The Women Behind the Wine – Celebrating International Women’s Day

By Sara d’Amato

March 8th is International Women’s Day, an occasion that recognizes and brings prominence to the achievements of women across the globe. I wanted to mark this day by highlighting some of the women behind top picks in this early March VINTAGES release. In the world of wine, women have made impressive strides since I began my studies and career in wine 20 years ago. I’m proud to have been part of a growing number of women that decided to study winemaking and viticulture in the early 2000s at Niagara College’s Wine and Viticulture program. Enrolment in the program is now quite healthy, with women regularly making up close to the 60% of the class. Yet women still make up a minority, overall, in the wine industry. According to demographics published on Zippia, as of 2022 in the US, only 17.8% of winemakers are women. In other sectors of wine such as viticulture, marketing and writing, those numbers tend to improve. Nevertheless, women in positions of leadership and influence are still a minority.

Over the years I’ve been asked to participate in many Women in Wine events, from judging on a female-only panel at the Argentina Wine Awards in 2015 to hosting women-focused events with the LCBO, California, Rioja producers and others highlighting the many achievements of women. But is it still necessary to genderize events for women in the industry? Does it not serve to segregate women even further? I’ve had conversations with many who have belonged to organizations of women-in-wine and they will tell you that there are problems unique to women that only women can begin to solve through discussion, the creation of innovative policies, and through supporting one another. From hiring discrimination, to creating transparency in the workplace, managing work-life-balance and creating mentorship opportunities, these organizations still hold relevance. 

It makes a notable difference when women have visible leadership roles. Not only do they serve as role models, but they can affect real policy change. On a recent episode of Wine Thieves, we interviewed women who were making changes in Napa Valley through leadership roles in their respective wineries. Women such as Megan Baccitich, a Healdsburg native and winemaker at the forward-thinking Geodesy Winery who manages the innovative WG EDGE (Women Gaining an Edge), along with founder Judy Jordan of Jordan Family of wines and Geodesy. Another such influential figure is Ana Diogo-Draper, born raised and educated in Portugal but now in Napa as the Director of winemaking at Artesa, fostering new female talent in her role.

Below are highlighted some leading female-led producers whose wines are available at currently VINTAGES in time for you to host a tasting party of your own in celebration of International Women’s Day.  

The Women Behind the Wine in this March 4th VINTAGES release

Leaning Post Cuvee Winona 2020

Leaning Post Cuvee Winona 2020, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada
$28.95, Leaning Post Wines
Sara d’Amato – Co-founded of Leaning Post, Nadia Senchuk, along with her husband and winemaker Ilya Senchuk, have chosen to foster and support a team of women that help to produce the engaging and award-winning, terroir-focused wines of Leaning Post. Nadia’s contagious enthusiasm for their project makes her a terrific ambassador not only for Leaning Post but also for the region. A certified sommelier, Nadia is involved in both the practical and the entrepreneurial front of the business. Leaning Post employs the talents of Assistant Winemaker Ace Ferris, and Vineyard Manager, Diana Sangster who are both graduates of the Niagara College Winery and Viticulture Program that has been developing local and international talent since the early 2000s.

The wine in question is not named after a particular individual named Winona but rather the part of Stoney Creek where the winery is located (although there is some speculation that the town may have been named after the daughter of Chief Tecumseh who is believed to have jumped to her death from the Niagara Escarpment, according to the Hamilton Spectator and the book, Saltfleet Then and Now). This blend of merlot and cabernet franc is hearty and very right-bank in feel despite its origins. Nicely concentrated, voluminous but not heavy, lightly grippy tannins. Complex with excellent length.

Lungarotti Rubesco Rossi di Torgiano 2019

Lungarotti Rubesco Rossi di Torgiano 2019, Umbria, Italy
$20.95, Vin Vino Wine Merchants Inc.
Sara d’Amato – Women are at the forefront of this historically significant Umbrian winery launched in the 1960s that focused on the cultivation of local varieties and innovative viticultural methods with a name “Rubesco” aimed at creating a brand rather than representing the name of a grape or place. Founded by famed oenologist Giorgio Lungarotti, the company is now largely in the hands of his female descendants who are supported by their matriarch, Maria Grazia. Daughters Chiara and Teresa, as well as the children of Teresa – Francesco and Gemma now run the show. Art historian, mama Maria Grazia is credited with developing the idea of wine tourism in Italy not to mention fostering a scientific approach to winemaking in the region. Maria’s well-accomplished daughter Chiara overseas the winery as the CEO of Lungarotti and holds a degree in agriculture with a specialization in viticulture. Her sister Teresa Severini is a mom of three and holds a degree in oenology from the University of Perugia as well as a specialization from the University of Bordeaux. Teresa is both the winemaker and the company’s marketing manager. Teresa’s son Francesco is the company’s Export Director while her daughter Gemma followed in the footsteps of her grandmother, studying art history and and working with the Lungarotti Foundation.

Their flagship wine featured in this release is from the Torgiano DOC, the first sub-appellation awarded to Umbria in 1968 and must contain at least 50% sangiovese. This incarnation is a blend of sangiovese and colorino with a notably tannic profile. Youthful and with careful oak use and gentle extraction. An authentic representation of place with memorable intensity on the finish.

Angove Family Crest Shiraz 2019

Angove Family Crest Shiraz 2019, McLaren Value, Australia
$19.95, The Case for Wine
Sara d’Amato – This family-owned winery in the McLaren Vale boast two formidable female leads that include viticulturalist Sophie Angove as Joint Managing Director, Victoria Angove who works alongside her brother Richard. Sophie pivoted from education to plant sciences and oenology and began working at her family’s historic Warboys vineyard in McLaren Vale in 2017. On the other hand, Victoria knew from the get-go that she was interested in the family business and completed a degree in commerce at the University of Adelaide. After some international experience, Victoria joined the winery’s marketing team in 2001 and also serves as a Director on the Board of Australian Grape and Wine.

Angove’s Family Crest Shiraz is sourced from a selection of low interventionist vineyards across the hot and dry McLaren Vale region grown in a range of soils, aspects, and age of vines with the aim to create a classic representation of the region. The low-yielding vintage of 2019 made for some memorable wines such as this dark and salty expression of shiraz fermented with wild yeasts in open top concrete vats. Chock-full of black fruit with a hint of campfire and trailing notes of violet. Still rather tightly wound and exhibiting more structure than the norm for a syrah. A notable find at the price.

Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2020

Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2020, Toscana, Italy     
$68.95, Sylvestre Wines & Spirits Inc.
Sara d’Amato – Continuing her grandfather Niccolò Incisa della Rochetta’s pioneering work, Priscilla Incisa is at the helm of Tenuta San Guido, famed for not only for the production of revolutionary Sassicaia wine was but also the impetus for the creation of the monopole appellation of the Bolgheri-Sassicaia DOC in 1994. Priscilla studied art at the University of London but her real training was done on the job. Recently she served a term as the appointed President of Primum Familiae Vini (PFV) association that includes 12 prestigious winemaking families of the likes of Marchesi Antinori, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, the Famille Perrin, and Vega Sicilia. See John Szabo’s coverage here of our recent tasting in Toronto with Priscilla.

Guidalberto by Tenuta San Guido, is a cabernet sauvignon led-blend but in this most recent vintage, it is blended with equal parts merlot due to the cooler vintage. The gentle oak influence plays second fiddle to the generous dark fruit on the lightly salty palate. With youthful vigour, freshness and silky tannic appeal, this plush assemblage is poised for graceful maturation.