originally a craft beer enthusiast – in fact, she had a craft beer blog and underground supper club, spent a year in Southeast Asia learning about beer, and became a homebrewer herself – Sarah conceived the idea for Maker with co-founders Zoe Victor and Kendra Kawala as a class project while attending Stanford Business School. Today, the brand is massively successful, highlighting interesting wine grapes, small producers, eco-friendly packaging, and engaging wine storytelling.
Sarah on Embracing Equity:
“As a founder of a company working to support diverse voices in wine, embracing equity to me means recognizing that everyone has a unique story to tell, and that we must take into account the diverse lived experiences of women across our industry to create lasting change. We have power in who we support as wine consumers and who we partner with as business owners: Seek out wine produced by marginalized groups of women, be curious about where your wine comes from, demand better at every stage of the wine production process.
“Nothing makes me happier than when a customer tells me about a badass female winemaker that they found through the Maker project who may not have had access to distribution. It’s amazing the ripple effect that one conversation, project, or mentor can have to those that have historically been kept out of the room.”
Wine we are toasting Sarah with:
“Week of women-owned wine” pack
Features six cans from six different female producers across six different California appellations.
Olivia Bue, Winemaker, Robert Renzoni Vineyards
Olivia has been a key player in driving a quality winemaking movement in the Temecula Valley wine region of Southern California, just northeast of San Diego. After enrolling in UC Davis’ prestigious Viticulture and Enology program before she could even legally drink, this SoCal native earned her stripes after graduation at several high-profile wineries, including two family-run operations: Mollydooker in McLaren Vale, and Cakebread Cellars in Napa Valley. These experiences underscored her desire to work at a high quality and family-run business. She ultimately moved to Temecula Valley to be closer to her Southern Californian family, finally landing at Robert Renzoni Vineyards, where she has been for the past eight years.
Olivia on Embracing Equity:
“Embracing equity promotes fairness and inclusivity and helps to overcome discrimination which leads to a more efficient, diverse, sustainable, and innovative society. Continuing to educate ourselves and being open-minded of different perspectives and ideas is crucial for positive growth in our society, as well as taking action when we witness discrimination in our daily lives. It’s crucial for each individual to speak up and take action.”
Wine we are toasting Olivia with:
Robert Renzoni Syrah 2019
The Cuvee 20 is aged in cement and stainless steel, Bouey explains, to “preserve freshness.” Notes of blackcurrants, fresh strawberries, light balsamic notes, fresh spice. Fresh as a daisy, light-to-medium bodied, ready to drink now.
Alice Warnecke Sutro, Founder, SUTRO
Alice began her career in wine at her family’s business, Warnecke Ranch & Vineyard, ultimately branching off with her own label, SUTRO in 2012 to highlight the volcanic terroir of her family’s 100-year-old Russian River Valley property. As much a seasoned, lifetime artist as she is a winemaker, Alice is well known throughout Healdsburg and Sonoma County for her brilliant large-scale figurative art installations, and her community-driven performative and interactive drawing. Be sure to check out her Women in Wine platform, a collection of conversations with women in wine, and resources to support the discovery of what it means to be a woman and a mother in the wine industry.
Alice on Embracing Equity:
“As a romantic, ‘embrace’ means hugs and kisses, and ‘equity’ seeks justice based on the individual nuances of every living thing. Embrace Equity means hug and kiss the individual nuances of all living beings, be vulnerable about your own nuances, and understanding of other’s. When I draw portraits of people or when I make wine, there needs to be a lot of respect for individual character.”
Wine we are toasting Alice with:
SUTRO Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
Anne Watson, Owner, Watson Ranch Vineyards
When we think of the phrase, “Living the dream,” it’s hard not to think of Anne Watson. Anne is a celebrated food and lifestyle photographer, food stylist, recipe developer, home chef, grape grower and winemaker, Reiki Master – [takes huge breath] – wellness practitioner, all-round entrepreneur, and mom, based on an idyllic ranch and three-acre vineyard in Fallbrook, California. After her husband passed away from cancer in 2021, Anne vowed to carry on his work in the family vineyard (“his baby”) and preserve his spirit by teaching herself everything she could about vineyard management, grape growing, and winemaking. The result? Their spectacular Piston Broke Cabernet Sauvignon to serve as an ongoing legacy and tribute to their life together.
Anne on Embracing Equity:
“To me, embracing equity means to see through the illusions and understand that, at a fundamental level, we are all made of the same energy. I feel lucky to be carrying-on my husband’s legacy with our family vineyard, and something he used to always say is, ‘No one is better than anyone else.’ I couldn’t agree more.”
Wine we are toasting Anne with:
Piston Broke Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
Sarah Wuethrich, Winemaker, Maggy Hawk
Sarah’s 20-year career goes deep into California winemaking. Originally from Cupertino, Sarah graduated from UC Davis with a degree in viticulture and enology and hit the ground running at St. Francis and Lambert Bridge, ultimately co-founding a new wine label for Naked Wines. After serving as assistant winemaker at Copain and falling in love with cool climate wines and the Anderson Valley, Sarah joined Maggy Hawk as winemaker in 2017. Perhaps recognizing Sarah’s artistic talents beyond the bottle, the winery created a fun, animated series highlighting their winemaking process using original drawings from Sarah’s notebook.
Sarah on Embracing Equity:
“I can only speak from the experience I’ve had so far in my winemaking career- which has oftentimes felt like a “tough mudder” obstacle course: as a female trying to navigate a male-dominated industry, as a mom trying to maintain the family/work/self-balance (does this even exist?)…Also being a parent to a disabled child, I have a different lens to the many inequities present in our world, and am sensitive to the challenges my daughter faces daily.
“I’ve made a promise to myself that I would do all in my power to lead, support, and encourage my fellow female colleagues in the wine industry, as I was not offered that same support in the earlier part of my career. I’ve promised to be the advocate and voice for my daughter, who oftentimes has none. I think if each one of us took a moment to evaluate our own thoughts and actions, what we’re doing (or not doing) to create more opportunities for support and encouragement for others of all abilities and backgrounds, our world- and the wine industry- would be a more equitable place.”
Wine we are toasting Sarah with:
Jolie Estate Pinot Noir 2020
Cynthia Lohr, Co-Owner & Chief Brand Officer, J. Lohr
Cynthia may come from Paso Robles wine royalty, but she has built a seriously impressive career in her own right. When it comes to work ethic, few rival this unstoppable force in wine, marketing, leadership, and cause-driven initiatives. From speaking at industry events about Diversity and Inclusion, to her vision launching the J.Lohr Touching Lives® program, a partnership with the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., aimed at raising awareness for the importance of early detection and women’s breast self-care, to her work on the #JLohrWomen initiative focused on creating new opportunities for professional entry into wine, and filling the alcohol beverage industry’s gender gap in executive roles, vineyards, wineries and more, it’s no wonder Cynthia has received recognition for her work through nominations for the 2019 Wine Enthusiast Magazine Wine Star Award for Wine Executive of the Year and the 2021 ‘Top 100 Women of Influence’ by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.
Cynthia on Embracing Equity:
“I have always been drawn to ideas and entities different from mine in my creative and intellectual pursuits. Through various personal and professional endeavors, I learned the world is vast and colorful, yet filled with both oppressors and allies. In order to be the latter, we can and should lift those around us by first understanding, then parking our biases, extending compassion for those with circumstances different from our own, and marshaling resources and voices to foster access to opportunities that create greater parity. Through the commitment of many, we are recognizing and celebrating a diverse tapestry of contributors, influencers, and visionaries within the alcohol beverage industry. I am deeply encouraged by what I see, and more work must be done to fully embrace equity, which is one of the core tenets of sustainable practice and an anchor in our Lohr family ethos.”
Wine we are toasting Cynthia with:
Carol’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
Kimberlee Nicholls, Winemaker, Markham Vineyards
One sip of wine from Markham Vineyards tells you everything you need to know: This juice was made by someone who knows what they are doing, and has the vision to produce it. Kimberlee has been that person for over thirty years now. She’s deeply committed to quality that goes beyond the bottle, reimagining the winery’s approach to packaging and recycling in an effort to introduce sustainable and environmentally-conscious practices at every turn. She’s also on a mission to make Merlot, the winery’s flagship grape variety, great again, a mission we will happily get behind here at The Vintner Project.
Kimberlee on Embracing Equity:
“Something that sets us apart at Markham is our all-women winemaking and viticulture team, which you don’t see too often in Napa Valley. For context, only about 12% of head winemakers in the region are women. Embracing equity means we support and learn from each other every day, and provide mentorship for our newer team members who are just breaking into the wine industry. I think it’s important for young women to have strong female role models in the wine business, which has historically been male dominated.
“Markham Vineyards also has a partnership with MAPP, a non-profit organization that empowers women in the culinary arts and hospitality to lead through mentorship and advocacy. MAPP’s mission is perfectly aligned with our beliefs at Markham, and the work they do is important in achieving greater equity in not only wine, but the hospitality industry as a whole.”
Wine we are toasting Kimberlee with:
Markham Vineyards Merlot 2019
Victoria Coleman, Winemaker, Lobo Wines
As the first black woman to graduate from UC Davis’ viticulture and enology program, and the first black woman to be named head winemaker in Napa Valley, Victoria Coleman is no stranger to blazing trails. Victoria’s first brush with the industry was when she was dating someone who worked in wine… at a time she had little interest in the stuff. Thankfully, people are capable of change, and she ultimately built an impressive career, working with some of the industry’s best, including Michael Silacci and Mario Bazàn, and even interning at Château Mouton Rothschild.
While her vision, work ethic, and winemaking talent are what got her there – a truth she carries with confidence – she doesn’t take her role as an icon who has now opened doors for others lightly.
Victoria, as quoted in the Napa Valley Register, on hoping to see more women and POC in the wine industry:
“It would be nice to actually see someone in production, and actually take a path through UC Davis or even Washington State or any program like that. There are people that are interested, and that’s what I always wanted to do was get in front of my culture, because I know that there aren’t many of us that were into wine, and I think it’s more so apparent now.”
Wine we are toasting Victoria with:
Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
Gayle Glomski, Founder, Vin de Filles
Gayle’s wine beginnings go back to 2003 when her husband, Eric Glomski, founded Page Springs Cellars in the Verde Valley appellation of Arizona. Not only has Gayle found ways to integrate her experience in wellness pillars at Page Springs and beyond – she is a massage therapist, yoga teacher, and dance instructor, and has launched a line of grape-derived skincare products – she is also deeply committed to women’s issues. In 2020, she conceived the “Vin de Filles” project — a 100% woman-produced wine from vine to bottle. The majority of net profits from sales of this wine benefit the Verde Valley Sanctuary, a local non-profit dedicated to supporting women who have been victims of domestic abuse, assault, and human trafficking.
Gayle on Embracing Equity:
“Embrace ‘Fairness’ not ‘Equality’ for women in the wine industry. I don’t believe that any human is equal to another human, i.e.. exactly the same. However, I believe that knowledge and opportunity should be equally available to women and each human should be encouraged to find and use their own strengths in whatever it is they find passion in.”
Wine we are toasting Gayle with:
Cellars Dos Padres Roussanne 2021
Kate Ayres, Winemaker, Penner-Ash Wine Cellars
Growing up on the north coast of Oregon, Kate spent her younger years fishing, crabbing, and gathering mushrooms. Her interest in science and love of animals led her to the University of California, Davis where she began her studies in animal sciences, but ultimately transitioned to the viticulture and enology program. Between the years of 2009 and 2011, Kate worked harvests in New Zealand, Portugal, and Australia, with a brief stint at home in Oregon at Bethel Heights. In 2011, Kate took on the role of Associate Winemaker at Hess Collection Winery, where she remained until 2016, when the Pinot Noir of the Pacific Northwest called her back north. At Penner-Ash Wine Cellars, Kate quickly rose to her current role of Winemaker in the spring of 2018.
Kate on Embracing Equity:
“Embracing equity is about celebrating the growth of female leadership in an industry historically driven by males. At Penner-Ash it means a winery built with human ergonomics top of mind, so both men and women can do all jobs equally. For us, it is a community and team that brings palates to the table from all backgrounds to create a unique wine that hopefully all enjoy with equal pleasure.”
Wine we are toasting Kate with:
Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018
The Dream Team Behind Revelation Rosé by Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard and Winery
Every facet of this wine has been influenced by a woman, from vine to bottle, including grape-growing, production, design, marketing, and sales. Rooted in three generations of women in wine, Revelation Rosé was conceived and produced by members of the Monson family that started Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard & Winery – Molly Monson-Stutesman, Valerie Monson, and Taylor Monson Jackson – as well as packaging coordinator Allison Stutesman, winemakers Maurine Johnson and Gillian Hawkins, general manager of direct-to-consumer sales Tiffany Stetson, and Artist Katie Small, who designed the stunning label on the bottle.
The Team on Embracing Equity:
“Revelation Rosé is founded on the strength of women. To us, equity means that each of us has the same opportunity. We’re proud of the team of women behind this brand. Each team member contributes their own expertise to make Revelation a success. We believe in women supporting women.”
Wine we are toasting these ladies with: