For more than four decades, Whitehall Lane Winery has graced Highway 29 on the outskirts of St. Helena. For half of those years, the winery has been run by the Leonardi family, which previously founded the iconic Napa Valley Wine Exchange. Today, Whitehall Lane operations are overseen by daughter Katie Leonardi, along with her brother Tom. With eight strategic vineyard holdings in the St. Helena, Rutherford, and Oak Knoll appellations, as well as across the county line in Sonoma, Whitehall Lane produces a wide range of wines from quality grapes. The winery is Certified Napa Green for its sustainability measures, and its dedication to quality has resulted in encore placements on Wine Spectator’s revered “Top 100 Wines” list.Seagrape Cellars Elkfield
Where: Mendocino County, California
Who: Jane Khoury is next-generation winemaker who is also an Intensive Care Unit nurse by day. Yes, that means she’s been at simultaneously working harvests and tending critically ill covid patients, all under the pressure of both wildfire season and a global pandemic.
With a Bachelors of Science in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis, Jane also earned her MBA in Wine Business from Sonoma State University. She works with her father Gabi and brother Nick to operate Elkfield Wines.
Why: You want to support healthcare workers and drink great wine too! This robust, savory Pinot Noir is your answer.Burton Bittman Wines Cramoisi Vineyard
Where: Cramoisi Vineyard sits at an elevation of 500 to 600 feet in Oregon’s Dundee Hills.
Who: Sofia Torres McKay is a native of Mexico City who worked in the tech industry before relocating to Oregon to launch Cramoisi Vineyard with her husband Ryan. As cofounder of AHIVOY (Asociación Hispana de la Industria del Vino en Oregon y Comunidad), Sofia is a prominent activist for vineyard stewards.
Why: The cuvée offers elegant fruit expression with lively acidity and minerality. The vintner’s strong connection to the people behind her wines make this cuvée well worth exploring. Says Sofia:
“The synergy with my vineyard stewards is beautiful, and that gets reflected in my wines. As a Latino grower, co-owner of Cramoisi, I speak the same language and share the same culture, so seems that energy flows well to benefit my place, people, and of course my wine.”
How: Harvested from eight-year-old vines, the fruit was destemmed and cold-soaked for four days before undergoing a 21-day native fermentation. The wine was then aged for one year in 35 percent new French oak. Of the vineyard, Sofia says:
Our clones are a mix of the best and favorite clones from Oregon’s Pinot plantings (Pommard), the Dijon clones imported form Burgundy (667, 777) and more rare Heirloom/Heritage clones such as “Holstein” and Vosne-Romanée (clone 122).
As a biodynamic farmer and to show the love to my vines, I spray chamomile tea on the vines when we go through a heatwave to calm them–kind of a day at the spa! Doing it by hand allows me to enjoy the chamomile tea in my face, my hair and to visit each vine in the vineyard, to connect and have a healthy relationship with my land.
On supporting vineyard workers during wildfire season:
We need to make sure they still know that COVID is still here, we need to provide them with the right masks We need to remind them to drink lots of water, sleep well and not exhaust themselves.… Vineyard stewards are the ones that are helping us to move forward in 2020. We need to be here for them.
It’s been two years since we launched Woman-Owned Wineries in the aftermath of a Sonoma County firestorm. Now, the area has been struck again. We in Sonoma County are a dedicated lot and we love our work! Show us you love it too by ordering bottles from the following list of wines from local female vintners. Many of the business owners here were directly impacted by wildfires.
We appreciate similar lists that have been circulated. Some have lacked gender representation, so we’re here to help strike a balance.
In addition to ordering directly from these wineries, please consider signing up for our next Woman-Owned Wineries wine club shipment, which will benefit Wine Empowered, the new nonprofit educational endeavor for women and minorities.
Thank you for your support!
Amy Bess Cook
Founder, Woman-Owned Wineries
Where: Sonoma Coast, California
Who: Raised on a walnut farm in the Central Valley, Katy Wilson knew she wanted to be a winemaker by age 18. After graduating Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, she worked with Flowers and then Kamen before launching her own label, LaRue. She is now winemaker at Anaba Wines and consults for a variety of wine brands across Sonoma County.
Why: I chose this wine for several reasons. Firstly, LaRue celebrates its tenth anniversary this year! Join the celebration on August 3rd in Sonoma, where 30 (yes, 30!) wines from over the past decade will be poured from magnums. Tickets are available here>
It’s true I also have a direct connection. I’m thrilled to share that I just signed on to pitch in and help Katy and her team with harvest this season. I can’t imagine any better complement to nurturing Woman-Owned Wineries project than to be knee-deep in grapes alongside the very women this project champions.
So raise a glass (specifically, of this way-elegant Pinot Noir, ) to ten years of a winemaker’s perseverance, to women supporting women, and to the gifts of Sonoma Coast terroir–
“I’ve been working with Russell Rice and Helene Spivak since 2007, when I was at Flowers Winery. When I started LaRue in 2009, I was lucky to be able to be able to continue to work with Rice-Spivak and have now been working with the vineyard for LaRue for 10 years.
This vineyard is located in the sliver of the Sonoma Coast that is dear to my heart. The area is subject to a beautiful balance of cool Pacific breezes and warm, sunny days. The soil is unique in that, along with the more common Goldridge sandy loam soils, it also offers some volcanic ash.
The 2016 vintage was moderate until August, when we had a cool spell for two weeks. This slowed the ripening, and we harvested in two separate picks: August 31st and September 11th. This wine is aged for 20 months in barrel and was just released this spring.”
Where: Suisun Valley, California
Who: Lisa Howard, 2nd-generation winemaker and licensed engineer
Why: We’d already decided this crisp and compelling wine was a summer necessity when word came in from the 2019 International Women’s Wine Competition: Eclipse had won a gold medal. Congrats to Tolenas and all the winners.
How: This white wine is actually made from red grapes. It was during a grape harvest under the solar eclipse in 2017, the idea for a white Pinot Noir emerged.Stoney Wines