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9 Women Who Changed the Wine World

In an industry long dominated by men, women are making meaningful inroads, but their journey is far from over. Here are nine women who’ve changed the world of wine—and are boosting the female leaders to come.

Danielle Cyrot photographed by Jak Wonderly

In an industry long dominated by men, women are making meaningful inroads, but their journey is far from over. Here are nine women who’ve changed the world of wine—and are boosting the female leaders to come.

Denise Adams, Proprietor of ADAMVS

She and her husband bought vineyards in France and the United States—then had to prove that they were for real.

Growing up in Ohio and Virginia, Denise Adams fell in love with growing things when she was just a young girl, wandering around her grandfather’s garden. “I don’t know exactly what it was,” she says, “but I loved the accolades and amazement he had from his four-year-old granddaughter going to the garden and going for the green onions—he’d tell all the neighbors that I ate them raw.” 

When she got older, Adams always had a vegetable garden “wherever I was.” Gardening helped her feel connected to the world around her—especially when the world around her didn’t feel connected. When she lived in Santa Barbara, California, “of all the women I associated with, I was the only one who had a vegetable garden—in Santa Barbara, you had someone do a garden for you. You didn’t do the work yourself.”

Denise met Stephen Adams, a businessman and private equity investor who amassed a fortune through investments in banking, television, radio, advertising, and more. (In 2009, Adams, who graduated from Yale in 1959, donated $100 million to the Yale School of Music, the largest gift by far that the institution had ever received, making the school tuition-free for all its students.) 

“We discovered that we had a love for wine in common,” Denise says, “and antiques, and paintings, and so we spent a lot of time in France,” renting a French chateau for a month after they were married. That led to annual return visits and the eventual purchase of Château Fonplégade, a winery in the Saint-Émilion region of Bordeaux. “I was an art major [in college], Stephen was a business major—neither of us had a formal education in winemaking and wine-growing,” Adams says. “We both took French in college, but we weren’t fluent. So we hired consultants and we read and took classes.” 

The Adamses are widely credited with rejuvenating the vineyard—“the place had gone into a bit of a slump,” Denise says—but it wasn’t long before “some of our friends were teasing us and said, ‘What about your  own country?’” In 2008, the couple bought 80 acres of land for what would be ADAMVS (pronounced “Adam-us”) on Howell Mountain in Napa. “I was not interested in making mediocre wine, and I knew that it’s all about the terroir,” Adams explains. In the years since ADAMVS has acquired a reputation for making stellar cabernet sauvignons and an outstanding sauvignon blanc.

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Splitting her time between France and California, Adams works seven days a week, but she still has some time to be reflective on her status as a wine newcomer, a woman, and, in France particularly, an outsider. (The woman part is permanent, and the other two are less true than they were two decades ago.) 

“Not only were there very few women in the business 20 years ago,” Adams says, “in France you also had this wine region with incredible pride in what they do, and properties that have been passed down to through family members for generations. Had I time to think more about it, perhaps I would have been just terrified.”

Gender was an issue in France—Adams recalls a sales meeting with about 30 people where she was the only woman—“but perhaps it was a breath of fresh air to have a woman around the table.” Napa, Adams says, “is more female-forward,” but there are still stereotypes. “Guests come back from ADAMVS saying, ‘We met the proprietor, Denise, and she walked out in this crisp white shirt, and she’s really tiny and she gets into this antique 1961 Range Rover that’s rough and tough and took us way up to 200 feet.”

“It’s kind of interesting when you think about how that fascinates people,” Adams says. “I’m happy to be a part of that fascination.”

For more information, visit ADAMVS.

Sarah Hanson Citron, Cofounder and COO of Bricoleur Vineyards

After a career in fashion and marketing in New York, Citron headed to California to make wine that she could relate to.

Winemaking was in Sarah Hanson Citron’s blood: Her great, great-grandfather was Pietro Carlo Rossi, one of the original winemakers at Italian Swiss Colony, the agricultural cooperative founded in Sonoma Valley in the late 1800s. Citron grew up in San Francisco but moved to New York after college to work in digital marketing for fashion brands such as Theory, Helmut Lang, and Tory Burch. While she was there, her parents purchased the land that they would ultimately name Bricoleur, which roughly translates into a person who resorts to improvisation. Hanson moved back west to help found the winery in 2017.

The prior owners had grown pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, Hanson recalls, so Bricoleur started with those wines, and “we definitely wanted to do a rosé—It’s fun and doesn’t take that long to make.” 

Hanson isn’t the winemaker—Bricoleur hired longtime winemaker Cary Gott for that—but she still found elements of the wine world challenging, especially for a woman whose career had previously been spent doing marketing in New York. “The wine industry Is definitely male-dominated,” she says, “especially in winemaking. There are a lot of females in marketing and hospitality and on the events side. As a young female founder, I stick out, which is a good thing and a bad thing. A lot of people take that as ‘Oh, that’s cute,’ and want to teach me. Other people don’t take me seriously.  And when I tell them I’m from the fashion industry…”

At the same time, Hanson emphasizes, the wine world is a “super collaborative space. In the fashion industry, you would never tell somewhat what factory you get your fabric from. Whereas in the wine world it’s, ‘Oh, go to this bottle company.’”

So it’s no surprise that Hanson prizes accessibility and drinkability in Bricoleur’s wines, which now include 13 different varietals. “I didn’t study wine, and I probably don’t have the right vocabulary all the time when it comes to wine,” she says. “But I know what I like.”

For more information, visit Bricoleur Vineyards.

Danielle Cyrot, Winemaker at CADE

Photo by Jak Wonderly

She makes wine for one of California’s most prestigious companies, but people sometimes still think she’s in marketing.

As a child in Orange County, California, “I didn’t grow up wanting to be a winemaker,” says Danielle Cyrot, the sauvignon blanc winemaker at CADE, part of the powerhouse Plumpjack Group of high-end wines and luxury properties. (California governor Gavin Newsom is a part owner.) “I went to [the University of California at Davis] thinking I would do physical therapy as my major.” 

But as Cyrot flipped through a course catalog during her freshman year, she saw an Intro to Wine class. “I thought, that’s kinda cool—it’d be good to learn how to read a wine label, learn about the different regions in which you could grow grapes.” 

After earning a degree in viticulture and enology—she was one of four women out of 20 students in the major the year she graduated—Cyrot worked at wineries in Alsace, France, and Australia. “The challenge of being a woman in the cellar is that you have to prove yourself and say  ‘No, I can lift that heavy barrel and I don’t need a man to do it for me,’” Cyrot says. “That was something I’ve dealt with in every job.”

Returning to the United States, Cyrot found work at Napa’s renowned Stags’ Leap Winery and later became a winemaker at St. Clement Vineyards. She joined Cade, on Howell Mountain in Napa, in 2012. “I truly believe that great wine starts in the vineyard,” Cyrot says of her approach to winemaking. “You have to have amazing grapes in order to produce an amazing glass of wine. If the vineyard is giving you flavors of cherries, bake the best cherry pie you can out of them—you’re never going to turn them into lemon meringue.” The wines she makes—mostly sauvignon blancs and cabernet sauvignons—are “texturally sophisticated and elegant, but they speak of Howell Mountain,” Cyrot says.

Even in her position, Cyrot still encounters lingering biases in the wine business. “Whether I’m behind a table or behind a bar pouring wine, the assumption is that I’m in marketing,” Cyrot says, referring to a side of the business where women are more ubiquitous. “It’s never, ‘You’re the winemaker.’ That’s the thing that always comes up, the assumption that winemakers are [always] men.”

“I’m used to it now,” Cyrot says. “It’s kind of a joke, really.”

For more information, visit CADE.

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Dorothy Gaiter, Senior Editor at The Grape Collective

She changed the face of wine journalism.

Two of the great loves in Dorothy Gaiter’s life—her husband, journalist John Brecher, and wine—converged at pretty much the same time. In the early 1970s, Gaiter and Breacher were working in the newsroom of the Miami Herald, where the city editor often assigned them to work together on weekends. Brecher was reading a book about wine, and the two would peruse it as they sat “shoulder to shoulder” at work. “For us, it was love at first sight,” Gaiter says.

The romance with wine followed shortly after. On their first date, they went vegetable picking—“vegetables and fruits were my sweet spot,” Breacher says—and ate them with a bottle of André Cold Duck, a sparkling wine that enjoyed some popularity in the 1970s.”It wasn’t a great pairing,” Gaiter says now.

Nonetheless, the two would marry, and their love affair with each other and wine continued as they rose professionally. In the late 1990s, both were working at the Wall Street Journal: Gaiter, who is Black, was writing about race, “sparring with Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan,” while Brecher was the page-one editor. Then, in 1998, the Journal launched its “Weekend” section, and section editor Joanne Lipman, who knew of the couple’s passion for wine, asked if Gaiter and Brecher would write about the subject for the new section. “Her idea was that people are heading home for the weekend, and we should tell them what wine they should pick up,” Gaiter says. 

The “Tastings” column, which began running in 1998, went far beyond that modest goal. As the couple wrote about wines they liked and wines they didn’t, they also wrote about their parents, their children, and their dog Tiger.  They wrote about life, with the intention of making the world of wine as relevant and democratic as possible. “We decided that we wouldn’t go to wine events that weren’t open to the public,” Gaiter says. “We wanted to be the stand-in for the public.”

Instead, they created a watershed event in the wine community, “Open That Bottle Night,” which encouraged readers to, on the last Saturday in February, open a bottle of wine they had been saving for a special occasion and share the story around it. 

Gaiter and Brecher also worked anonymously, so they’d have a better sense of what the wine experience was like for non-insiders. At some of the wine world’s most renowned restaurants, the result was often disappointing. “We would eat at Per Se and not be recognized,” Gaiter remembers. “Daniel, Jean-Georges, Le Bernardin—we were pretty horribly treated at all of them. Unless you were somebody, they gave you the choice of eating at 5:30 or 9:30.”

For Gaiter, the fact that she was Black and female often made navigating the wine community an unpleasant challenge. “My thing [at wine events] was just getting in front of the people pouring because these guys would be bros, and it would be hard for me to get the attention of the pourer. And once they gave me a splash, they would turn away from me and pay attention to the bros.”

The problem, Gaiter says, had more to do with race than gender. “I think the wine world has been incredibly receptive to women,” she says. “There are a lot more female winemakers than there were ten years ago. The number of female owners is growing. But Black people…I’ve only once in my life seen more than two Black people in Napa at the same time.”

Gaiter and Brecher stopped writing “Tastings” in 2010. They would later join The Grape Collective, a website where readers can purchase the wines reviewed. Now in their sixth decade of journalism, they haven’t slowed down much. “People have always been surprised at what I’ve done,” Gaiter says. 

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Sharon Harris, Owner and Director of Winemaking at Rarecat

Harris shows how wine can connect women and help them advance their careers.

Before Sharon Harris launched Rarecat in 2009, she went through a process of examining what wine really meant to her. She’d fallen in love with wine as a college student when she’d spent her junior year abroad in France. But since then she’d worked in publishing, advertising, and technology, and before she made wine her next career, she thought it important that she understand the source of her passion. “It was always that wine connected people,” she says. “Conversations happen with greater ease when there’s wine at the table.”

For Harris, one particular group needed connecting: women, particularly women at work.  So Rarecat—the name, Harris says, is meant to suggest a woman of distinctive beauty—would be not just a business for Harris, but a means of advancing social change. “Helping women use wine as a tool meant that they could engage in conversation very often with people who run corporations, control budgets, hire individuals—in some ways, very similar to golf.” 

She created a seminar called “Don’t Give Up the Wine List,” a reference to the idea that women at a business dinner often abdicated the wine choice to men, a symbolic transference of power. “What happens to subconscious biases when you give the wine list to someone else?” Harris asks. “That person subconsciously has the authority to control the conversation. They’re usually paying the bill. So taking control of that wine list was correlated to taking control of the authority at that table.”

Don’t Give Up The Wine List began as a seminar that laid the groundwork for women to think of wine “as a tool rather than a beverage to drink,” Harris says. Harris would help women who didn’t know a lot about wine develop confidence around ordering it. She encouraged women to learn the basics about what she calls “world-class regions”—as she says, “there’s no bad champagne, there’s no bad Napa cab”—while paying attention to whatever region a wine menu emphasized and engaging with “the most powerful person on the planet when you’re ordering wine”—the sommelier.

Harris has gone on to develop other programs customized for clients that focus on tasting, regional differences, and even the color of the wine. “My business today is not only focused on empowering women and diversity,” she says, “it’s about helping corporations leverage and connect to their clients and their teams with a specific purpose of driving sales and business development.”

None of this would work, Harris emphasizes, if Rarecat made lousy wine “If the product is crap, it doesn’t matter,” she says.  “The wine had to be extraordinary or the message wouldn’t have merit.” 

Rarecat, which only makes about 3,000 cases of wine a year, makes a flagship cabernet, along with excellent rosés, pinot noirs, and sauvignon blancs. Harris, who returned to France to study winemaking at the University of Bordeaux, even offers a champagne and a sparkling wine from Bordeaux. “When people taste the wine, they’re blown away by how beautiful they are,” Harris says. “It increases my credibility.”

For more information, visit Rarecat Wines.

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Ana Keller, Estate Director of Keller Estate

She started at the top, but still had to balance work and family.

Born and raised in Mexico City, Ana Keller was a frequent traveler to the United States, where she also had family. Her father, a successful automotive engineer, bought 650 acres of land in Sonoma in the late 1980s, and in 2000 Keller, a biochemistry major in college, and her father started Keller Estate. 

“I literally started at the top, so when people ask me about the glass ceiling, I didn’t have that,” Keller says. Still, “I was very young, and that may have had a bigger impact than just being a female. I could recognize that I was the youngest at the table, and in retrospect very often the only female at the table.”

Her father, however, didn’t care. “He always saw me as a capable individual who could get things done,” Keller says. “I never really had the option of saying, ‘I can’t do it.’”

Still, Keller says, there were times when family did take precedence over career. “There were years where I had to balance things a bit more. I had to make choices, and sometimes the choice was my family and not the business. So we grew a bit slower because I had to balance, and I saw some of my male counterparts grow a little faster than I did.”

To talk about those issues, and to support younger women coming up in the industry, Keller joined a group called Bâtonnage—the term refers to the process of stirring the dead yeast in fermented wine to add freshness and texture—composed of women in the wine industry. Noting that only an estimated 14 percent of California wineries have a female head winemaker, Bâtonnage hosts forums for women in wine to discuss the issues they face and sponsors a mentorship program. “You get to a point in life where you realize you’ve got a lot of experiences that can help somebody else,” Keller explains.

One of these potential problem areas, according to Keller and others, is the potential for blurred lines when marketing and selling wine. “You’re encountering people drinking wine, there’s alcohol involved, there are late nights, you’re trying to close the deal—everybody needs to be very careful. There were many occasions when I didn’t go to the after-drinks events because I didn’t feel that was a safe place for me. Did I lose some opportunities? I think I did. Do I regret it? Absolutely not. But I want to make sure no one loses an opportunity.”

Focusing on chardonnay and pinot noir, Keller wines are shaped by Ana’s Mexican heritage and the natural flavors of the terroir at Keller Estate. “Mexican culture is very much a part of my everyday life,” she says. “Spanish is my native tongue, and cooking Mexican food comes naturally. So I’m always looking for wines that balance the spiciness.”

For more information, visit Keller Estate.

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Karen MacNeil, Founder of Karen MacNeil & Co. and Author of The Wine Bible

Karen MacNeil does so many things around wine—she reviews it, she teaches it, she hosts tastings and dinners and webinars, she writes perhaps the definitive wine book, The Wine Bible—that she makes it all look easy. But her journey to become one of the icons of the wine world was far from that. 

She grew up in the Nevada desert, the product of a “very poor, uneducated Irish family” who’d moved there from Boston—”the worst possible family in any way that you can imagine,” MacNeil says now. At 14, she ran away from home and moved into Reno; a family court judge permitted the move on the condition that MacNeil was able to support herself. Working as a maid, a clerk in a flower shop, and a bus person in a restaurant—all while going to school—she did.  

Starting at about 15, doing her homework at night, MacNeil would drink a glass of wine at night. “I always went to the same grocery store, the same checker,” to buy the wine, MacNeil explained. “I knew her hours by heart, and I was never once carded.” Wine represented something that didn’t exist in the house she left behind. “I read a lot of 19th-century novels, and in those novels, people had their glass of sherry or glass of wine,” MacNeil explains. “Civilized dining behavior. Something about that was always so wonderful to me.”

When MacNeil turned 19, she drove a 1966 VW Bug across the country to New York City, arriving on Thanksgiving Day with $6 in her pocket. She parked the car on 2nd Avenue and 10th Street—where it would reside until the city hauled it away—and convinced a YMCA to give her a room for the night. The next day, she found work. One job: drawing maps for Mobil Oil to give to people traveling across the country.  “I took that job because they had a big cafeteria in the building, and for 35 cents you could have a whole meal,” MacNeil says.

MacNeil eventually found a place to live, “a terrible fifth floor walk-up in Spanish Harlem,” and while working multiple jobs pursued her dream of becoming a writer: She landed an internship with a literary agent—it was her task to plow through the slush pile of unsolicited manuscripts—and wrote unsolicited freelance articles. “I collected exactly 324 rejection slips before my first article was published,” she says. She tacked them to the wall of her apartment.

Her break came after she became fascinated by the mammoth blocks of butter found in New York’s Jewish delis, sourced from dairies in upstate New York. The Village Voice paid her $30 for her review of the butter in New York’s delis. MacNeil celebrated by heading to Max’s Kansas City, a nightclub on Park Avenue South, where she ordered a bottle of champagne and drank it alone at the bar.

The breakthrough inspired MacNeil. “I thought, ‘This is what I should be doing,’” she recalls. “When you write about food, people give you food to taste—and I was on food stamps at the time.”

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This was the mid-1970s when magazines were healthy and abundant and you could still make something of a living as a writer in Manhattan. MacNeil’s newfound niche led to articles in GQ, Elle, Mirabella, Playboy, Travel and Leisure, and The New York Times Magazine

“I realized that what I really loved about food was not, ‘Here’s the best way to make the risotto,’ but the world world of gastronomy, the importance of food in history and culture,” MacNeil says. “So I began to study gastronomy in a bigger way—not just food but dining behavior and the advent of manners and of course also beverages, coffee and tea and beer and wine. Well, coffee, tea, and beer you can research and study and kind of get a feel for. Wine was more difficult. Wine you could read about in history. I wanted to taste wine.” 

There was one problem: Wine is expensive. The only way MacNeil could really taste wine was to review it. But wine writing at the time was dominated by “about five men,” MacNeil remembers

At the time, wine-writing in the United States was dominated by a small clique of white men—at the top was Frank Prial, who wrote the influential “Wine Talk” column in the New York Times—who held weekly tastings.  “They tasted together, wrote every wine column, did all the consulting,” MacNeil says. Somehow, she convinced the group to let her join the tastings. 

“But there was a deal,” she recalls. She could attend the tastings as long as she didn’t speak. “So I didn’t. For about eight years, I tasted with them all the time, every week. And of course, I was desperate to talk. I wanted to ask them questions. ‘Why is red wine red?’ A thousand questions like that.”

Over time, the experience would infuse MacNeil’s great work, The Wine Bible, a survey of the world’s wines that is now in its third version and has sold over 800,000 copies. “The heart of The Wine Bible is that I remembered all those questions that I had when I was so desperate to ask these men to explain to me how things worked, and no one did. I remembered what it felt like to know that I didn’t know how a certain thing worked in wine. I remembered all of that.”

Over the course of the 1980s, MacNeil established herself as a respected and prominent writer about food and wine at a period when the subjects were growing in interest and popularity. But New York began to feel like the wrong place for her both professionally and personally, thanks in part to another epiphany, this one during a winter snowstorm in the early 1990s. MacNeil, who was single at the time, was walking down West End Avenue when she saw “this older woman shivering and clutching her purse to make sure that she wasn’t going to be robbed by some kid running by, and crawling up this snow bank to catch the bus, which left without her.

“That day, I decided there’s only one place I want to move to—Napa Valley. 

In 1994, MacNeil headed west. “It was like going from 100 miles per hour to 15,” she says. Napa, now so infused with wealth that it’s become a sort of American Xanadu, was at the time a calmer, less pretentious place. “Nobody was accusing Napa Valley of being too glitzy back then,” MacNeil says. “But it was full of worldly people who had chosen that kind of life. “

She had some initial doubts. “I felt like I might have made a big career mistake,” she admits. “Magazines were still thriving, and there was still a feeling that all the most important journalists were on the East Coast. So there were very few journalists—that I knew, anyway—and the ones I did know were men.”

There were, compared to today, few women in the wine industry, and some who were there were intimidating figures; MacNeil mentions Robin Lail, now of Lail Vineyards and one of Napa’s truly pioneering women wine figures. “She had an imposing way that was a little scary,” MacNeil says. “I adore her now, but when I first came out [to Napa], I was terrified of her.”

Generally speaking, there was no community of women in wine in Napa, MacNeil says.  “The sisterhood idea had certainly not happened.” The women who were there didn’t yet talk about some of the painful experiences they likely had in common. “You didn’t talk back then about how men attacked you in elevators and the guys to watch out for,” MacNeil says. 

Some things have changed for women in wine over the years, MacNeil says. Of course, there are still women who’ve come from or married into money and own and run vineyards. There are still women from multi-generation wine families. And there are female winemakers who’ve worked hard and paid their dues to earn a place in the wine community. “If it’s an important winery, people don’t mess with them,” MacNeil says. “You’ve achieved a certain stature. You probably had to prove that you could drive a forklift, but then you’re home free.” 

But that’s not the case, she adds, for women in less valued and less powerful roles. “Women who are sommeliers, those who are journalists, women in marketing and communications—they’ll still tell you that there’s a lot of talking past, talking over, sexual advances. Men treat you differently.”

“Everyone in the industry will tell you that what they love about wine in part is that it brings people together. It’s very communal. It’s common after sharing a bottle of wine with someone that you hug them when they leave even though you were strangers an hour ago. If that hug lasts a little too long, you wonder….”

As for MacNeil, she’s pivoted from successful magazine writer to head of her own company, which distributes information electronically through newsletters and webinars and hosts in-person events. Not long ago, she finished the third edition of The Wine Bible, to be published in October.  It was a huge undertaking: “Every single chapter, every single section, we probably had 30 to 40 iterations of it. It was like having an old-fashioned photograph in your bathtub come to life.”  It’s a description that suits MacNeil herself, six decades in the wine world and still coming to life.

For more information, visit Karen Macneil & Company.

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Cara Morrison, Chardonnay Winemaker at Sonoma-Cutrer

It takes drive and resilience to make a great chardonnay.

Cara Morrison began her wine career by thinking about becoming a doctor; she was pre-med in her first year at U.C.-Davis. But in her sophomore year, she took an intro to winemaking course, and “they talked about chemistry, and how each winemaker can make the wine to the style that they want,” she says. “I was totally fascinated.” Changing her major, Morrison also took semesters off to intern in the wine industry. “I fell in love with Sonoma County, and decided I wanted to come back someday.”

After college, Morrison would travel the world, working at wineries and honing her craft. “I remember my first cellar job,” she says. “They said, ‘Well, the barrels are bigger than you.’ I just laughed it off. I’ve always been pretty driven, so I didn’t even think about it that hard.”

Morrison remembers first tasting Sonoma-Cutrer chardonnay in 199. “That was when California chardonnays were big and buttery”—the style that subsequently would provoke an anti-chardonnay backlash that has only faded in recent years—“and Sonoma-Cutrer’s was acidic, crisp, balanced.” So when the job of chardonnay winemaker came open in 2005, “I saw it and got it.”

Now she oversees the making of chardonnay that she describes as “food-friendly wines that are nice, with bright fruit, and a little bit of oak to round it out. I love the style of wine and I love the brand.” So much so, she says, that even after 15 years at the winery, “I’m planning to stay another fifteen.”

For more information, visit Sonoma-Cutrer.

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Laura Diaz Muñoz, Winemaker and General Manager at Ehlers Estate

A Spaniard, she found more opportunities for female winemakers in the New World.

As a university student in Madrid, Laura Diaz Muñoz was concentrating her studies in an area known as Food Science and Technology. But when a teacher asked if anyone was interested in wine, she raised her hand. “The other [options] sounded boring,” Munoz says. “I didn’t want to be in a lab in a bread company. Wine sounded romantic and adventurous.”

But after obtaining a master’s in enology, viticulture, and winemaking, Muñoz found that opportunities in Spain were elusive. “I’m not sure if it was because of being a female, but…they would say they were looking for a different profile. Nobody was actually considering me for a position.” 

So Muñoz traveled to New Zealand to work for Isabel Estate, a winemaker in the Marlborough region, as a cellar hand. There, she found a different experience. “The woman I worked for was from Chile, and she had an amazing spirit, and nobody was treating her differently,” Muñoz remembers. “I was expected to do the hard work. They were like, ‘Here’s a hose, here’s the pump, you figure it out.’ For me, it was like, this is what I want to do.”

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In 2007 Muñoz moved to Napa Valley, where she worked under Chris Carpenter, the renowned winemaker at Cardinale, for eleven years. “He hired me to do all the hard work managing the cellar,” Muñoz says. “I learned so much, and that’s something that wouldn’t have happened in Spain. I think the United States is just more open to different cultures.”

Open, but certainly imperfect: Muñoz felt that gender was sometimes an issue in the industry. “My female colleagues and I, we always talk about this—my male colleagues don’t feel like they need to prove themselves. They don’t feel that pressure. But women—we work a little bit harder. We try to show that we work really hard.”

In 2018 Muñoz became winemaker and general manager at Napa’s Ehler Estate, known primarily for its excellent cabernet sauvignons. While maintaining Ehler’s reputation for high standards, she’s bought some spice and flair to its wines, including accessible sauvignon blancs and rosés. “I think that the wines are more vibrant in their color and structure,” Muñoz explains. “I want every wine to have its own personality.”

For more information, visit Ehlers Estate.

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