A few weeks ago, President Obama declared March 2014 National Women’s History Month. Its purpose, he said, is to “recognize the victories, struggles, and stories of the women who have made our country what it is today” and to celebrate those who “make progress in our time” because “[w]hen women succeed, America succeeds.”
The wine industry has been dominated by male vintners and sommeliers for most of its history, but a handful of women have been instrumental in growing and shaping America’s wine culture. And now, a growing number of them are clearing new paths, pushing the envelope, and redefining what it means to make wine in America today.
Some of America’s most influential winemakers have been women. Two of them, Heidi Peterson Barrett and Helen Turley, were the visionary forces behind many of America’s most celebrated wines. Heidi Barrett, christened the “First Lady of Wine” by Robert Parker, is responsible for creating the wines and winery styles at iconic California estates including Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle Vineyards, Paradigm Winery, and Grace Family Vineyards. A six-liter bottle of her 1992 Screaming Eagle set a world record for the highest price ever paid for a single bottle of wine. Helen Turley found her stylistic voice at Peter Michael winery and went on to make wine or consult at Colgin Cellars, Bryant Family Vineyards, and Marcassin, among others. Both women have earned “Winemaker of the Year” accolades from various organizations.