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Number of California's Women-Owned Wineries Much Greater than 4%
Lucia Albino Gilbert, Ph.D. & John C. Gilbert, Ph.D.
Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA 95053

Lately, a number of articles have misrepresented our research findings regarding the percentage of women winery owners in California. The article, "Women-owned wineries on the rise in Wine Country", for example, incorrectly reported that women make up only 4% of winery owners overall in California. A more recent article in Wine Business, "The Female Winemakers Leading Coronavirus Response" also incorrectly reported that "As of 2018, only 10 percent of California's producers had a woman winemaker, and only 4 percent were owned by women, according to Santa Clara University's research."

The 4% figure attributed to our research is incorrect and was taken out of context. It referred to the percentage of California wineries having a lead woman winemaker who was also the winery owner in our 2011 study, not to the percentage of all California wineries owned by women, which is likely much larger.

No studies to date have addressed women's ownership of wineries in California, and it seemed to us that it was time to do so.

The Study and its Major Findings

Our research over the past nine years has focused on California's lead women winemakers. That is, winemakers who have the primary responsibility for producing wine at a winery or winemaking facility, not on women who are winery owners or co-owners. However, the persistent inaccuracy that "only 4 percent of California wineries are owned by women," convinced us to include winery ownership in our extensive 2020 study of California's lead women winemakers.

Using the Wines & Vines 2020 Directory and Buyers Guide as the sampling frame, we selected 500 wineries at random from among the 4200 bonded wineries listed for the state of California, a random selection that gives a 95% confidence level to our results.1 Based on information provided on winery websites, including pronouns used in describing owners and winemakers, and phone calls and emails to individual wineries, we coded winery ownership into the eight categories shown below. For the purposes of the study, a woman was coded as owner or co-owner when she was described as a partner with 50% or more ownership and was actively involved in winery operations. A winery’s wine region and production range were also coded.2

Categories used for the coding:

Note: WM is an abbreviation for Winemaker

As can be seen from the Figure, summing across the category of female owner/not winemaker and the two categories of female winemaker/owner, shows that 13% of California wineries report a woman owner. The category of male winemaker owner/spouse co-owner further adds to the number of women who are owners or co-owners, with 25% of the wineries in our study listing a female spouse co-owner.

The family-owned category in which the winemaker is not a family member was the largest category of winery ownership (33%). This subset of wineries included a sizeable number of wife-husband co-owners with varying levels of participation in core activities of a winery, and some may very well fit our definition of "woman co-owner."

In total, female ownership or co-ownership represents at least 38% of California wineries, 13% female ownership or co-ownership plus 25% female spouse co-ownership. Wineries in the family-owned category likely add to this 38% figure.


The wine business remains a male-dominated field in California and globally. Significantly more wineries, for example, have a man rather than a woman as their lead winemaker, both in California and world-wide (Gilbert & Gilbert, 2020),3 and overall there is greater male winery ownership. Nonetheless, the findings of this study strongly support the view that women have a central role as owners and co-owners of wineries in California.


  1. Study results obtained from our random sample of 500 wineries drawn from the population of 4200 wineries has a margin of error of ±5% and a confidence level of 95%. The confidence level refers to how confident one can be that the actual sample values obtained in a study fall within the margin of error.

  2. The distribution of California wine regions and winery production ranges were not associated with winery ownership. Approximately half of the wineries were located in the Napa Valley (33%) and the Sonoma/Marin (21%) wine regions, with the South Central Coast (San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties) region being the third largest (17%). With regard to case production, more than two-thirds of the wineries produced less than 5,000 cases per year, and 9% more than 50,000 cases.

  3. Gilbert, L. A., and Gilbert, J. C. (2020). Women winemakers: Personal Odysseys. Eugene, OR: Luminare Press

Author Bios: Lucia Albino Gilbert, Ph.D., and John C. (Jack) Gilbert, Ph.D., both professors emeriti, have had long and distinguished careers at The University of Texas at Austin and Santa Clara University and are widely published in their fields. Their research on facilitating women's career success in male-dominated scientific fields such as winemaking combines Lucia's academic field of Psychology and John's academic field of Organic Chemistry. They can be reached at lgilbert@scu.edu. Their research website is www.womenwinemakers.com.

Posted August 2020