Last year we featured 10 amazing women who make wine or own wineries in British Columbia (see our 2017 piece here), and for International Women’s Day 2018, we are celebrating wine women from Naramata to Lillooet, Champagne, California, and Chile. Take a look at these short stories and wines - all made with female smarts and energy.
The wine industry is rich with clever, driven, and charismatic women. Consider the famous women of Champagne like Madame Clicquot, Louise Pommery, Lily Bollinger who propelled their champagne maisons to great heights a century ago. They were early pioneers with creative ideas, quiet ambition, and tremendous vision. You can taste a feminine touch in the wines they inspired, like this elegant and precise Bollinger Rosé 2006.
In addition to B.C. women we featured last year, we’ve add five more local talents. Heleen Pannekoek is one of the owners of Fort Berens winery in Lillooet. Before she started Fort Berens with husband Rolf, a career in small business banking prepared Heleen for intimacy with her land, grapes, wines, and especially customers. It’s remarkable how well the Riesling grape has adapted to Lillooet’s torrid summers and icebox winters, but it sure has. This half-bottle of Late Harvest Riesling is a sweet and silky elixir for an easy Pavlova dessert, or triple cream cheese indulgence.
Township 7 winery lured winemaker Mary McDermott to B.C. from Niagara a few years back. She’s made captivating wines at Ontario’s Trius and Thirty Bench wineries, and is a true rising star winemaker. Her style is clean and pure; fresh and unadorned, allowing the fruit and environment to star. Try this zingy aromatic blend called 7 Blanc to pair with a zesty seafood salad and your favourite blue jeans.
Jordan Kubek is as bubbly as the sparkling wines she makes at Okanagan Crush Pad Winery. Crafting traditional champagne-method wines takes tremendous skill, patience and palate-precision, and Jordan brings an intuitive touch to the process. She makes Haywire Bub and the pretty pink Baby Bub range of fizz, (yes, there is a real Bub, and she is an awesome woman named Alison!). Both these wines are dry and snappy, with toasty aromas and gorgeously subtle fruit, for sipping with oysters, fish tacos, or even potato chips.
Dawn Reimer co-owns Mirabel Vineyards, a realization of a long-held dream. Up until recently, the famed Reimer Family Vineyard planted by Dawn and Doug in 2006 had sold their fruit to other celebrated Pinot Noir wineries, but now the grapes make Mirabel’s ultra-premium Pinot Noir, and rich Rosé of Pinot Noir which is my summertime fave. A full-bodied, sleek Chardonnay joined the collection last year.
At Painted Rock Estate on Skaha Lake, the next generation is deeply involved! Lauren Skinner Buksevics has joined her dad John Skinner as Director of Sales and Marketing. She’s well armed to market Painted Rock’s premium wines, with an MBA in Luxury Brand Management from Bordeaux. Lauren and I both adore Painted Rock’s Chardonnay for its potent fruit and succulence, and the Cabernet Franc is a fruit pastille and graphite titan.
And now for a few international women in wine whom I’ve met and tasted with over the years.
Did you know that the great estate of Robert Mondavi has had a woman winemaker at the helm for nearly 30 years? Geneviève Janssens arrived in California from Provence in the late 1970s and eventually landed at Mondavi to oversee the Opus project, eventually becoming head of all Mondavi winemaking. Her lush, fruit-forward Mondavi Oakville Fumé Blanc is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with a gentle hug of subtle oak.
Noelia Orts calls Chile home. This talented young woman is the resident winemaker at a cutting-edge organic wine estate called Emiliana. Famed worldwide for organic and biodynamic viticulture, Noelia and her team spin Emiliana’s pristine fruit into highly expressive wines, like the Eco Chardonnay, and Eco Cabernet Sauvignon.
Heidi Schröck is a dynamic Austrian winemaker and I guarantee you’ll swoon for her take on Pinot Blanc, known as Weissburgunder in Austria. Heidi calls this dry, crisp and minerally wine her faithful friend, and always recommends music and books to pair with all her wines.
Kathryn Walt Hall’s biography is a monument to public service at the highest level in America. From developing affirmative action programs, steering mental health associations, serving on the National Advisory Council for Violence Against Women, and a stint as US Ambassador to Austria, the lawyer and activist is once again at the helm of Hall Wines. Her breathtaking Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon is pricey and perfect in its expression of Napa character. Rich layers of blackcurrant fruit and dark chocolate unfold in the mouth for hours and hours. Sure tastes like 98 points!