Saturday, October 31, 2009

California Women Winemakers, Part 1


Women make up 52 percent of the adult population and purchase 57 percent of the wine consumed in the United States. They represent a huge market that was often overlooked until recently. Studies have shown that in general, women have more taste buds than men, and that more women are supertasters.

The first woman winemaker in California was Josephine Tychson when she founded her winery in 1886 after the death of her husband. Kate Warfield was a leading vineyardist at Ten Oaks Vineyard in 1877. Maryann Graf was the first woman winemaker to graduate in enology in the 1960’s.

According to a study by the Wine Institute, 10 percent of California’s winemakers were women in 1890. In 1990 that figure was again about 10 percent, but today 15-20% of the winemakers are women. A new breed of women winemakers emerged in the mid 1990’s as the high tech boom spurred on demand for high-end products.

In Napa Valley you will often find that behind that $150 bottle of Cabernet is a woman winemaker. Sally Johnson is the winemaker for Pride Mountain winery and she says, “It is a great time for women in this industry because there are no barriers to being successful!”

Let’s take a look at a couple California Women Winemakers: Kristi Koford is the winemaker at Elizabeth Rose Wines in Napa Valley. Kristi started as a Senior Enologist at Robert Mondavi Winery and moved on to become the Assistant Winemaker at St Supery and then to Alderbrook Vineyards and Winery where she was the winemaker producing 50,000 cases annually of a wide variety of wines. Kristi’s 2008 Elizabeth Rose Sauvignon Blanc comes from 100% certified organic grapes from Yountville area of Napa Valley. It exhibits multiple layers of fresh tropical aromas and flavors, along with guava, gooseberry, guava and kiwi fruit. Minerality lingers in the finish.

Celia Welch was born and raised in Oregon as the daughter of an avid wine collector and home winemaker. Combining her fascination with flavors and aromas with her scientific knowledge, she went to UC Davis to study Enology. After graduation she expanded her knowledge working at wineries around the world including Australia, New Zealand, the East Coast and the Northwest. She returned to California to join Silverado Vineyards, then moving on to Robert Pepi Winery and Staglin Family Vineyard. Then she moved on to be a consultant for a selection of ultra-premium Napa Valley wineries. She is a member of the Winemaker’s Hall of Fame of the Women for Winesense.

At Hollywood and Vine Cellars Celia has developed their “2480” 2006 Chardonnay using fruit from Atlas Peak, one of the premium winegrape growing area in Napa. This Chardonnay displays sweet floral aromas of pear blossoms, apricot and jasmine along with sweet apple cider aromas. On the palate the texture is rich, soft and fully ripe. You will detect soft yeasty notes and sweet fruit flavors with a finish of tropical fruit and a touch of lemon zest.

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