Celebrating small businesses this weekend? Join the party.
Of more than 9,700 wineries in the United States, approximately 7,800 are categorized as “very small” (1,000 to 4,999 cases) or “limited production” (< 1,000 cases).* Most of the wine industry, then, is comprised of very small businesses. Yet the supply is controlled by a few major companies, so the wine you find on grocery store shelves is narrowed.
Good news: With a little hunting, you can still find the interesting stuff. Woman-Owned Wineries can help. Our holiday roundup lists wines produced in quantities of less than 500 cases, making them highly desired as gifts or holiday meal accompaniments. Did we mention each winery is owned and operated by incredible women entrepreneurs?
With few exceptions, I’ve tried to choose wines that a) might not already be on your radar and b) represent a range of geographic regions. Part of the purpose of Woman-Owned Wineries is to introduce unsung winemakers. With a directory that lists more than 550 woman-owned wineries across the country, we all have so much exploring to do….! Search and subscribe to our directory here>.
Meanwhile, here’s to a holiday season full of discovery and shared beauty.
~Amy Bess Cook, Founder
Wirz Vineyard, Central Coast
Ser Winery is the longstanding side hustle of Nicole Walsh, who works as associate winemaker and grower relations manager for Bonny Doon Vineyards. Strong vineyard connections allow her to access highly coveted fruit; two decades of rigorous training allow her to find its optimal expression. This Riesling comes from 70-year-old dry-farmed vines growing in granite and limestone soils. Traditional ‘methode champenoise’ renders a distinctive sparkling wine that fans of racy acidity (like yours truly) will favor. $34
Perli Vineyards, Mendocino Ridge
What I appreciate about Chardonnay is its capacity to unite a motley group of wine lovers around a single holiday table. Picture among the crowd: you with the discerning palate, cousin Lou who prefers clear alcoholic beverages (!), and Aunt Shirley who only drinks Chardonnay. Wanting to satisfy everyone, you set out to find a truly elegant, well-made wine. If you are lucky, you wind up with this gem from Donkey & Goat, which is sourced from mountain fruit and fermented with native yeasts. Gently finished in neutral French oak, the wine retains a fine tension that lets its citrus and melon flavors sing. $40 | 177 cases produced
Puget Sound, Washington State
As a cooperatively owned winery and certified B-corp, this cool-climate winery in the San Juan Islands (just a ferry ride from Seattle) has been in operation for nearly four decades. Beyond its socially-conscious foundations, the winery produces some interesting varieties (Siegerrebe, Madeleine Angevine) in a challenging maritime climate. Bainbridge Pinot Gris successfully manages to be both offbeat and approachable–fragrant as a spray of honeysuckle, with underlying stone fruit and a fine tension that makes it highly refreshing. $26 | 80 cases produced
High Plains, Texas
Winemaker and social entrepreneur Rae Wilson is not shy to make a statement, and neither are her wines. Dandy Pink Rosé (also available as a sparkling) has earned Wilson a loyal following in Austin and New York. The fruit for this wine–all Rhône varieties–was harvested early from four different vineyards at low brix. The finished wine offers bright notes of citrus blossom and strawberry. As of this writing, only 5 cases remain. $20 | 100 cases produced
Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County
For a dozen years, Theodora Lee (a.k.a. “Theopatra”) has been the driving force behind this estate, which specializes in Petite Sirah. While I have never met Theopatra, I can attest that her wines have bold personality. This vibrant rosé has earthy undertones that nicely anchor lively raspberry fruit, and a hint of white pepper that gives a little kick. It’s rare to find a good year-round rosé, one that will be as welcome in my glass in the cold of December as in the heat of summer. This one does the trick. $24 | 186 cases produced
Is this a cider or wine? Does it matter? Just pour me another glass.
Sonja Magdevski is the innovative entrepreneur and winemaker for several labels, including Casa Dumetz and The Feminist Party. Every year she experiments by co-fermenting apples and grapes. This batch, made with destemmed whole-berry Mourvedré and organic apples, has a decidedly racy quality. In her notes, Magdevski calls it “love potion in a bottle”, and it admittedly makes me swoon. $32 | 100 cases produced
Snake River Valley
Wine from Idaho? Believe it. Leslie Preston is a native of the state who earned her M.S. in Enology at UC Davis, then built her career at such institutions as Stag’s Leap and Saintsbury. When she returned to Idaho, she did so with a vision to express the land. On a recent road trip, I visited Coiled Winery in Boise and tasted through Preston’s lineup. It was this blend of Syrah, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah (all locally grown) that captured my attention with its sumptuous notes of blackberry and chocolate. Road trips being what they are, I took my bottle to a campsite and paired it with beef jerky–but you might gussy it up with a steak. $28
Stillwater Creek Vineyard, Wahluke Slope
“Not all damsels are in distress” writes winemaker Mari Womack. I’ll drink to that–starting with this elegant wine. Malbec has been called a “rising star of the Pacific Northwest” with production quadrupling over a ten-year period. This Malbec is sourced from south-facing vineyards with high temperatures and well-drained sandy soils. The resulting wine displays dense fruit with plenty of structure. Like all the Damsel wines, the Malbec strikes me as luxe without being overindulgent. $36 | 88 cases produced
Pickberry Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain
It’s not easy to choose one Smith-Story wine as a favorite—their rock-solid team does a beautifully consistent job, and each wine resonates in its own way. Yet this one holds a special place in my heart, as I’ve personally walked the rows at Pickberry Vineyard many times and know firsthand it produces a distinctive Merlot. Expect fig and cherry, and a sense of abundance without overwhelm. This wine truly brings a “wow” factor to the table. $54 | 300 cases produced | mailing list only
Old Redwood Block Vineyard, Sonoma County
Importer Amy Atwood launched Oeno in 2009 to make natural wine more accessible to the masses. Collaborating with top winemakers, she’s achieving her goal. All wines are organically sourced, unfined, and under $25 a bottle. Oeno Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from a 40-year-old vineyard, then fermented with native yeasts and zero new oak. The resulting wine is an elegant one with the velvety mouthfeel and full fruit that makes Cabernet so popular, without sharp tannins (praise be!). $22
Wines listed were provided as trade samples, with the exception of Coiled. Interested wineries, please find sample policy here.
*Source: Wines & Vines Magazine