Has it been harder for women to break into the winemaking business? Yes and no. Ladies like the venerable Veuve from Clicquot have been making wine for centuries, although men still dominate the field.
But today some women are making big names for themselves in the industry like Bibiana González Rave and Martha Stoumen. Both work with distinct grape varieties and terroir, and—from harvest to bottle—both are carving innovative paths to smashing results.
Bibiana González Rave
There’s an old adage: “If you want to make $1 million in the wine business, all you have to do is invest $10 million.” So what’s an ambitious 31-year-old to do if you don’t have a cool $10 mil but you want to make great juice?
Get innovative. Enter Martha Stoumen, co-owner of Living Wines Collective. Rather than bring in pesky investors who often have cash but zero knowledge of winegrowing and making, she and her three male partners are doing it all themselves.
Their first release was 2014’s Populis, made in a tiny facility in Orinda, California, where you’re more likely to run into cows than critics. Other labels include Les Lunes and Ama.
Martha and partners are also being innovative by seeking out vineyard treasures like an old-vine, organically farmed chardonnay plot from 1972 … located in the Manton Valley A.V.A. Haven’t heard of the Manton Valley quite yet? Just granted appellation status in August 2014, it’s at the foot of snowy Mount Lassen.
Martha is indeed one-to-watch as she and other generation-next winemakers take us to far-flung corners of California with carefully made, affordable wines.
Uncork it: Populis red, Carignane, Mendocino, 2014; $24. popthatbottle.com
A native Colombian whose winemaking career has spanned four continents, Bibiana González Rave ultimately decided to settle in California, where she met her husband and winemaking partner, Jeff Pisoni. Trained in Bordeaux with a pedigree that includes working at Château Haut-Brion, Bibi has worked harvests around the world and is as fluent in grapes as she is in multiple languages.
She currently oversees the winemaking at powerhouse Pahlmeyer while managing consulting services across several brands under the RAVE Vines & Wines mast. She’s also a new mother.
Bibi recently launched an exploration of sauvignon blanc under the Shared Notes label. For too long, American winemakers have left SB to our cost-conscious Kiwi cousins with only a few truly committed to making it great, e.g., Peter Michael, Merry Edwards and Câpture.
Shared Notes is a truly collaborative effort between Bibiana and Jeff. They make two styles of sauvignon blanc from fruit sourced in the Russian River and Sonoma appellations. My favorite, “Les Leçons de Maitres” (the Masters’ Lessons), adds a 20% dollop of Sémillon for one of the most exotic, lush sauvignon blancs I’ve ever tasted from California.
Uncork it: Shared Notes, “Les Leçons de Maitres,” Russian River/Sonoma, 2014; $65. sharednoteswine.com