We’re ringing in International Women’s Month by celebrating the amazing women behind some of California’s best wineries.
What’s better than drinking a crisp glass of vino in the California sun? We can only think of one thing: drinking a crisp glass of vino made by incredibly talented women – anywhere, really.
There’s a gender gap in the wine industry; women make up less than 10% of winemakers and winery owners in CA, with just 16% in the industry identifying as people of color.
In honor of International Women’s Month, we’ve mapped out a guide for you to 12 exemplary wineries owned by women in California, all of which are open for tastings. Raise a glass and know that you’re supporting a more equitable industry by sipping quality wine made by women.
Nicole Walsh is a surfing, winemaking, all around cool California girl crushing grapes in the Santa Cruz mountains. The ocean inspires everything she does, and she specializes in single-origin wines that honor their roots and terroir.
After years in the industry – from Michigan to Costa Rica to New Zealand – Nicole opened her own winery, Ser. She marries her passion for sustainable agriculture with her love of cool-climate grapes to produce world class, sustainability grown wine. This year, we canned her Cabernet Pfeffer (not a typo, this grape is rare but out-of-this-world delish). Swing by her tasting room in downtown Aptos for a taste and spend the day visiting the eclectic urban wineries of Santa Cruz.
Alice Sutro is first and foremost an artist. Painter, sculptor, and now wine producer – she is serious about her craft, and graces everything she produces with her creative, thoughtful, whimsical touch. From her portraits of strong women to her weekly “Womxn in Wine” conversations on IG, she loves to celebrate women in wine, so we want to shine on her right back.
Alice lives and works among the vines at Warnecke Ranch in Healdsburg. Treat yourself to a day in the quaint, lovely town and book a tasting and nature walk; she’ll take you for a 45 minute nature hike of the storied vines that create her cult Cabernet and Merlot before sipping on the wines themselves – swoon. Alice makes the Maker Cab Sauv (currently sold out) and we’re excited to be launching the next vintage soon.
Theodoro R. Lee – otherwise known as Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards – is the award winning winemaker behind Theopolis Vineyard. She’s a bold Anderson Valley vintner by way of a San Francisco courthouse; Theodoro used to be a trial lawyer, then decided she needed a drink.
Theopolis is known for its Petite Syrah (and Rosé of Petite Syrah, which we can’t get enough of). Drive amongst the gorgeous Mendocino Coast and find yourself at one of their events – which is the best way to engage with Theopolis during COVID – or pick up a bottle. We guarantee you’ll come back for more.
Milla Handley was the first female winemaker in the US to establish a label with her own name. An environmentalist, farmer, and expert vintner, she founded Handley Cellars in Anderson Valley in 1982 – and it’s been regarded as one of the finest ever since. See our guide to where else to taste in Anderson Valley.
Now her daughter, Lulu, runs the operation and specializes in premium, organic Pinot Noir with minimal intervention. The Handley Estate is stunning, the matriarchal roots inspiring, and the wine award-winning – schedule a visit and soak it all in. The Maker & Handley Pinot was one of the first to sell out in 2020.
Lush gardens, gorgeous views, good vibes. Campovida has six different tasting experiences, from cozying up to a private fireplace in their historic barn to a garden tasting and stroll, complete with a fresh, local cheese platter. Visiting Campovida is an experience, check out the organic Viognier vines or relax by the pool and stay the weekend at their shelter-in-place retreat. Your delectable wine is just a short walk away.
Janell Dusi’s wine roots start way back in the 1920s; grape growing has been a longstanding Dusi family tradition. But it was Janell’s grandfather who really made her fall for the craft, and she’s been passionate about Italian wines – especially Zinfandel – ever since. She’s the first Dusi to make wines from the historic family fruit, and it’s spectacular (stay tuned for a Maker collaboration with J Dusi coming later this year).
Her boutique tasting room with a scenic outdoor patio can be found in Paso Robles. Sip her Zin on the patio overlooking the vineyards; bring a picnic and take home a bottle – or two.
Vailia is a free spirit who traveled for and worked in wine for over 19 years before opening her winery, Desperada, in Paso Robles. Referred to as “an up and coming star in the Central Coast” by Jeb Dunnuck in Wine Advocate, Vailia produces “inspired, elegant wines free of stylistic constraints.” Her Sackcloth and Ashes red blend is worth the trip alone and the labels are powerful, feminine, and stunning — depicting different versions of Venus or Diana from 19th century French paintings.
Whether your vibe is crisp whites or an Italian or Bordeaux blend, Desperada has a beautiful glass waiting for you. Visit them for an in-person tasting or a virtual one.
Nicole Pope worked in wine harvests across South Africa, Australia, and Napa before falling for a vineyard in Cambria, CA. Her winemaking approach reveals the “natural beauty, texture, and purity of fruit” influenced by her proximity to the Pacific – it’s the pure expression of wine and their roots that Nicole is most passionate about, and that got her named as San Francisco Chronicle’s 2019 Winemaker to Watch.
Make a reservation for a formal tasting with Nicole herself, or bring your pup and relax with a glass in the winery’s meadow. With Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and an outstanding
Gewürztraminer on the menu – there’s something for every kind of wino.
Mireia and Tara are the wife and wife pair who met as harvest interns. Born and raised in Spain, Mireia was steeped in the wine industry from a young age, as was Tara – a CA central coast native. Together they’ve harvested grapes in the Pyrenees Mountains of Spain, received Master’s in Enology and Viticulture, and now own and operate their own winery: Camins2Dreams. Their story is a beautiful one, and their wine is just as good.
The duo are known for hand-crafted, terroir-driven wines that are fermented with natural yeast. Sip on their single-vineyard Syrah and Gruner from their cozy tasting room in Lompoc. Their virtual tastings are also private, personal, and delicious – we wholeheartedly recommend it.
Originally a foodie, Clarissa Nagy fell into wine accidentally by making a batch of Viognier for a friend’s wedding. She was hooked, and spent the following 10 years working at some of the most esteemed wineries in California’s central valley – then eventually opening her own, Nagy Wines.
Now, Clarissa’s heart’s in Pinot Noir and Syrah – they’re utterly delicious. Swing by her delightful winery in Santa Maria and taste ‘em for yourself.
Feminist, traveler, and all around badass Sonja Magdevski is the personality and expert vintner behind Casa Dumetz Wines. Sonja used to be a journalist – and even received a Fulbright once to conduct research in The Republic of Macedonia – striving for peace; now, she does that through wine. Every one of her bottles has a personal story and mission attached; like the Feminist Party, a personal fave.
Their tasting room is in Los Alamos, CA – a charming, midcoast town with country vibes and a whole lot to offer. It’s an experience not to be missed.
LA native Gill Wagner fell in love with the Santa Barbara countryside – and Peak Ranch, specifically – because of the rolling hills, golden light, and special people who seemed to roam the land. When she met her husband, John, they gave up city life, got winemaking certifications and credentials, and pursued their lifelong dream of owning a winery in the country. Their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have won countless awards – every sip is a treat.
As if you needed another reason to visit Santa Barbara’s wine country, the tasting room is open for reservations and is as stunning as could be.
We’re excited for you to check out these women owned wineries! Here’s a list and a map that you can save for later: