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Wine Review: Cheers to International Women’s Day

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Hurray for the ladies on International Women’s Day!

Professional winemaking is no longer dominated by men, a stark contrast compared with the pre-1970s, when there were almost no female winemakers. A few of the women who did manage to squeak through were at best, anomalies.

These women pioneers who made it to the top were at first not even mentioned. After a while, their contributions to the constantly evolving wine industry brought them to an equal standing with their male counterparts — and in some cases even higher.

It also was — notice the past tense — a common belief among male winemakers that men opted toward red wines while women preferred whites. That may have been a true a century ago, but it is not now. Women’s contributions to the wine industry have resulted in reds that are now softer and not as harsh as they were in the past. The beverages also no longer need years of bottle aging before they can be enjoyed.

These changes in the characteristics of red wines are unquestionably due to the contribution of female winemakers and wine consumers. In recognition and appreciation of female winemakers, I have picked out four beverage makers who deserve recognition.

Marilisa Allegrini
Steeped in centuries of wine-growing expertise, the Allegrini family is known for their benchmark amarone wine and consistently marrying tradition with innovation. As the president of Amarone Families, Marilisa is one of the top ambassadors for the Valpolicella viticultural zone in Italy and is affectionally referred to as the Lady of Amarone by fellow winemakers. If Italian winemakers, who are notoriously conservative, gave her that name, she must be something special.

Allegrini 2014 Palazzo della Torre Veneto Italy ($25)
This is a red wine of distinction. Marilisa has produced a wine crafted in the traditional Italian style but with the fine hand of a female winemaker. That makes the drink approachable right now or capable of aging for another 10 years. Bravo Marilisa.

Kamee Knutson
Edna Valley Vineyard’s winemaker approaches the process with a sense of adventure. Drawing inspiration from the breathtaking surroundings of the Central Coast in California and a passion for bringing people together, Kamee crafts an expressive and enjoyable collection of wines. Some of the best California wine I have sampled in recent years have come from Edna Valley Vineyard.

Edna Valley 2017 Central Coast Chardonnay ($16)
I often am very critical of chards, but Kamee has shoved my criticisms of the variety right down my throat. This wine is superb, and it’s affordable, too.

Nicole Hitchcock
Winemaker Nicole Hitchcock works hard to ensure that J Vineyards & Winery’s portfolio showcases the best that her home state of California has to offer. Known for their stellar sparkling wines, chardonnay and pinot noir from the Russian River Valley, Nicole’s winemaking philosophy combines old world techniques and new world style. J’s signature yellow brushstroke label and classic style evoke the feeling of the California sun in a bottle.

J Vineyards & Winery 2016 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($40)
J Vineyards’ wines have been California stalwarts for years. The company retains that eminent position with this pinot noir because of the work of Nicole.

Beth Liston
As Dark Horse’s winemaker, Beth pours her passion into everything she does by creating bold, original wines unlike any other. Beth is one of the most adventurous winemakers in California today. By blending grapes from California’s Central Valley and other renowned regions, she has created exceptional wines that exceed quality expectations.

Dark Horse California Brut Rose Sparkling Wine ($13)
Beth would never make a sparkling rose wine that is just average. A wine like that is just not up to Dark Horse’s standards. Beth knows she carries the reputation and success of the winery on her shoulders, and she carries it well, as evidenced by this selection.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.

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