Another election has come and gone, and as it has been for the past 228 years, the president-elect of the United States is once again a man. While we’ve made such promising, tantalizing cracks in the surface of the ultimate glass ceiling — there was, after all, a female candidate on the ballot, which can’t be overlooked! — it remains intact.
Your decision aside, after surviving a harrowing, insult-slinging election like this, you most certainly deserve a drink, Fellow American! It seems only appropriate to find consolation in a bottle from a faction of winemakers who also remain undervalued as a whole, despite having made strides in the right direction. We’re referring, of course, to female winemakers.
Each of these women — and too many more to list here — has herself overcome obstacles to achieve success and recognition in the largely male-dominated wine industry. They are all fueled by passion, determination and strength. Let them and their wines serve as more than a consolation prize. They are inspiration for the years to come, reminders to work thoughtfully for change, to lift one another up and to continue pounding on that glass ceiling until those fissures really, truly, finally become a breakthrough. Drink deeply — do you taste the possibilities that await?
Viviana Navarrete of Viña Leyda
Chile may be known for warm, sunny climes and bold red wines, but Viviana Navarrete believes that there is more to Chile than meets the eye – and she set out to prove it. Viviana was drawn to winemaking by a love of biology, chemistry and being outdoors. She arrived in the Leyda Valley, a cool-climate, coastal sub-region of San Antonio, when nobody was growing grapes there because there was no source of water. Believing that the area would prove promising for Pinot Noir, Viviana and Viña Leyda, with help from the Chilean government, made the investment to bring water to the Leyda Valley, pioneering a region that is now becoming recognized for its cool-climate grapes. It was established as an official DO just three years after Viña Leyda was founded.
Viviana has a love for Pinot Noir and was one of the first to plant the grape in Chile. For her, a good Pinot Noir has softness, elegance, high acidity and not too much new oak, inspired by Burgundy; in fact, she uses less than 10 percent of new oak in the production of her Pinot Noirs. Aiming also to promote high-quality Chilean winemaking and the often-overlooked coastal regions of the country, Viviana produces many tiers of Pinot Noir, from more general Leyda Valley bottlings to single-vineyard cuvées. She is also known for her Sauvignon Blanc, as well as Syrah, Chardonnay, Riesling and more.
Toast with: 2014 Leyda ‘Single Vineyard Las Brisas’ Pinot Noir, Leyda Valley, Chile
Arianna Occhipinti of Occhipinti (Sicily, Italy)
Every American sommelier is a little bit in love with Arianna Occhipinti. Having been bitten by the wine bug at age 16, thanks to her uncle Giusto Occhipinti of COS winery, Arianna went to school to study viticulture but found that many of the practices she was being taught clashed with the knowledge her uncle had instilled in her, which emphasized the importance of low-intervention winemaking, hand-harvesting and other practices designed to respect the land and the grapes. So, a 21-year-old Arianna took a leap and started her namesake winery with just under two-and-a-half acres of abandoned vines in the Vittoria region on the southern coast of Sicily. And how that leap has landed! After an American importer met Arianna in 2006, when she was showing her first vintage at a wine fair, her wines have become increasingly – and deservingly – coveted here in the U.S.
Now in her early 30s, Arianna has expanded her winery from those original parcels, replanting some of the land to the native varieties Nero d’Avola and Frappato and renting old vines of these varieties as well. Typically blended to make the region’s Cerasuolo di Vittoria wine, the grapes are showcased in Arianna’s single-varietal cuvées but blended in the more value-driven “SP68” bottling, named after the county road that leans up against her land. If that weren’t enough for this young yet quite experienced winemaker, Arianna also has a second label called “Tami” in conjunction with the store she co-owns, selling natural wines, foods, books and other products.
Toast with: 2013 Occhipinti ‘Il Frappato,’ Terre Siciliane, Italy
Filipa Pato of Adega Filipa Pato
It isn’t surprising that Filipa Pato is a winemaker; her father is the imitiable Luis Pato, one of the most prominent figures in quality Portuguese winemaking. What is surprising, however, is the path that Filipa took to get there. Not knowing exactly what she wanted to do, Filipa studied chemical engineering, but instead of immediately returning home to join the family winery, she staged at wineries in Bordeaux, Australia and Argentina to explore different styles of winemaking. Upon returning to her native region of Bairrada in 2001, she could have easily transitioned onto the team at Luis Pato, but she opted instead to start making her own wines from rented parcels throughout the region.
Today Filipa and her husband own the winery next door to her family’s old winery, where she dedicates her time to exploring the different terroirs within the regions of Bairrada and Dão. Most of the production is dedicated to the native Baga varietal, an acid- and tannin-driven red grape with the ability to age, since Filipa believes that it can express these terroirs best. She practices biodynamic farming, spending most of her time in the vineyard in order to grow the best possible grapes for harvest. Filipa may be gently grooming the next generation of Pato winemakers as well; her two young sons have been known to spend time in the vineyard with their mom, eating the Baga grapes, naturally.
Toast with: NV Filipa Pato ‘3B’ Metodo Tradicional Sparkling Rosé, Beiras, Portugal
Laura Catena of Bodega Catena Zapata
Laura Catena has never been one to shy away from multitasking, noting that even as a young child, she was always moving. The mother of three is not only the latest generation to lead her family’s iconic Bodega Catena Zapata, but a champion for Argentine wine, a published author and, if that weren’t enough, an emergency medicine physician in San Francisco! Do they have more hours in the day in Argentina?
So how did Laura Catena’s multifaceted life come to be? Her father, Nicolás Catena Zapata, is one of the fathers of modern Argentine winemaking, but Laura initially wanted nothing to do with the business. Instead, she wanted to pursue a career that would help people – hence her training as an ER doctor. But when Catena Zapata was the first Argentine winery to be represented at the New York Wine Experience, the family sent Laura, as her English was the best. It was then that she realized that Argentine wines were being overlooked – no one would stop at her tasting table. She decided it was important to lend her voice to promote her country’s wine, bringing a scientific background to the project and spearheading a great amount of research into high-altitude winemaking and mountain terroir.
Since Laura can’t always be at the winery – she spends about four months of the year in Argentina, mostly during harvest – she has established a close winemaking team with whom she corresponds frequently via Skype. Catena Zapata is known for its balanced, high-altitude winemaking and particularly for its Malbecs. Laura also has another project, Luca Wines, named after her eldest son with cuvées named for each of her children.
Toast with: 2013 Catena Zapata ‘Catena Alta’ Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
Kathleen Inman of Inman Family Wines
While the winery may be named Inman Family Wines, Kathleen Inman is truly the driving force behind the winery itself. Having built it from the ground up, with support from her husband and children, of course, Kathleen is often the winemaker, cellar hand, viticulturist, tasting room manager, special events coordinator, sales rep and beyond, all at once. It’s ironic, really, for a Napa Valley native whose family farmed prunes – but didn’t drink alcohol. But in a roundabout fashion, Kathleen’s life has been propelled by wine, in more ways than one: It was on her first day working in a tasting room in college that she would meet her husband-to-be, who would then lead her to move to the UK, where she studied as an accountant and became partner at a headhunting firm. But after a family vacation back home in California in the late ’90s, Kathleen and her husband decided it was time to return to the States and – what else? – start a winery.
As an ecology obsessive since the sixth grade, it’s fitting that Kathleen is a practitioner of organic farming with some biodynamic tendencies as well (after all, she did have an organic garden when she was living in the UK). But Inman Family is about more than just stamping an “organic” seal on the wine label; everything about the vineyards, the winery and even the tasting room is done in a sustainable manner. The philosophy shows in the wines; Kathleen’s Pinot Noirs, Pinot Gris and Chardonnays are soulful, earth-driven wines that have an essence that cannot be encapsulated by flavor descriptors. These wines – and the woman behind them – make you believe that anything is possible.
Toast with: 2013 Inman Family Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, CA