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Women Pinot Noir Winemakers: You’ve Come A Long Way

As pointed out by Liz Thach, Ph.D., in an article published in Wayward Tendrils Quarterly (Vol 18, No. 2, April 2008), historians agree that wine was most likely discovered by a woman. Thach points out that modern carbon-dating has proven that wine from cultivated grapes was being made in what is today Georgia, in the Caucasus Mountains around 6,000 B.C.. There have been reports of wine remains in Armenia, Turkey, Irag, Iran and China which claim to be older, but it has not been clear that grape wine was made at these sites until a report appeared in the National Geographic Daily News (January 10, 2011). A dig in Armenia uncovered a wine press, fermentation and storage vessels, drinking cups and withered grape vines, skins and seeds. This site is now thought to be the world’s oldest winery, dating back 6,100 years. It is agreed that because women gathered berries, grapes and other crops, it was most likely a woman who picked some grapes and placed them in a container in a cool location, only to find a few weeks later that the grapes had fermented, possessed a pleasant flavor, and an inebriating effect.

The large number of legends surrounding wine goddesses supports the contention that women played an important role in the history of wine. Siduri, for example, is referred to as the Maker of Wine in the Epic of Gilgamish.

Women’s modern contributions to wine production were initially delayed by gender discrimination. A recent article by Leslie Gevirtz (Thomson Reuters October 24, 2011) regarding noted winemaker Merry Edwards, reminds that Merry Edwards had a difficult time breaking into the wine business forty years ago because of the industry’s traditional preferential bias toward men winemakers. When she attended University of California Davis, there were no women professors. Edwards notes that in the early 1970s, she was trying to get her first job in the wine industry and a large California winery tried to steer her into research, a New Zealand winery refused a job interview, and another winery turned her away when they saw her walk into the winery.

A new website,, reported in August 2011 that 9.8 percent of the lead winemakers in California are women. The website was created by Dr. Lucia Albino Gilbert, a professor of psychology and counseling at Santa Clara University. The goal of the website is to assist women interested in a career in winemaking and to provide information to allow them to further their careers.

Dr. Gilbert relied on the Wines & Vines Winery Directory and Buying Guide for an official list of wineries, but independently identified the winemakers. I believe the total percentage of California women winemakers is higher than the 9.8 percent figure for lead winemakers, at least regarding Pinot Noir producers with which I am familiar. There are many women currently working as assistant winemakers and/or enologists whose true numbers are very difficult to quantify and were not included in that figure, and there are many spouses of male winemakers or winery owners who participate in the winemaking process. In addition, there are a number of small wineries that may have been omitted. Many women have very discriminating palates and can be of tremendous assistance in assembling blends and making winemaking decisions. Women winemakers have a touch with Pinot Noir, and are able to capture the delicate texture and elegant nuances of the grape. David Autrey of Westrey Wine Company in McMinnville, Oregon, has said, “Women show a sense of balance in winemaking that you don’t see with men.”

Here is a list of women winemakers at wineries that specialize in or produce Pinot Noir. The list is not complete and I would welcome you to notify me of any female vintners that I have overlooked. I suspect the percentage of women winemakers in Oregon is less than that of California.


Abigal Adams: Beth Adams
Abiouness: Nicole Abiouness
Anaba: Jennifer Marion
Arista and Kristania : Leslie Sisneros
Armida: Jessica Boone
Bink: Deborah Schatzlein
Boisset Family Estates: Stephanie Putnam
Buttonwood Farm Winery and Seagrape Wine Company: Karen Steinwachs
Brogan Cellars: Margi Weiringa
Bruliam: Kerith Overstreet
Cakebread Cellars: Julianne Laks
Capture Wines: May Britt Malbec
Ceja Vineyards: Amelia Ceja
Chateau St. Jean: Margo Van Staaveren
Cima Collina: Annette Hoff Danzer
D'Alfonso-Curran Wines: Kris Curran
David Bruce: Mitri Faravashi
Dehlinger Winery: Eva Dehlinger
Derbes Wines: Cecile Lemerle-Derbes
Derby Wine Estates: Tiffinee Vierra
Domaine Carneros: Ellen Crane
Elizabeth Rose: Kristi Koford
Esterlina Vineyards & Winery: Lynn Krausmann
Fantesca: Heidi Peterson Barrett
Favia Wines: Annie Favia
Fiddlehead: Kathy Joseph
Ferrari-Carano: Sarah Quider
Foley Estate and Lincourt: Crystal Clifton
Foppiano: Natalie West
Freestone Vineyards: Theresa Heredia
Gallo Family Vineyards: Gina Gallo
Garnet Vineyards: Alison Crowe
Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery: Susan Reed
Gypsy Canyon: Deborah Hall
Handley Cellars: Milla Handley, Kristen Barnhisel
Inman Family Wines: Kathleen Inman
J Lynne Wines: Jennifer Lynne
J Winery & Vineyards: Melissa Stackhouse
Keller Estate: Jacqueline Yokum
La Crema & Maggy Hawk: Elizabeth Grant-Douglas
Lane Tanner Winery: Lane Tanner
Lazy Creek: Christi Griffith
Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards: Megan McGrath Gates
Lutea: Suzanne Hagins
Lynmar: Bibiana Gonzalez-Rave
MacMurray Ranch: Susan Doyle
Maggie Hawk: Elizabeth Grant-Douglas
Marguerite Ryan Wines: Marguerite Ryan
Marcassin: Helen Turley
Merry Edwards Wines: Merry Edwards
Momtazi Winery: Tahmione Momtazi
Pahlmeyer Winery: Erin Green
Patricia Howe Wines: Patricia Howe
Peay Vineyards: Vanessa Wong
Poetic Cellars: katy Lovell
Rusack Vineyards: Helen Falcone
Selby Winery: Susie Selby
Stomping Girls Wines: Kathryn Cohen
Storrs Winery: Pamela Storrs
Talley Vineyards: Leslie Mead
Tessier: Kristie Tacey
Three Sticks Wines: Tracy Bledsoe
Toulouse Vineyards & Winery: Rita Vodopals
Truett Hurst and VML: Virginia Marie Lambrix
WesMar: Denise Hubbard Selyem
Whitethorn Winery: Tasha McCorkle McKee
Wild Horse: Chrissy Wittmann
William James Cellars: Robin Bogue
Wrath: Sabrina Rodems


A to Z: Cheryl Francis
Amity Vineyards: Dancy Pendergrass
Antica Terra: Maggie Harrison
Ardiri Winery and Vineyards: Gail Lizak
Archery Summit Winery: Anna Matzinger
Coeur de Terre: Lisa Neal
De Ponte: Isabelle Dutarte
Domaine Drouhin Oregon: Veronique Drouhin-Boss
Helioterra: Anne Evenreiter Hubatch
Hip Chicks Do Wine: Renee Neely and Laurie Lewis
Honeywood Winery: Marlene K. Gallick
Kelley Fox Wines and Scott Paul Wines: Kelley Fox
Kramer Vineyards: Kimberly Kramer
Laura Volkman: Laura Volkman
Momtazi: Tahmiene Momtazi
Noble Pig: Cathy Pollack
Orchid Heights Winery: Carole Wyscaver
Patricia Green Cellars: Patricia Green
Ponzi: Luisa Ponzi
Phelps Creek: Alexandrine Roy
Privè: Tina Hammond
Penner-Ash Wine Cellars and Alexana Estate Vineyards and Winery: Lynn Penner-Ash
Redman Wines: Cathy Redman
River’s Edge Winery: Yvonne Landt
Stoller Vineyards: Melissa Burr
Stone Wolf Vineyards: Linda Lindsall
Sweet Cheeks Winery: Lorrie Normann
Tyee Cellars: Merrilee Buchanan
Westrey Wine Company: Amy Wesselman
Winter’s Hill Vineyard: Delphine Gladhart

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