The Women of Wine
"I didn't realize there were women winemakers."
I honestly was flabbergasted when a client made that confession to me years ago. I myself was still relatively green when it came to the world of wine & the producers that inhabited it, but even then, I never dismissed the idea of there being female winemakers. To be fair, most consumers don't often associate information on the winemaker with their favorite wines. Catchy labels or familiar grape varietals usually act as the initial driving force behind a wine purchase for the every-day consumer. Your favorite bottle of wine could be produced by a woman & you may not even be aware of it! As with any minority group, breaking into an industry that is normally dominated by white males can be a challenge. It has been no different for women over the course of history hence why you may not have realized how they have helped shape the wine world.
You'll notice a running theme amongst the women in wine who helped pave the way for future ladies in the biz. Again, this industry has been historically dominated by men (and still is). The women who found their way into the world of wine in early history was more or less out of necessity when the male figures in their lives passed on. From Isabelle Simi taking over her father's California winery after he died of influenza to ensure its success post-prohibition to Louise Pommery who transformed her husband's red-focused winery & shifted it towards dry sparkling white production. One cannot forget the powerful, highly revered Madame Clicquot of Veuve Clicquot. She created the first landmark vintage of 1810 & is responsible for one of the earliest rosé champagnes by blending red wine into her bubbly. The Madame's view on luxury and branding has added to the longevity of the family business her husband left in her care. In the modern era of today, female winemakers are making strides & creating history of their own without being passed the torch. Rather, they are creating a torch they can then pass on themselves.
Susana Balbo - South America's first female Oenologist & leader in sustainable winemaking practices. Balbo was originally poised to study nuclear physics in Patagonia (equally as badass), but political strife in Argentina at the time made her parents wary. She chose to study oenology instead with the intention of taking over the land that she inherited and morphing it into a winery. Susana has consulted on many wineries around the world from Italy & Spain to Australia & Brazil, and she uses that international influence to interpret her wines in a way that elevates Argentinian fruit to its rightful place on the world stage of wine. Though she is referred to as the Queen of Torrontés (a native varietal that is a cross between Muscat of Alexandria & the Mission grape), Susana is also one of the producers responsible for Argentinian malbec's surge in popularity.
Lindsay Hoopes - Coming from a family already invested in the wine biz, it made sense that Lindsay would follow suit. She spent her childhood walking the vineyards with her father Spencer and having conversations about wine that would go on to serve her well in the future. Since 2013 she has been one of the youngest winery general managers in Napa Valley. I got the opportunity to meet Lindsay in the early part of 2021 & experience her wines as she made her first tour to showcase the product here in Charlotte. The wines echo so much of what I love about old school California wines, where the fruit is allowed to be the star & there is an inherently food friendly quality to them. Her family seeks to ensure their wine is uncomplicated & anything but stuffy, hence the fun labels inspired by the family pets!
Michele D'Aprix - I become more, and more enthralled by Michele every time I crack open a bottle from her or discover more of her story. She is the ONLY American female winemaker producing wine out of France. Michele got bit by the wine bug while bartending in Boston & attending UC Davis to obtain her degree in chemistry. She decided to use that background in chemistry to pursue a career in winemaking. Michele secured an internship in Burgundy where her days were spent with Pinot Noir, and the foundation for her passion as a winemaker was laid. She grew bored of playing with pinot & made her next move to the male-dominated Bordeaux. It was here that she was able to be experimentive & expressive with groups of varietals. She has become a Bordeaux crusader of sorts with her Pentimento red blend being a gorgeous & modern interpretation of Bordeaux wine. Michele also does some work out of the Rhone Valley with her other line-up, Maz Caz ("crazy in a good way"). Pssst...You can find MANY signed bottles from her at Assorted Table Wine Shoppe!
Now it wouldn't be a complete showcase for Women's History Month unless I shamelessly plugged in some of the fantastic ladies I've met over the course of my career in hospitality. I won't do huge deep dives on them here, since you can check out my other social media outlets or previous blog posts for info on these gifted women in the CLT area! Check them out below!
@_modernhobbyist_ (artist, wine fairy & GM of Assorted Table Wine Shoppe)
@taystecatering (a badass culinarians & leaders in the catering industry of CLT)
@bigtastebestplace (my fellow foodie, blogger, & experience curator)
@byzoecloud (creative director, photographer, & graphic designer)
@thebatchmaker (THE baked goods Queen & lover of the golden girls)
@ravenouspanda (a sweet soul & co-owner of my favorite brewery, Resident Culture)
@paperplanedeliandmarket (your new favorite spot to hang out & grab a killer sandwich)