The Makers of American Wine: A Record of Two Hundred Years

By Thomas Pinney | Go to book overview

THIRTEEN
Cathy Corison
WOMEN BECOME WINEMAKERS

WOMEN AND WINE

At first glance, it would appear that the wine trade is open without restriction to women: there are women cellar rats, women sales reps, women vineyard managers, women lab technicians, women winemakers, women CEOs, women proprietors, and women anything else you can think of in the business of wine. But as long as we continue to note that such and such a person is a woman CEO or a woman winemaker, there is still an unwelcome hint of surprise in the observation: should a woman be in those positions? Perhaps the day will come when we no longer specify the female identity in talking about a winemaker or a grape grower, but, as the title of this chapter shows, that day is not yet. As Meredith Edwards put it, with some exasperation, after thirty years of wine making she was still being interviewed, not as a winemaker, but as a “woman winemaker.”1

Women have, of course, had a presence in wine making in the past, the best known perhaps being the “Champagne widows” in France: la Veuve Clicquot and Mme. Elizabeth Bollinger are celebrated instances. But these were women who had wine making thrust upon them rather than having sought it, and in any case, widowhood is a poor way to get into a business. There were such women in California in the early days: Kate Warfield took over the Ten Oaks Vineyard winery in Glen Ellen after her husband’s death in 1877 and ran it with great success; her widowed neighbor, Ellen Stuart, ran the winery at the Glen Ellen Ranch. Ellen Hood was notable for taking an active role in her husband’s winery at the Los Guilicos Ranch in the Sonoma Valley before she was widowed in 1893.2 But it would be easy to exaggerate the importance of these instances. Practically, the wine business was

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