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Wine of the Week: Meet some mother winemakers

Karen Cakebread, left, founder of Ziata winery, is given a sample of Pinot Noir wine from the barrel by winemaker Anne Vawter, right, as her 4-month-old daughter, Elizabeth, watches in Calistoga, Calif., Friday, March 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

WASHINGTON — Last week, I made a few recommendations for wines that mom might like for Mother’s Day. But this week, I thought it would be fun to focus on wines actually made by moms.

It wasn’t long ago when women winemakers were fairly rare. But that has changed rapidly in the last couple of decades thanks, in part, to pioneers like Helen Turley (California) and Elena Walch (Italy).

Today, some of the top winemakers in the world are women. In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I would take an opportunity to showcase several wines by moms who make some of the best wines in the world.

For a long time, winemaking was simply a man’s job. It was assumed that cleaning tanks and moving barrels were the stuff of herculean efforts, reserved for the realm of strong men. But as technology advanced and machines were developed to do much of the heavy lifting, women found it easier to break into the winemaking world.

It helps that women tend to be more collaborative and have better palates. Plus, they are more nurturing. They look at each vintage as an opportunity to create something unique, which, in my opinion, is similar to the rewarding patience of raising children.

Lastly, there has been an increase in women attending universities and other programs that focus on winemaking and viticultural degrees. These educational opportunities are attractive to wineries who want to recruit and train professional winemakers of both genders.

Here are a few moms who find a way to blend time raising children and making wine. Happy Mother’s Day!

Stephanie Jacobs became interested in wine while visiting France on an exchange program. She graduated from UC Davis and immediately began her adventure at a small winery in the Sierra Foothills, where she learned about cellar operations and lab analysis. In 2001, she went to work for Bogle Vineyards as an enologist and then moved on to Cakebread Cellars in Napa Valley, California, under another female winemaker, Julianne Laks. In 2017, Jacobs became head of winemaking operations at Cakebread Cellars. She loves making consistent, balanced, age-worthy wines that pair nicely with good food and good friends. The 2016 Cakebread Cellars Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley is definitely a wine I’d love to share with friends. The bouquet is teaming with fresh aromas of grapefruit, melon and white peach. Zesty flavors of Meyer lemon, lime, guava, gooseberry and juicy melon enliven the palate, intensified by bright acidity. The juicy finish is enriched by succulent citrus and mineral tones. $25

If you know wine, then you certainly know the name Gallo. But what you might not know is that Gina Gallo — the granddaughter of the late Julio Gallo, who along with co-founder brother Ernest Gallo, founded E. & J. Gallo, America’s largest wine producer by volume — has been a winemaker in her own right for more than two decades. Her husband is Jean-Charles Boisset, son of one of the largest wine families in France as well as owner of the wineries Raymond, Buena Vista, de Loach and more. She admits that finding time to balance her work and personal life is her greatest challenge. But as the winemaker for Gallo Signature Series, Gina definitely finds time to craft excellent wines, like the 2014 Gallo Signature Series Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. A blend of five different clones from seven vineyard blocks within Olsen Ranch Vineyard, Gina uses each lot’s distinct and unique qualities to craft this complex wine. Flavors of black cherry, rose petal, pomegranate and lavender are balanced by sweet tannins — thanks to barrel aging. Notes of boysenberry and spice are accented on the wine’s lingering, silky finish. $30

Sara Fowler’s passion for farming developed as a young girl, when she worked her family’s 400-acre multigenerational family ranch. After graduating from Fresno State University, Fowler went to work as an associate winemaker at Franciscan and Mt. Veeder Winery and eventually ended up at Peju Winery in Napa Valley, where in 2007, Fowler headed up the winery’s efforts to gain organic certification in their Rutherford Vineyard. She believes that if you don’t grow good grapes, then you can’t make great wine. Fowler definitely makes great wine from organic merlot grapes in the 2015 Peju Merlot. If has loads of fragrant aromas of dark fruit, molasses and a hint of leather. Lush flavors of fresh berry preserves, white pepper and blackberry cobbler coat the palate, where they are supported by smooth tannins. Culminating with a soft, elegant finish, this merlot will continue to mature for the next six to eight years. $38

Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Sally Johnson attended the University of Michigan as an undergrad and became fascinated with winemaking while studying abroad in France. After completing her dual degree in French literature and biology, she obtained a Master’s degree in winemaking from UC Davis and began her career as a winemaker. She spent eight years at St. Francis Winery and Vineyards, worked a vintage in Australia at St. Hallett Winery, and made three vintages of her own wine before joining the team at Pride Mountain Vineyards in Napa Valley. She takes “pride” in her block-by-block approach to managing 46 individual vineyard blocks within an 83-acre ranch. This allows her the luxury of picking the best fruit to “coax out the expressive, extracted wines” that Pride Mountain is known for, like the 2015 Pride Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Made from a blend of 87 percent cabernet sauvignon, 6 percent merlot and 7 percent petit verdot, this wine is full of charming flavors of cassis, plum and blueberry compote, along with chocolate and roasted coffee. The palate is rich, lush and opulent, where age-worthy tannins keep the fruit in balance without being overwhelming. This is a gorgeous wine that is already drinking well but has the stuffing to go the long haul. $75

 

 

 

 


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