The wine and spirits world is not surprisingly no different than most any field. That is to say it has been male-dominated for centuries. So much so that it is all too easy to overlook the many essential contributions of women. Jokes on those dudes ― we know exactly how important women are to the world of wine and spirits. From ancient medicine women and brewers concocting healing tonics and brews for all manner of ailments, to Doña Antónia Ferreira, patroness of Portuguese wine, and Hannah Weinberger, Napa’s first female winemaker, women have long been leaders in the booze business. Today’s producers are continuing in the footsteps of their foremothers, crafting wines and spirits that delight critics and consumers alike. In honor of Women’s History Month, here’s a closer look at some of the women winemakers on our shelves.
Founded by winemakers Rebecca Materne and Janina Schmitt in 2012, Materne & Schmitt operate out of the Mosel, one of Germany’s most prestigious regions, renown for its steeply terraced vineyards and mineral-rich slate soils. What’s unusual about this duo is that they do not come from winemaking families; Materne and Schmitt are driven purely by passion for vine, and have studied at vineyards in South Africa, Napa Valley, Provence, Austria and the Rhine until they were ready to spearhead their own project. They allow no manipulation in their wine. All grapes are hand-selected and macerated on the skins without added sulphur. No additions, reductions or fining of any kind occur during the winemaking process.
“Wunschkind” Riesling 2018: “Wish child” is the name for Materne & Schmitt’s first wine, which leads with notes of just ripe apricot, white peach, and lime with a touch of wet stone. Nimble and lively, this Riesling is an instant modern classic and every sip will leave you wünschen for more.
It’s no secret that Italy has deeply entrenched gender inequality, especially when it comes to winemaking. Marina Marcarino is at the forefront of those is one of the only female producers in this very old school, very conservative section of Piedmont is shattering that outdated modem and making exceptional wine in the process. As owner/oenologist of Azienda Agricola Punset she’s not only a pioneer for female representation but she also owns the first winery to be certified organic in Piedmont. Marcarino actually comes from a family with history in the vineyards but her parents were dead set against her pursuing a winemaking career. A little rebellion, killer instincts and a lot of hard work made her dream possible--in fact, when she converted to organic viticulture in 1982, all of the neighbors told her parents that she was “crazy” and about to ruin the vineyard. Against all odds, Marcarino turned her family farm into a thriving business, never losing her passion for great wine or her determination to farm harmoniously with nature. We carry two of her wines and we cannot recommend them enough.
Campo Quadro (2012): This single vineyard beauty boasts notes of cherry, plum, licorice, leather, tobacco, and rosemary, truffle, and even cocoa, charming critics and consumers across the globe. Don’t wait on this stellar, less than 300 cases were produced, and it’s drinking beautifully.
The Hobo Wine Company wears many hats, that is to say they have an array of labels like Camp, Folk Machine, Make Work and Banyan. Despite these many ventures Hobo Wine Co is still a small family run operation run by husband and wife team Lynn Wheeler and Kenny Likitprakong since 2002. The Edith & Ida line is helmed by Lynn Wheeler, with a focus on natural and organic wine, she has said her idea behind the project is “to make the best wine she can with the smallest environmental impact and cellar intervention as possible.” Hobo Wine Company also has many social initiatives, from supporting Black Lives Matter, to powering their winery with local renewable energy, that are fundamental to their winemaking philosophy, to give back to both the land and the community. These wines are ambitious, socially responsible, and true indicators of terroir.
Edith & Ida Chardonnay 2017: Planted in 1944, this Chardonnay is one of the oldest plantings in the state. The wine is refreshing and light on its feet with excellent structure and beautifully developed notes of stone fruit, citrus peel and green pear.
“Break the rules. Drink the wine.” is pretty much all you need to know about theMcBride Sisters Collection. These two sisters found each other from opposite sides of the globe, defying all odds to come together in 2005 in California. Robin and Andrea, raised in Monterey, California and Marlborough, New Zealand, two of the world’s most iconic wine-growing regions, these newly found sisters shared their passion for all things winemaking and their mutual desire to shake up the industry. This collective idea pushed them to start their own project that would harmonize old-world elegance and new-world finesse. Overtime, Mcbride Sisters has grown into what is not only the largest Black-owned wine company in the US, but one of the most inclusive, accessible, socially aware and sustainable.
Mcbride Sisters Chardonnay ‘19: Pale golden in color with aromas of lemon curd, honey and ripe pear welcome you to the soft, balanced texture with just a hint of toasted oak to balance the palate. Complex and full of character without weight, pair with herb salmon, Alfredo pasta or grilled portobello mushrooms.
Husband and wife team Sara Perez and Rene Barbier were destined for greatness. Both are the children of the two great pioneers of the Priorat, Josep Lluis Perez of Mas Martinet and Rene Barbier of Clos Migador. While Sarah took over Mas Martinet (we love them too!) from her father, this project is uniquely her own. She decided to stake claim for this new venture not in Priorat but in the slightly less high profile D.O. of Monsant, where she could really let her creativity and passion bloom. One of her stated goals for Venus La Universal is “to interpret femininity through a bottle of wine”, even when making Grenache and Carignan based wines. And isn’t that just the nature of femininity? To defy convention and present itself as both strength and elegance all at once? Her wines embody this duality, as elegant and refined as they are sensual and strong.
‘Dido’ La Universal Montsant 2019: Named for the first queen of Carthage, this wine is fermented with wild yeasts and aged 14 months in a combination of used French oak & cement tanks. It has elegant aromas of fresh red fruit, dried herbs & flowers, and a hint of spice. Crisp, with a medium-full body, it is bursting with wild berry fruit & minerality.
Founded by winemaker and owner Brianne Day in 2012, her journey is truly a lesson in ambition. After a lifelong love affair with wine and winemaking in 2006 she sold everything she owned to travel through wine regions all over the world, visiting around 80 regions in 8 years. Working with wineries in Burgundy, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand until settling on Oregon as her homebase where she continued to work. In 2012 she started her own winery in Applegate Valley, a small production of Pinot Noir put her on the map and the inertia from that inaugural vintage propelled her into the major operation she runs today. She chooses to defy convention by experimenting with underappreciated grapes, and sourcing from exclusively organic and biodynamic vineyards all while creating distinct expressions that speak to terroir and craft.
‘Hock and Deuce’ Syrah 2019: Hailing from the idyllic rural country of Applegate Valley, this Syrah, Viognier blend is a beautiful expression of terroir.The presence of Viognier smooths out the more tenacious aspects of the Syrah leaving lush plum, cassis and blackberry notes with a hint of new leather adding depth, lovely spice tones and a fresh floral undertone makes this wine a perfect marriage of beauty of brawn! Pair with lamb, grilled veggies or braised beef.
The roots of Pares Balta go back to the 18th century with the first vines being planted in 1790. Always a family owned winery, nowadays the winemaking is in the capable hands of Maria Elena Jimenez and Marta Casa, oenologists and wives of Joan and Josep Cusine who manage the company. This dynamic winemaking duo have invested in organic and biodynamic practises (since 2012) for their whole estate and continue to push the standard for quality in and out of the cellar. Pares Balta is a shop favorite and we’ve been crushing on their wines for years. Personality and expert crafts(wo)manship you can taste in every sip.
Mas Elena Penedes Tinto 2017: This full-bodied Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc has opens with rich cassis, plum, green fig and sweet tobacco on the nose that explodes with mouthwatering flavor flecked with black pepper and spice on the palate. The finish is long and inviting.
Donne Fittipaldi began in 2004 when the Fittipaldi Menarini family decided to plant roots in Bolgheri, in the heart of Tuscany. Run by Maria Fittipaldi and her four daughters, their goal has always been to produce wines of great elegance and harmony, but above all else, wines that expertly tell the story of the Bolgheri terroir. Donne Fitipaldi strives for quality, keeping their yields low to ensure they are selecting only the best grapes for their wine, as well as keeping the land healthy and sustained. They are dedicated to supporting the arts and consider Donne Fittipaldi an artistic venture as much as a winemaking one. They finance a special scholarship to Fondazione Accademia di Belle Arti of Verona and their entire design team is one local artist (and friend) who was inspired by the elegance and feminie energy of the wines and estate.
Fittipaldi Bolgheri Rosso 2018: An elegant blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot,Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec, this wine captures all the luxury of Tuscany at a price point rarely seen in this quality. Fruity on the nose with notes of cherry, cassis, dried herbs, with the slightest underpinning of spice. Round silky tannins and a satisfying finish keep you coming back sip after sip. Easy to drink without sacrificing complexity, pair with a wide range of foods from hearty red meats and medium aged cheeses to roasted vegetable dishes.
Let’s face it, Brooklynites are the coolest, and this bottle is just perfect for those looking for a cool, fresh take on an old classic. Marvina Robinson’s love affair with Champagne began during her college days. She and her friends would often pool their limited funds to purchase a bottle from a local shop not far from her childhood home in Brooklyn. They would toast each other and proudly sip out of their plastic cups. The cups may have changed, but Marvina’s love for the juice continued. After working in finance for some years, she launched the critically acclaimed Stuyvesant Champagne, becoming one of the few African American women to do so.
Stuyvesant Brut Rose NV: Salmon-colored, dry, and crisp, this bubbly is made from about 58% Pinot Noir, 22% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay. Hints of cherry blossom and raspberry on the nose give way to fleshy red currant and cherries on the palate, with a long and refreshing finish.