Cattleya: A Woman’s Touch
There has been a lot of discussion in the press and social media about the lack of diversity in the wine
business and the need to encourage and eagerly accept women into the winemaking “fraternity.” In the almost
twenty years I have been writing the PinotFile and meeting winemakers, I realize that it had made absolutely
no difference to me whether the winemaker was a man or woman when considering the quality and appeal of
their efforts. I was only interested in an individual winemaker’s experience, goals, innovative approaches, and
The one impression I did develop over the years is that women tend to have a “touch” with Pinot Noir. Their
discriminating palates allow them to bring out a sense of balance in winemaking that you don’t always see with
Historians agree that wine was most likely discovered by a woman. Liz Thach, Ph.D., in an article published in
Wayward Tendrils Quarterly (Volume 18, No 2, April 2008) 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. Because women gathered berries, grapes, and other crops, historians generally agree that a woman
who picked some grapes and placed them in a container in a cool location found a few weeks later that the
grapes had fermented, possessed a pleasant flavor, and had 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. Noted
vintner Merry Edwards, for example, had a challenging time breaking into the wine business as a winemaker in
the early 1970s because of the industry’s traditional preferential bias toward men winemakers. When she
attended UC Davis, there were no woman professors. When she was trying to land her first job in the wine
industry, a large California winery tried to steer her into research, a New Zealand winery refused her a job
interview, and another winery turned her away when they saw her walk into the winery.
Today, a 2020 study by Dr. Lucia Albino Gilbert and Dr. John C. Gilbert of Santa Clara University estimates that
women make up 14% of current working winemakers in California. The percentage varied across wine regions
with a significant increase to 17% both for Sonoma/Marin and South Central Coast regions but not much
change for Napa (12%) compared to a previous study in 2011. The study is available at this link under
“Studies”: www.womenwinemakers.com. Check later in this issue for a list of California and Oregon women
winemakers who focus on Pinot Noir that I compiled.
There is a searchable web-based resource, Women Winemakers of California and Beyond at
www.womenwinemakers.com, which provides the most comprehensive information currently available on the lead
women winemakers in wineries in California, the U.S., and globally. The website was created by Dr. Lucia
Albino Gilbert, a professor at Santa Clara University and a lover of wine. She has also published a book co-authored
with her spouse, Dr. John C. Gilbert, titled Women Winemakers: Personal Odysseys, that covers key
women in various wine regions throughout the world.
This preface brings me to the winemaker and owner of Cattleya Wines, Bibiana González Rave. She has an
extensive entry on Gilbert’s website where you can search and read about her impressive resume. I have also
written articles about Bibiana and Cattleya Wines: www.princeofpinot.com/article/ and
Bibiana is the only woman winemaker from Colombia succeeding in California. She has worked 17 harvests at
wineries that include La Crema, Peay Vineyards, Au Bon Climat, Lynmar Estate, Pahlmeyer, and Wayfarer. She
started her own label, Cattleya (“Cat-LAY-a”) in 2015 and later a second, value-priced label, Alma de Cattleya.
She is equally adept at crafting Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah as Pinot Noir.
In her own words, this is Bibiana’s philosophy as a vintner. “Attention to the smallest aspects of enology helps
me work toward achievement in my wines. I choose sites very carefully, understanding that to craft wine of
which I am proud requires terroir that speaks both to my head and heart. My close focus on viticulture is
matched by an equal laser vision in the winery. When I worked in Burgundy, I often kept a sleeping bag by the
press, napping rather than sleeping so that I could more closely supervise every part of the process.
I continue this level of oversight today.”
The Pinot Noir wines reviewed here are from the 2019 vintage (Belly of the Whale is a fall release). The wines
are sold through a mailing list and available on the winery’s website at www.cattleyawines.com and
www.almadecattleya.com. Tasting by appointment in Rohnert Park pending COVID-19 restrictions.
2019 Alma de Cattleya Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.63, RS 0.69 g/L, 2,000 cases,
$30. Alma means “soul” in Spanish and Cattleya is the national flower of Colombia. Sourced equally from
vineyards across the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley AVAs of Sonoma County. Clones 114, 115, 667,
777, Pommard, Wädenswil 2A and faux 828. 100% de-stemmed, short cold soak, fermented in stainless steel
open-top tanks, hand punch-downs, aged 16 months in French oak barrels. DIAM cork closure.
2019 Cattleya Cuvée Number One Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 350 cases, $60. Part of the
Appellation Series.The name reflects Bibiana’s first AVA blend under Cattleya Wines. Crafted from small,
individual row selections of two Russian River Valley vineyards located in the Green Valley and Santa Rosa
Plain subdivisions of the AVA. 42% clone 115, 28% Pommard, 21% 777, and 9% 667. 100% de-stemmed,
native primary fermentation in stainless steel open-top tanks following 10 days of cold soak. Gentle punchdowns
by hand. Aged in French oak barrels, 45% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate garnet color in
the glass. Very bright aromas of ripe strawberry, black cherry and baking spices upon opening. Refined and
elegant, yet packed with black cherry and ollaliberry fruit flavors with a black tea and cola note in the
background. Modest tannins, with a tangy, moderately long finish.
2019 Cattleya Belly of the Whale Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 250 cases, $75. Part of the Collection series.
50/50 clones 777 and 667 at Sun Chase Vineyard , perched at
an elevation of 2,300 feet above the cool maritime fog layer
and overlooking western Sonoma County. Slow, methodical
hand-sorting, 100% de-stemmed, native fermentation in opentop
stainless steel tanks, hand punch-downs twice daily. Aged
10 months in 50% new French oak barrels. Bottled without
fining or filtration.
Whoa, Nelly! Moderately dark garnet color in
the glass. Lovely and engaging aromas of black cherry, rose
petal, spice, pipe smoke and tilled earth. Mid-weight plus in
style with a luscious core of black cherry fruit embellished with
clove and cardamom spices. Gentle power, with terrific flow
and balance with an extremely long finish. Delightful in every
way. Still terrific when tasted the following two days from a
previously opened bottle.