March 6, 2024 | POSTED IN

Celebrating Women in Wine

an AI generated black and white image of a woman winemaker holding a glass of wine in front of barrels

As we approach International Women’s Day on March 8, it’s important to acknowledge the remarkable contributions of women in the wine industry. Historically, women have not only been involved in winemaking but have excelled and led the way in this traditionally male-dominated field.

One cannot talk about women in wine without mentioning Madame Clicquot, the “Grande Dame of Champagne.” She revolutionized the wine industry by perfecting the riddling technique to remove sediment from champagne, setting a standard that would elevate the quality of champagne forever. This innovation placed her and women winemakers on the map, illustrating the profound impact women have had on winemaking throughout history.

The influence of women in winemaking extends beyond the sparkling vineyards of Champagne. In the realm of high-end cult wines, formidable women such as Helen Turley of Marcassin, Celia Welch of Scarecrow, Merry Edwards of her self-named winery, and Eileen Crane of Domaine Carneros have carved their names into the annals of wine history. Their expertise, vision, and craftsmanship have garnered worldwide acclaim, further proving the indelible mark women have made in this industry.

The Livermore Valley, too, boasts a plethora of talented women winemakers, each contributing unique blends and flavors, enriching the region’s wine heritage. The presence of these skilled women in Livermore highlights the widespread influence and success of female vintners across various regions and wine styles.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, let us spotlight a lesser-known but equally significant figure in the wine industry: Marie Elizabeth Bon Chauché. This tale begins with Adrien Chauché, who, in 1884, took a bold step by planting Zinfandel in the Livermore Valley at his Mont-Rouge Winery. Believing in the potential of Zinfandel to embody the spirit of early California, his conviction was rewarded when Mont-Rouge Zinfandel received a gold medal at the 1889 Paris Exposition, heralding the arrival of Californian wine on the international stage.

Following the deaths of Adrien and later his brother-in-law Charles, the stewardship of Mont-Rouge passed to Marie Elizabeth Bon Chauché. Her determination, talent, and resilience ensured the survival and flourishing of Mont-Rouge Zinfandel. Under her guidance, the winery achieved further glory by winning gold at the 1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exposition. While she may not have been the earliest woman winemaker in California, her achievements arguably mark her as one of the first women to receive a gold medal at an international competition, a monumental accomplishment.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us raise a glass to the pioneering women of the wine industry. Their contributions, from the vineyards of Champagne to the rolling hills of Livermore Valley, have shaped the wine world, breaking barriers and setting new standards of excellence. These women, known and unknown, have woven their stories into the rich tapestry of winemaking history, inspiring future generations of women to dream, dare, and achieve in the wine world. And that has benefitted all of us.