March is Women's History Month, and March 8th is International Women's Day, a worldwide celebration of women's social, economi,c and political achievements. Now, more than ever, it's important to toast the progress that women have made—and why not do that with a female-produced wine?
According to the Wine Institute, 57% of wine purchases made in the U.S. are made by women. Only an estimated 10 percent of California's winemakers are female, as reported in a study from Santa Clara University—and as for the rest of the world, that figure may be even lower. As any woman who has tried to progress in a male-dominated industry knows, closing the gender gap is no small challenge and we applaud the women who are at the forefront of winemaking today. We asked five of our favorites to tell us the wine that is most expressive of their winemaking philosophy and style. These wines are beautifully crafted and full of elegance and finesse... and tasting them leaves no doubt that the future (of wine) is female.
Melissa Burr, Stoller Family Estate
Melissa was raised in Oregon's Willamette Valley, one of the best growing regions in the world for high quality Pinot Noir. After studying winemaking and fermentation science at Oregon State University, she worked as a harvest hand at several local wineries and as production winemaker at Cooper Mountain before landing at Stoller Family Estate in 2003, where she has been helming the cellar ever since. She considers her signature wine to be Stoller Family Estate Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2015.
"It's our mosaic wine: a blend of our entire property and a great, balanced snapshot of Stoller and our winemaking style." Elegant and approachable, this wine—entirely made from estate fruit—beams with bright cherry fruit and beautiful floral aromas.
Ashley Heisey, Long Meadow Ranch
After working in Germany, France, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand, and Chile, Ashley Heisey has settled down in California's Napa Valley as the vice president of winemaking at Napa Valley's Long Meadow Ranch. Heisey leads the Long Meadow Ranch team of estate winemakers to craft wines that are truly products of the land. When asked to describe her winemaking style, she admits that she doesn't so much 'make' the wine, rather, she believes in guiding the harvested fruit through the winemaking process into the bottle as gently and with as little intervention as possible.
If you only have one chance to experience this philosophy in action, pick up a bottle of Long Meadow Ranch E.J. Church Cabernet Sauvignon. One of Heisey's passions is sustainable and organic farming, and she says this bottle is the perfect representation of that philosophy: "This wine reveals the full potential of the LMR winegrowing philosophy, which involves optimization of sustainable organic practices by block. Not coincidentally, these practices produce compelling, place-centric wines. One of the wine's source vineyard blocks was planted by E.J. Church back in the 1800s which highlights another LMR philosophical point—cultivate grapes selectively in the right places."
Ana Diogo-Draper, Artesa Vineyards & Winery
A native of Portugal, Diogo-Draper moved to California in 2005, starting out as a harvest intern at Rutherford Hill Winery—and by 2013 she had worked her way up the ranks to become assistant winemaker. She's now the Director of Winemaking at Artesa Vineyards & Winery in Napa Valley's Carneros AVA. Known for their beautiful pinot noir and chardonnay (including some fantastic rosés and sparkling wines), Ana is not only passionate about winemaking but also about agriculture and farming; understanding that the best wines are actually made in the vineyard.
Picking a signature bottle wasn't an easy decision, when pressed Diogo-Draper chose a wine that best reflects her winemaking philosophy, Artesa's Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir. "I'd say my love for this wine comes from walking the vineyard throughout the seasons, having that deep connection with what we would call 'our land.' This is a wine that displays the unique rose petal, bright cherry notes that I find so appealing in Los Carneros pinot noir, concentrated, and with a wonderful textural profile. And most importantly, it truly reflects all the diverse characteristics from its birthplace."
Jen Walsh, La Crema
Like so many people working in the wine industry, Jen Walsh fell in love with wine through working in restaurants during college. Being able to sample so many incredible wines inspired the start of her career, first working at a small estate winery in Maryland (she's a Baltimore native) before deciding to get her master's degree in Viticulture and Enology from the University of California Davis. Walsh joined the La Crema team in 2017, which is a perfect fit because her passion has always led her to wineries that focus on expressive, cool-climate pinot noir and chardonnay.
The wine that she says shows the heart of her winemaking philosophy is pinot noir: "One of the many reasons I enjoy making pinot noir is the transparency of the grape, which allows you to experience a sense of place in the glass. I want you to be able to close your eyes, swirl the wine, and be able to smell and taste where the grapes are grown. To showcase this, I would pour one of the single vineyard pinot noirs I make for La Crema, like the Fog Veil Pinot Noir."
Kathleen Inman, Inman Family Wines
A Napa native, Kathleen started her eponymous winery in 2000, planting the Olivet Grange Vineyard in Sonoma's Russian River Valley. One of things that defines Kathleen's winemaking is her dedication to environmental issues and 'natural' winemaking: sensitive farming combined with non-interventionist winemaking practices. The result is subtle and nuanced wines, a far cry from the overripe, rich, and—dare we say it—more masculine style prevalent in the Russian River. A lovely example of her elegant style is her OGV Estate Pinot Noir 2013.
"The Olivet Grange Vineyard Estate pinot noir is the baby that I give birth to every year. I labor over this wine in the vineyard and in the cellar and I believe it is the epitome of my winemaking style and philosophy." Kathleen crafts all of her wines without any additions of water, acid, enzymes or tannins and ferments with the native yeast on the grapes and the naturally available bacteria—and the results are indeed spectacular. With only 390 cases of this signature wine produced, get some while you can!