8 Women-Led Wineries You Can Visit Around The World
Historically, alcohol hasn't always been a man's world. In early modern England, the production of ale was exclusively a domain for women, who were called "alewives" and would dominate production and export for centuries. But these days it's a different story. Women are heading up more and more roles in the wine industry, from the executive boards to the women blending the grapes. We may not have our feminist Sideways remake yet, but we can visit these women-led wineries around the world, which is somehow even cooler.
If you're looking for your next decadent, adult holiday, while also supporting female-run businesses, this is definitely the way forward. Running a winery is a multi-layered and intense business, and the ones on this list have women in key leadership positions, from calling the executive shots to tending to the grapes and vines at the heart of the operation. The upper echelons of wine can still be fairly male-dominated, so these wineries are breaking boundaries all over the place. All are open for visitings and tastings, so get your wine vocabulary on-point, your feminist wine-loving friends on board, and your tasting nose geared up. You're about to go on a feminist journey through some of the world's finest drinks.
1. Hall Vineyards, Napa Valley, California
The Halls, Kathryn and Craig, co-run one of the most successful wineries in Napa, and Kathryn has been named one of the top female winemakers in Northern California (a toughly contested prize) for her role in making Hall Wines a success. She's been making wine since the 1970s and everything she's touched has turned to the wine version of gold; Hall now produces a huge range of wines, from cabernet sauvignon to pinot noir and sauvignon blanc. Fortunately for everybody who wants a taste of their product, they do tours and tastings at their various sites across the Valley. Their St. Helena winery is also home to an art gallery.
2. Jansz Wine, Tasmania, Australia
Jennifer Doyle won Viticulturist of the Year at the Australian Women In Wine Awards in 2017, throwing a spotlight on her work for Jansz Winery in Tasmania. Tasmania is Australia's southernmost state, and the cool temperatures mean sparkling white wines flourish — and Doyle's award-winning work has borne a lot of fruit, both literally and figuratively. It's one of the most prominent producers of Tasmania sparkling wine, and you can taste Doyle's magic touch at their wine room outside Launceston.
3. Thorpe Vineyard, Wolcott, New York
Want an easy winery jaunt from NYC? The Thorpe Vineyard sits on the shore of Lake Ontario, just beside Chimney Bluffs State Park, and has been run by women since its founding in 1988 by Fumie Thorpe. And if that's not enough to lure you out of the city, Thorpe's degree in meteorology means that tastings here often have an astronomical flavor, including star-gazing sessions. They specialize in chardonnay and riesling.
4. Airlie Winery, Monmouth, Oregon
Airlie Winery is run entirely by women, from wine-making to marketing, and is one of the premier vineyards in Oregon, meriting a cross-country trip all on its own. Founded by Mary Olson in 1997, it has a particularly good streak of pinot noirs. It hosts a lot of events at its winery, and, importantly, happens to be dog-friendly in case you're in search of a sophisticated day out with your pooch.
5. Il Casato Prime Donne Winery, Italy
The Prime Donne winery made history in the early 1990s when it became the first entirely female-run winery in Italy, in a region of Tuscany famous for its vineyards. The founder, Donatella Cinelli Colombini, is world-famous, and the Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino wines she and her team produce back it up. Tours here come with a difference; the area is so important to the vineyard that there's a specially constructed wine trek that takes you around various works of art out in the open air, and a "music route" offers songs for each new wine.
6. Spottswoode, Napa Valley, California
Spottswoode wines are some of the best in the world — their cabernet sauvignon won a coveted and extremely rare 100 points from the Wine Review in 2015 — and the vineyards themselves in the Napa Valley are run by a trio of female winemakers. Beth Novak Milliken, her mother Mary Weber Novak, and sister Lindy Novak have been at the helm for decades, and under their direction the place has flourished, earning more awards than you can shake a stick at. The tours and tastings are appointment only, and are well worth the trip.
7. Susana Balbo Wines, Argentina
In the Argentinian wine market, Susana Balbo is a huge figure. Her wines are ranked among the best produced by any woman worldwide, which is no real surprise, because Balbo started her eponymous company in 1999 after over 20 years of experience in luxury wine production. She was Argentina's first female enologist, graduating with a degree in viticulture back in 1981, and Decanter calls her a "leader of the industry." The vineyards have virtually every wine taste covered, from rose to cabernet to late harvest malbec, and are a haven for wine-lovers, including specially created restaurant menus designed to accompany the wines in the spotlight.
8. Cramele Recas, Romania
Romania may not be at the top of the list when you think of wine destinations, but Cramele Recas is definitely one to have on your travel itinerary. Finding it is one thing (it's near the border with Serbia), but once you get there, the winery offers the work of enologist Nora Iriarte, who's been in charge of the wines for nearly a decade and has garnered a heap of prizes. Definitely one to impress friends with obscure wine tastes.
If you've got a taste for beautiful wine and a spirit of adventure, it's definitely a good idea to turn your thoughts to some vineyard travel. And this way you can support the best women in the wine business — while also getting some cabernet to die for.