Wine Women

The number of women making wine is low, and the number of BIPOC women making wine even more so. As a woman, I want to champion them. I also want to see more women as somms, educators, writers and critics. There is room for all of us in the Zalto! Let us in. You may already know stalwarts like Merry Edwards, Cathy Corison, and Burgundy’s Lalou Bize-Leroy. SO! In light of Black Lives Matter, the first profiles in this feature are Black winemakers—the first of which I’ve been into for some time. There shall be more in the future, but alas I am still waiting on some shipments—but you have much to learn with me in the coming lifetime. If I could, I’d do a profile on every woman and perhaps someday I will—monthly woman winemaker profile article, anyone? Also (shameless plug) my podcast The Wine Situation has been doing all woman winemakers this season so check that out if you want more now. Now for the wines by women I adore and didn’t profile here in interest of not overwhelming you: In Portugal look to Felipa Pata, in Argentina to Loscano, Luca, and Septima, from New Zealand I love Jules Taylor…the list could go on but maybe this will be a recurring column. I’d love to hear what winemakers you think I should look for! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ THEOPOLIS VINEYARDS I essentially love everything about Theopolis, and that’s not just the hyperbolist in me. I love the wine, duh. I love the labels. I love that (along with things like Pinot Noir) they make obscure varietal wines. When I saw a wine called Symphony on their website, I assumed it was a proprietary name but nope, Symphony is a grape. I love that it is in the Yorkville Highlands because they are in one of my favorite undersung California regions: Anderson Valley. And those tech sheets—I’m smitten with how they describe the color of the wine. The rosé color is listed as “garnet gem”; Symphony is “White Diamond” and so on. And then there is the woman behind the wine—and the name. Theodora Lee is also known as Theopatra, Queen of the Vineyards. And she’s a lawyer. And writes about law. What a woman! I really want to meet her someday. She’s one of those women who gives you hope and inspiration and—her wine? It brings sheer joy. 2015 Theopolis Vineyards Yorkville Highlands Symphony First things first, Symphony is a crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris. It was invented in 1948 by a guy who was a professor of viticulture at UC Davis. It is lovely and enchanting, silky and balanced, with just the right amount of flowers. Like the perfect bouquet. It is not a single flower in a vase, but neither it is a gaudy display with glitter sprinkled on it. It is roses and mango and a lychee was nearby but decided not to stay. And there is a sprinkle of orange flower water. I DIG this wine, as I have Theopolis’ Petite Sirah (my gateway to Theopolis years ago) and their rosé of said grape. MCBRIDE SISTERS COLLECTION Robin and Andréa’s story gives me happy chills. They were half-sisters who didn’t know the other existed for the first half of their lives. The kicker? Both were being raised in wine production areas. Andréa was in New Zealand, Robin in Monterey in California. The father, absent from both their lives, made a deathbed request to his family to connect the two. Both developed a love for wine, and now they make it in both California and New Zealand. 2018 McBride Sisters Collection Central Coast Chardonnay Touted as not being “your Grandmother’s or even your Mother’s Chardonnay”, I thoroughly enjoyed this. I am not sure what sort of Chardonnay my grandmas drank, and come to think of it I am not sure what style my mom prefers, but this IS a Chardonnay for moi. It is crisp but ripe. I don’t think I’m getting oak on it, it is more fruit—but there is a hint of mineral energy that keeps me going back for more. I’ve had their Black Girl Magic rosé too and endorse it. The red blend awaits. ASLINA A South African wine, made by a woman, and not just any women—Ntsiki Biyela was the first Black female winemaker in South Africa. She learned about making wine at Stellenbosch University, but I’m willing to bet she learned a lot about life from her grandmother that raised her, seeing as that is whom Aslina is named for. 2019 Ntsiki Biyela Aslina Sauvignon Blanc I featured this wine on my podcast and remember well trying to get through all the segments proceeding tasting it with crazy anticipation borne of just the smell of it. It has the perfect lightning bolt of acid that lights up its perfectly balanced landscape—without actually striking. This wine will cause no harm. I feel like I’m picnicking in a grassy field with a glass of tangerine juice. Very good times. EHLERS ESTATE I had the joy of tasting with winemaker Laura Díaz Muños in Napa. It was the night before my Wine Writer’s Symposium began, and the woman (the brilliant Carrie Dykes) I shared a ride with from the airport invited me to join her as she had an interview with Laura scheduled. Laura was lovely and generous and invited me and Carrie to go to dinner with her afterwards, and I was so pleased to get to know her on a deeper basis. She is doing it all. She is the definition of hashtag goalz. If I lived in Napa I’d want to hang out with her more. Originally from Spain, she came to Ehlers having worked around the world. I particularly was enamored of Ehlers Estate St. Helena Sauvignon Blanc …but also her Cabernet Franc…also her rosé. Get it all. J VINEYARDS I’m sorry, I’ve probably cited the work of Nicole Hitchcock many times before but how can I not? She got her degree in Viticulture and Enology from the venerable UC Davis, and then worked in Italy and Australia before returning to the United States. The future of wine is bright—she has two daughters who hope to be in the trade too. Look for the J Vineyards Strata Pinot Noir (it’s paired with Taco Bell in a previous column but don’t take that as comment on quality. Although we all know Taco Bell is also at least gold-adjacent. Also any of the J sparkling wines are scrumdiddliumptious. Particularly the rosé! MARGINS I told you about Megan Bell in my first Raw Wine Fair review. I have adored her wines on my podcast—they struck such a cord that her petillant naturel garnered the fandom of my sound engineer, a self-proclaimed disliker of sparkling—until we introduced him to the right bubbles for him that is. Pet nat is a different thing to be sure but it was fun to see David be enamored of bubbles so much that I sought her wine out. I do too. She did her time in the Loire, New Zealand, and Oregon as well as California and it shows. She makes natural wines I love. She does it right. Okay, those were some wines to get you going. Go forth. Drink well. Do good. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Chill That Red! TJ’s All Days Old World vs. New World: Sauvignon Blanc Fast Food Slow Wine: Let’s Support Local Pizza! Old World vs. New World: Pinot Noir Part Deux You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With Kara Newman Wine Situation Final Five! With Victoria James

Theopolis Vineyards

Yorkville Highlands Symphony 2015

I was so very into this—as I have been everything I’ve tried from Theopolis! Did you know Symphony was a grape? Me neither. I wasn’t sure if a crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris would be my cup of...well, wine, but in the hands of Theodora Lee it absolutely is. Silly, balanced, it is an elegant bouquet of flowers neither over nor underdone. Just right. And a welcome change of pace! One of those wines that makes me anxious to meet the winemaker because all Theopolis’ wines have an idiosyncrasy that is undefinable and intriguing. And scrumptious. — 2 months ago

Martin, Paul and 18 others liked this
Paul T- Huntington Beach

Paul T- Huntington Beach

Where did you get this one?
Ellen Clifford

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@Paul T- Huntington Beach first time I tried Theopolis was at a tasting of the San Francisco Wine Competition winners that came through Los Angeles. This I ordered straight from the winery website
Ellen Clifford

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@Paul T- Huntington Beach highly recommend the Cab Franc and rosé too

Ntsiki Biyela

Aslina Umsasane 2015

Thoroughly new world ripeness but also...undercurrents of acid and earth. Has that “yummy” factor but wrapped up in a “distinguished” suit. Very much blackberry and black plum with the acid of lemonade (but not quite lemon juice) flowing before. Not overly complicated but not simple. And in a year or so could even more interesting.like the dude I dated mid twenties and he was good to revisit now but if we are both avail in two-three years meow as long as those tannins go on — 2 years ago

Kim, Eric and 14 others liked this

McBride Sisters

Central Coast Chardonnay 2018

Oh wow, I was enjoying this before I heard the story of these sisters who didn’t know the other existed separated by 7,000 miles. And now I’m worried my happy tears will make me think there are notes of salinity. There is a touch of a mineral zing, like chalk. And a fair amount of citrus and some apple and zingy acid and this is so so lovely. I always get nervous tasting California Chard that it will be an oak bomb but this is not that. — 2 months ago

Paul, Severn and 19 others liked this

J Vineyards & Winery

Strata Pinot Noir 2016

I contain multitudes and so does J. Especially the STRATA a wine as layered as the soil it comes from but way more elegant than dirt. It’s more like one of those patterned sand gardens someone raked. Berry rich but light, fills your mouth without coating it. Finish goes onnnnn. Also pairs with a certain favorite layered food tbd. — 8 months ago

Paul, Tyler and 15 others liked this
Paul T- Huntington Beach

Paul T- Huntington Beach

I love wine thats more elegant than dirt, actually prefer it

Ntsiki Biyela

Aslina Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Positively delightful. Balanced, with some complexity and a jolt of acidity that excites me. I wanna dance with this wine on a morning dewy lawn. I wanna dance with fresh squeezed tangerine juice. Dang this wine and I are gonna have fun times. — 4 months ago

Ron, Severn and 14 others liked this

Ehlers Estate

St. Helena Sauvignon Blanc 2017

I am an Ehlers fan girl especially since Laura Diaz Muñoz became winemaker. This may be one before her personally overseen wines came out but it sings of things she told me was into. Which is supreme balance and goodly acid. It is all grapefruit and stones and hints at grass. Think this vintage was before Laura got her hands on the winery but she was happy to rep it so CANNOT wait to taste the next vintage because Laura is boss — a year ago

Stuart, Shay and 19 others liked this
Severn Goodwin

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Find the cab franc rosé, the color is ridiculous.
Ellen Clifford

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@Severn Goodwin that sounds great! I had the good fortune to taste with the winemaker in Napa and everything was fantastic but I didn’t get to try the rosé!