Daughters, yes, but these women are also major players in the wine industry.
It’s an old cliché, born in truth, that when dad coaches a sports team, he’s even harder on his own kids than any other player. On one hand he has to be, in order to avoid the appearance of favouritism, but often it is because he expects more of his own child than of others. That same philosophy applies to the wine industry, particularly for daughters of winemakers and especially in Old World wine regions. Traditionally, the first born son became the winemaker. If there was a second son, he would grow the grapes. Daughters worked in hospitality or sales; women did not become winemakers and there were very few female winery owners. Today the choices for women are becoming much more inclusive. Women are playing an important role in operations, winemaking, viticulture, branding or any other aspect of the business they choose to be part of. Of course, that doesn’t mean they get a free pass just because Daddy owns a winery. Not by a long shot. In fact, just like little league, they have to prove themselves as much as or more than anyone else! Fortunately for the daughters on this list, they have what it takes to exceed the expectations of the industry and make a name for themselves both within and outside the family wine business.
Gaia Gaja, 5th Generation Wine Producer
Gaja Wines (Barbaresco, Italy) | Daughter of Angelo Gaja
Barbaresco is a small community in Piedmont with a population of only 560 and well-known for Nebbiolo, also the grape of nearby Barolo. Angelo Gaja, producer of northwest Italy’s great Nebbiolo wines, has been nicknamed the “King of Barbaresco.” His great-grandfather started the winery in 1859 and Angelo’s three children now make up the fifth generation of Gaja wines. At the head of the winery is Angelo’s eldest daughter, Gaia, who is determined, innovative and unapologetic. Having worked closely with her father for more than a decade, she understands the necessity of thinking for herself rather than adapting by doing what everyone else is doing. With this in mind, as Gaja faces the effects of climate change in the vineyard, the most obvious solution would have been to go biodynamic, but “obvious” is not the Gaja way. In order to adapt to the changing needs of the vines, Gaia has made biodiversity her priority. She looks at every aspect of the vineyard’s ecosystem to find the most effective, natural ways to manage its health. This not only promotes quality of the grapes, but longevity of the land for future generations.
Heidi Barrett, The First Lady of Wine
Barrett & Barrett Wines (Napa Valley, California) | Daughter of Richard Peterson
In this case, the daughter is more famous than the father. Richard Peterson, Heidi’s father, worked for many years as a winemaker in California. Most notably for Ernest & Julio Gallo in Modesto and Beaulieu Vineyards (BV) in St. Helena. In 1980, Heidi graduated from UC Davis with a degree in Fermentation Science. After a couple of international internships, she came back to California for and became the head winemaker for Buehler Vineyards. Less than a decade later, she started her own winemaking consultant company and has successfully worked with icons Dalla Valle, Screaming Eagle, Amuse Bouche, Au Sommet and Diamond Creek, to name only a few. She has received five different 100-point ratings for her wines from critic Robert Parker, who has also called her The First Lady of Wine. Heidi is also married to Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena. If you’re not sure who Bo is, watching the movie Bottle Shock, will give you some idea, although they’ve take creative liberties with the script. For a great many years, Heidi Barrett had built her own wine brand, separate from her father and her husband. Now her and Bo have joined forces to create Barrett & Barrett Wines, bringing together over 30 years of experience and respect for this family winery.
Dr. Laura Catena, Legacy Winemaker & Surgeon
Bodega Catena Zapata (Mendoza, Argentina) | Daughter of Nicolás Catena
Bodega Catena Zapata is synonymous with Argentina Malbec. In 1902, Nicolás Catena, Laura’s great-grandfather, planted his first vine in Mendoza. The Catena family winery survived several decades of instability from a fickle wine industry, the pulling out of Malbec vines, and several Argentinian financial crises. In 1981, Laura’s father, also named Nicolás, decided the family should move to California. He managed the winery in Argentina while working at UC Berkeley as an agricultural economics professor. Upon returning to Mendoza, he studied soil and altitude extensively to understand the uniqueness of the terroir to offer premium quality wines from the region. In the meantime, Laura studied biology at Harvard then went to medical school at Stanford, all the while engaging in conversations with her father about the family winery and sampling the best wines from around the globe. Today, Laura is a fourth generation vintner with her own line of wines under the Luca label and the managing director of Bodega Catena Zapata. She is also a mother of three, the author of one of my favourite books, Vino Argentino: An Insider’s Guide to the Wines and Wine Country of Artgentina, and a part-time emergency room physician in San Francisco, California. However, she believes her most important work is being an ambassador for Argentina, wishing everyone to visit, experience and love her country and its wines.
Nadia Zenato, The Heart & Soul of Amarone & Valpolicella
Zenato Winery (Valpolicella, Italy) | Daughter of Sergio Zenato
The Zenato family is synonymous with Amarone and the Zenato Winery president is Nadia Zenato. Her father, Sergio, started the winery in 1960, with a focus on grape-growing and innovation. He re-discovered the old technique of Ripasso, which at the time was no longer being used, and created a resurgence of the method now gaining more popularity than ever. Nadia’s mother, Carla, and brother, Alberto, are also active in the company, working alongside Sergio with a passion for Valpolicella. Continuing by her father’s side, Nadia is is dedicated to terroir and the pursuit of excellence in the family winery.
Miriam Masciarelli, Mother-Daughter Wine Team
Masciarelli Tenute Agricola (Abruzzo, Italy) | Daughter of Marina & Gianni Masciarelli
Abruzzo’s Gianni Masciarelli passed away suddenly in 2008. He was only 53. This tragedy left his wife, Marina, alone to run Masciarelli Tenute Agricola and raise their three children. Instead of closing or selling the winery they had established 20 years earlier, Marina persevered and now she and her daughter, Miriam, work together. Miriam learned about wine from her parents, but also studied economics in university as well as worked in communications, restaurants and wine distribution, earning her place beside her mother. Last year, Miriam became brand manager of Masciarelli Tenute Agricola, not just to promote the family business, but with the ultimate goal of putting unique nature of Abruzzo in the minds of people all over the world.
Christa-Lee McWatters Bond, Canadian Vintners Quality Advocate
Evolve Cellars and Time Winery (Okanagan Valley, Canada) | Daughter of Harry McWatters
Dr. Harry McWatters is a legend in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada. He started Sumac Ridge and See Ya Later Ranch wineries as well as founded the BC Wine Institute to improve the reputation and quality of wines in British Columbia. As if that wasn’t enough, he was instrumental in the development of the Vintners Quality Assurance (VQA) in British Columbia and served as the organization’s first Chair. In 2017 he made his 50th vintage, the first one bearing the McWatters name, at Time Winery in Penticton. If you’re not familiar with Time Winery, it’s part of Encore Vineyards Ltd and they make “It’s Go Time,” the official wine of the Calgary Flames. That’s a tough act to follow, but daughter Christa-Lee McWatters Bond has enough credentials of her own. She made her first wine when she was 9 years old, a blend of Gewürztraminer and Riesling called it Gewurztling. She created Evolve Cellars from concept to label and is involved in every aspect of it. She also works with her father and winemaker, Graham Pierce, to determine the style and flavour profile of every product from Time Winery, McWatters Collection and Evolve Cellars. They work as a team with everyone having equal influence on each other and on the final product. She is the current Chair of the BC Wine Institute and is part of its Government Relations Committee.
Silvia Altare, The Barolo Girl
Elio Altare Wines (Barolo, Italy) | Daughter of Elio Altare | Granddaughter of Giovanni Altare
If you’re a wine nerd you’ve seen the documentary Barolo Boys: The Story of a Revolution at least once. Elio Altare, Silvia’s father, was one of those Boys. Given how famous Barolo is now, it’s hard to believe that not long ago it was completely unknown until a group of young, rebel winemakers in the 1980s set out to change that – and they weren’t quiet about it. As with any revolution, there came controversy, pitting one generation against another and upsetting how things had always been done. Silvia speaks of how things were in her grandfather’s time. In one room on the property was the winemaking equipment, the botte (large barrels), chickens and the generator to power the equipment. She laughs that in this room he had the wine, chicken shit and gasoline, which doesn’t make for very good wine. When Silvia’s grandfather worked the vines, nearly everything was kept – foliage, bunches, everything – which meant there was quantity, but the quality was just basic table wine. Elio and the Barolo Boys sought to change that with innovative ideas like more aggressive pruning and using French barriques for ageing. As a result, he was disinherited from his father. Fortunately, the story doesn’t end there. Elio bought back the winery from his brothers and now he and his daughter have been working side by side for nearly 20 years, with Sylvia as the winemaker. Traditionally, Barolo had really harsh tannins and needed decades of ageing before they were ready to drink. With the same tenacity and innovative thinking as her father, Sylvia creates Elio Altare wines that are both approachable now and age-worthy.
Sarah Hedges Goedhart, The Soul of Biodynamic Wines
Hedges Family Estate (Red Mountain, Washington State) | Daughter of Tom and Anne-Marie Hedges
In the heart of premium Washington wine is Hedges Family Estate. They’ve come a long way in a short time. Tom and Anne-Marie Hedges planted their first grapes in 1989 and only 6 years later landed a spot in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 for the Hedges 1995 Three Vineyards at Red Mountain. The family-run winery is situated in the Red Mountain AVA with Tom and Anne-Marie’s daughter, Sarah Hedges Goedhart, recently named head winemaker. It was not an easy road to winemaker for Sarah. She got her degree in business and philosophy from the University of San Diego then later studied chemistry at UC Santa Barbara while she was working for a winery. She got two more years of experience at Preston Vineyards in Healdsburg, doing wine production work then moved back home to study Enology at Washington State University. Again, while in school she worked for a winery; this time it was the family winery. About a year later the position of Assistant Winemaker became available and Sarah had to submit an application just like anyone else. She accepted the position in 2006 and in 2015, only after her uncle had retired, Sarah became head winemaker of the family estate. She makes Biodynamic wines that are authentically Washington under the motto “where soil meets soul.”
The Antinori Sisters, Tignanello Icons
Marchesi Antinori (Tuscany, Italy) | 26 Generations of Antinori since 1385
This list would not be complete without mention of Marchesi Antinori. Daughter Albiera Antinori runs this 26th generation family winery, with the support of her sisters, Allegra and Alessia. In 1970, the iconic wine Tignanello was born which revolutionized the perception of wine in Tuscany. This was the same year Albiera was born. The family has three driving principles: tradition, passion and intuition, which is evident in their wide range of wines from everyday drinking to the prestigious Super-Tuscans.
Elisabetta Foradori, Italy’s Holistic Wine Influencer
Azienda Agricola Foradori (Trentino, Italy) | Granddaughter of Vittorio Foradori
Arguably one of the most influential winemakers in the world, Elisabetta Foradori put the indigenous grapes of Trentino on the global map. She is the daughter and granddaughter of great men who made wine on a small, 200 year old estate in northeastern Italy. When Elisabetta was only 11 years old, her father passed away and by 16 years old she reluctantly enrolled in enology school. Before she was 20 she had taken over control of the winery, not because she wanted to, but as the only child, it was her duty to carry on the family business. The Foradori estate became quite successful, but it wasn’t until Elisabetta started adopting biodynamic practices she felt a connection to the vines and the earth, turning her heritage into passion. As she worked with biodiversity in the vineyards and became inspired by nature, her winemaking became holistic and her life’s love.
Anne Gros, Burgundy Family Heritage
Domaine Anne Gros (Burgundy and Minvervois, France) | Daughter of François Gros
Anne grew up in Burgundy, the benchmark of premium wine. Her father, François Gros, was a respected winemaker who, when Anne was only 12 years old, got very sick. At that time, daughters were never the first choice to follow in their fathers’ footsteps of winemaking, but there were no sons, so Anne insisted he start teaching her. For six years she worked beside him, learning winemaking practices and when she was 18, he passed away. She took over the winery. Her wines are now made in Burgundy as well as Minervois. Domaine Anne Gros remains a true family estate with her and her husband, Jean Paul Tollot, working together with two of their children.
Women Make Up a Big Chunk of the Wine Industry
These are only a handful of the ambitious, intelligent, creative female legacies in wine, and an even smaller representation of talented women in a variety of significant roles who are making a difference in the wine industry. We are brand ambassadors, sommeliers, wine writers, winemakers, farmers, tasting room workers, grape pickers, retailers, owners, bookkeepers, event coordinators, social media managers, bloggers, importers and everything in between.