Facts and Figures Gathered in Our On-going Research on California Women Winemakers

Lucia Albino Gilbert, Ph.D., and John Carl Gilbert, Ph.D.
Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA 95053

1. How many California wineries today have a lead woman winemaker?**

Of the 3700+ wineries in California, approximately 10% of the wineries have a woman as their lead winemaker.

2. Weren't 10% of California winemakers women in 1890? Has no progress been made?

This oft-quoted statistic has been attributed to the journalist William F. Heintz (1933-2012), who wrote two books on the history of Napa Valley. Neither book makes any mention of this 10% figure, however. Both books describe the small number of women who became winery owners following the death of their spouse. A few of these owners were thought to be active in winemaking. It was not until the 1960s that progress began to be made.

3. What is the best-guess scenario for the expected progress in the next decade for CA winemakers who are women?

A case study using data from only those recognized CA wineries with open positions between 1999 and 2014 indicates a best-guess scenario of 20.5 percent. The case study is posted on womenwinemakers.com under the heading Our Studies.

4. Who is the first recognized woman winemaker in California?

Hannah Weinberger is the first recognized woman winemaker in California. After her husband's death in 1882, she became the first female winery owner and winemaker in Napa Valley. She ran the Weinberger winery until Prohibition laws closed it in 1920. The winery and homestead are on the National Register of Historic Places. Josephine Tychson, a contemporary of Weinberger in Napa, was a winery owner, but not a winemaker. She completed the family winery in 1886, following the death of her spouse, and operated the winery until 1894.

5. Who are among the pioneering women winemakers in the 1960s and 1970s?

Mary Ann Graf, the first woman to receive an enology degree from UC Davis, is the first woman winemaker of the modern era. Graf, who received her degree in 1965, first worked as chemist and assistant winemaker with Gibson Wine Co. in Central Valley before being appointed winemaker at Simi Winery in Healdsburg in 1973. She was followed at UC Davis by Zelma Long in 1970, whose first position was at Robert Mondavi, Barbara Lindblom in 1972, Merry Edwards in 1973, Sandra Belcher in 1974, Milla Handley in 1975, Alison Doran-Green in 1976, Julianne Laks in 1977, and Cathy Corison, Carol Shelton, and Jill Davis in 1978. Each of these modern-era pioneers is an esteemed winemaker and a leader in the field.

6. Do the various wine region in California vary in the percentage of lead women winemakers?**

Yes, the percentage varies significantly by wine region, with the percentages being highest (about 12%) in the Sonoma/Marin and Napa wine regions, and lowest in the Sierra Foothills and Southern California, namely 7% and 4%, respectively. Our most recent studies show evidence of increasing percentages in the Sonoma and Santa Barbara County areas.

7. A number of well-known winemakers craft wine for more than one winery. What percentage of women are the lead winemaker for more than one California winery?**

Approximately 1% of the female winemakers and 11% of the male winemakers craft wine for more than one California winery.

Proportional to their representation in the field, however, 11.5% of the female winemakers and 13% of the male winemakers craft wine for more than one winery.

8. Are the production ranges of wineries with female vs. male winemakers different?**

No, the production ranges of California wineries with female and male winemakers are quite similar. Approximately 2% of these wineries produce more than 500,000 cases; 5% produce wines in the 50,000-499,999 case range, 21% in the 5,000-49,999 case range, 35% in the 1,000-4,999 case range, and 37% in the less than 1000 case range.

9. What percentage of California wineries have a lead woman winemaker who is also the winery owner?**

Among all California wineries, a significantly smaller proportion of female than male winemakers are also owners of their wineries (4% vs. 47%). Among those wineries with women winemakers, 39% are both owners and winemakers; among those with men winemakers, the figure is 52%.

10. Opus Vino is a widely cited and credible source of winery quality. How many women winemakers of California
are included in
Opus Vino?**

Proportional to their representation in the field (i.e., 9.8% women, 90.2% men), 23% of wineries with women lead winemakers were listed in Opus Vino compared to 14.1% of wineries with male lead winemakers. Although men who are winemaker/owners are far more numerous among California wineries, a higher percentage of women owners/winemakers, proportional to their presence in the field, were among those wineries included in Opus Vino.

11. Who are the women who have been inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame?

To date, three women have been inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame: Carol Meredith in 2009, Zelma Long in 2010, and Merry Edwards in 2013. This represents 6.25% of all those who have been inducted.

12. Who are the first woman winemakers and winery owners in California to have their own name on their labels?

    1982: Milla Handley made her first Handley Cellars Chardonnay under the Handley label in Mendocino.
    1984: Merry Edwards left Matanzas Creek to devote herself full time to consulting and Merry Vintners, a small winery that she and her family founded in the Russian River Valley. In 1997, she co-founded a business venture that allowed her to produce Merry Edwards wines in Sonoma County.
    1986: Delia Viader founded Viader Vineyards in Napa. Her first vintage was 1989, when she produced 1,200 cases of wine.
    1987: Cathy Corison made the first vintage of Corison Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa.
    1989: Lane Tanner instituted the Lane Tanner label in Santa Barbara County.
    1989: Marty Bannister established Bannister Wines in the Russian River Valley AVA.

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**Note: These percentages are derived from our California winery comprehensive database, developed in August 2011 and revised in December 2013 from data provided by Wines &Vines about the number of wineries in California. The percentage is likely the same among the approximately 4054 wineries in 2016.

For more detail, please see the studies listed under the heading "OUR STUDIES" on this website.

Posted April 2016