Women leading wineries, vineyards, and more

Like just about everything else in the world, the old boys’ clubs dominate winemaking, but there are lots of incredible women out there making extraordinary wine. Let’s throw these ladies our support where we can and sip their wares with our favorite books.

Here are three quick stories with links to purchase the goods. Some was widely available on websites such as wine.com, vivino.com, or totalwine.com, while others require purchase directly from the source if your state allows it. I haven’t yet tried most of these but have ordered some and will let you know what I think!

Simi Winery: Original Wine Boss Isabelle Simi and Her Successors

Have you ever read the “About Us” page for Simi Winery? I just did, and what a cool history lesson and timeline about the original Wine Boss Isabelle Simi and the strong women who followed her!

From the SIMI website

Isabelle’s dad and uncle immigrated to California from Italy in the 1840s, produced the first Simi wines, and, just as Simi started expanding, they both died. That left 18-year-old Isabelle to take over, and take over she did. When Prohibition kicked in, she took advantage of a loophole allowing wine sales to churches and was ready to go when Prohibition ended. Her success continued, and Simi’s legacy of female winemakers and managers continued with Maryann Graf in 1973, Zelma Long in 1979, Lisa Evich in 2015, and Rebecca Valls in 2021.

“Isabelle Simi began what would be a long line of successful female winemakers here at SIMI. Certainly then, and especially now, success is diluted when we highlight gender before profession. An asterisk over a passion. So to honor that work and the work of so many others, we address our trailblazers as ‘Female Winemakers.’ A basic privilege Isabelle never had and just like the leaders of today, always deserved.”

Now, Simi is available everywhere. I’ve bought it at Costco, Total Wine, the grocery store, and cute wine boutiques. My favorite is the Cabernet Sauvignon—a really nice value. Next on my list are some of Simi’s featured wines (just ordered a few bottles discounted on the Simi website, so we’ll see).

Pair With: Historical Fiction books with trailblazing female bosses, such as Forever Your Earl by Eva Leigh (Eleanor, Editor and Owner of a paper); How to Forget a Duke by Vivienne Lorret (Jacinda runs a matchmaking company); First Lady to the Finish by Cara Maxwell (Olivia runs her estate stables); Magnate by Joanna Shupe (Gilded Age heroine Elizabeth kicks butt in the financial market); and One Wedding and an Earl (Necessity is a famous landscape architect). 

Brook & Bull: Owner and Winemaker Ashley Trout, Walla Walla, WA

Brook & Bull has only been around since 2016, but already produces some of the top wines in the region. It “focuses on producing fine varietals and untraditional blends with a low oak profile. Purposely highlighting vintage variation and showing Washington State terroir.” From the Brook & Bull website:

Brook & Bull is winemaker Ashley Trout’s latest project in the Walla Walla Valley. Ashley began her wine making career at 18, following her passions around the world in search of the best ways to combine a love of wine making with a goal for community betterment. She spent the better part of a decade working harvests in Mendoza, Argentina and has been an integral part of the Walla Walla Valley wine scene since 1999. Brook & Bull Cellars is her third winery.

Our sister winery Vital Winery is a non-profit, with proceeds supporting Walla Walla Valley vineyard and winery workers access to affordable health care. For more information on this label, feel free to visit the VITAL WEBSITE.

Fun Fact: Starting January of 2023, Brook & Bull Cellars decided to only send wine for scoring to women wine critics, incentivizing more female representation at the top of the wine industry, and note that while women purchase almost 60% of all wine in the U.S., men score almost all the wines. Ms. Trout noted that “if women are the majority of the buyers, it would make sense that they comprise the majority of the wine critics, but that’s very far from our current reality.” 

This wine is definitely going on my birthday list! Here is a selection of available wines directly from Brook & Bull, ranging from $32 to $60. 

Pair With: Books with strong women set in Washington, such as Business or Pleasure by Rachel Lynn Solomon, Hook, Line & Sinker by Tessa Bailey, Brewbies by Kerrigan Byrne and Cynthia St. Aubin, and Falling for My Enemy by Claire Kingsley. 

Wine for the People: Winemaker and Owner Rae Wilson

Wine for the People is winemaker Rae Wilson’s Texas-based company that produces low-intervention (i.e. produced with minimal intervention from the winemaker). According to Tribeza, Wilson is known for “very traditional, very clean wine” made from grapes that are harvested, fermented and bottled in Texas” and for offering a variety of grapes and styles. 

From the Wine for the People website:

One of few female winemakers in Texas, Rae Wilson is a food & wine industry veteran based in Austin. Her journey from sommelier to winemaker took her from Napa Valley to Portugal and many cellars in between. She founded Wine For the People in 2010 and released her flagship vintage in 2014, utilizing sustainable practices, minimal intervention winemaking, and a dedication to explore true Texas terroir. 

 “People often feel overwhelmed or intimidated by wine. Making wine more accessible in any setting is really important to me. Winemaking is a fascinating process, one I find endlessly interesting. We can talk about the details of origin, history, and climate, but enjoying wine can also be as simple as ‘Do you like it? Great!’. You don’t have to study it or know a secret language to have a full experience.”

Wine for the People is best known for its flagship Dandy Rose, but also offers a number of other wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Carignan, Grenache, and Syrah, ranging from $32 to $50. And part of the fun is the unique labeling with prints from Austin artist Katy Schmader. https://wineforthepeople.com/wines/

Pair With: Books with Texas women, such as Wait for It by Mariana Zapata, Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas, and The End Game by Kate McCarthy.