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Winemakers Sherrie Holzer (Castoro Cellars) and Shauna Rosenblum (Rock Wall Wine Company) judge a flight of reds during the International Women’s Wine Competition, where all the judges are female. There’s also an award for the best wine made by a woman.

Welcome back, my friend! And now that it’s March, welcome to #WomensHistoryMonth!

The world will be celebrating women next Friday on International Women’s Day, but I thought we’d kick off the new month on Day 1 – with a view from a wine lover’s perspective.

When I started writing about and judging wine, 30+ years ago, the gender balance tilted very heavily toward the male side.

(As I recall, in the first few wine competitions that I judged, I was one of only three or four women, with at least two dozen men.)


This three-member panel of judges at the International Women’s Wine Competition – Monique Soltani, Ellen Landis, Thrace Bromberger – tastes through a “flight” of rosés and awards medals – Gold, Silver, Bronze – to the worthiest.

Gradually, through the years, things have (thankfully!) shifted. Although we’re nowhere near the 50% mark, women are much more strongly represented now throughout the wine industry.

Through the years, I’ve had the honor of building friendships with a great many women in the wine world. Starting today, and for all of March, let’s pop some corks on wines made by women.


I’m with my long-time friend, Eugenia Keegan, sipping her gorgeous Pinot Noir. Eugenia started her career in 1976; she has owned or co-owned several wineries since then and now heads Oregon operations for Jackson Family Wines.

It’s a great way to pay homage to the many talented female winemakers who have made their mark in the world of wine.

Though I know I’ll be leaving far too many out (there are now hundreds of women making wine, yet women comprise only 10% of the profession’s total), I’ll introduce you to some of the best-known among the veterans – early pioneers who bucked the industry-wide glass ceiling and have, for 30 to 40 years or more, set new winemaking standards.

These legends include (alphabetically): Heidi Barrett (whom mega-critic Robert Parker called “the first lady of wine” and “the Queen of Cult Cabernet”); Cathy Corison (San Francisco Chronicle Winemaker of the Year, 2011; dubbed “The Female Clark Kent of Napa Cabernet)…


Debra Del Fiorentino, also a sommelier, presides over the prestigious International Women’s Wine Competition, along with seven other annual judgings, which rate cider and spirits as well as wine.

Dawnine Dyer (founding winemaker and 24-year veteran of Domaine Chandon, California’s first French-owned sparkling-wine house, now co-producing top-ranked Cabernet at Dyer Straits); Merry Edwards (45+ years making wine, Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners’ Hall of Fame, James Beard Award winner); Milla Handley (the first female winemaker/owner of an eponymous winery, who recently retired and turned over the reins of Handley Cellars to her daughters Megan and Lulu); Zelma Long (James Beard Award winner; as president of Simi, the first woman in management in a California winery)…


Carol Shelton evaluates a Pinot Noir in a competition where her own Pinot won a Gold Medal.

…Carol Shelton (a Zinfandel specialist, widely hailed as “the most awarded winemaker in America”); and so many more.

I’ll be returning frequently to showcase wineries owned by and wines made by women, in California and beyond. We’ll continue to meet trailblazers such as Rosemary Cakebread, Jill Davis, Gina Gallo, Julia Iantosca…


Milla Handley founded one of the first wineries in the supposedly “too cold for wine grapes” Anderson Valley of Mendocino. She’s pouring me a “barrel sample” of a superb Pinot Noir.

…Mia Klein, Judy Matulich-Weitz, Carole Meredith, Michaela Rodeno, Lane Tanner, Marimar Torres, Helen Turley, Delia Viader, Julie Williams (click to check out her Petite Sirah), Margo Van Staaveren, Signe Zoller, Phyllis Zouzounis – as well as the younger generations of winemaking women who have followed in their footsteps.


I look forward to exploring the world of wine and food with you, my friends, in March and beyond –

Cheers and warmest wishes,


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