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Sunday, 10 April 2022

Three California Wines for International Women's Day

Three iconic wines produced by some of California’s leading female winemakers, all part of the EJ Gallo family

The wine world has had something of a #MeToo phase with the CMS sexual harassment scandal. Joe Fattorini's crude, hateful and sexist #winebitch writings and a recent article by Helena Nicklin highlighting her experience of sexism in the industry.

So now we know the negative to eliminate, here is the positive to accentuate.

You don't have to wait for International Women's Day to try these three wines; any time is fine. There's a traditional method sparkling wine from Nicole Hitchcock’s J Vineyards & Winery, cool-climate Talbott Vineyard Chardonnay made by oenologist Ayca Revez, and world famous Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from winemaker Jenn Barak of Louis M. Martini.

This being California, the wines are a little fuller, riper and , yes, pricier that European equivalents. They all drink nicely on first pouring, improve with aeration (if you rate complexity over primary fruit) and can be cellared for a couple of years for secondary aromas to develop.

From oenologists to vineyard managers, California's E.& J. Gallo Winery is devoted to championing the women who have pioneered to make wine more innovative and inclusive.

If you want to support female voices in wine at all levels and across all geographies, here is a very personal list of some amazing women to listen to:

J Vineyards California Cuvée NV By Nicole Hitchcock, Head Winemaker at J Vineyards & Winery (£23 from Tesco)

Nicole joined E. & J. Gallo Winery as a winemaker in 2004 and is now head winemaker for J Vineyards and Winery, where she oversees all aspects of winemaking from vineyard to bottle to produce some of the finest cool climate and traditional method sparkling wines from California and the Russian River Valley.

Her wines are widely recognised by some of the wine world’s top writers and judging panels.

vibrant with tart pineapple and orange blossom; lively and rich with orchard fruits, honeysuckle, fresh mandarin peel and marzipan with leesy-creamy brioche and a zesty, focused finish.


Serve as an aperitif or match hors d'oeuvres, such as goat’s cheese tartlets .

Talbott 'Kali Hart' Chardonnay 2019, Santa Lucia Highlands By Ayca Revaz, Oenologist at Talbott Vineyards (£24.99 or £19.99 as a mix of 6 from Majestic)

Ayca fell in love with winemaking while working as an intern in Cappadocia, a wine producing region two hours from where she grew up in Turkey. After completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Food Engineering from the Middle East Technical University, and subsequently UC Davis Viticulture and Oenology Master’s program, Ayca seized the “opportunity of a lifetime” to work at Talbott Vineyards, making cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Today, she works closely with Talbott head winemaker David Coventry, creating barrel selections and monitoring the vines. For Talbott Vineyards’ Kali Hart Chardonnay fruit is sourced from the idyllic Santa Lucia Highlands in Central Coast. With a long, cool growing season, the grapes develop character, intensity and depth for which the vineyard has become famous, conditions that facilitate Chardonnay to express wonderfully bright acidity and fresh, concentrated flavours, that other regions struggle to emulate.

ripe stone fruit, juicy tropical notes with vanilla and butterscotch; complex, savoury and full bodied, yet crisp and refreshing.

Very Good.

A versatile food wine, match with pork, chicken or creamy mushroom dishes.

Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Napa Valley by Jenn Barak, Winemaking Assistant at Louis M.Martini (£35.99 or £31.99 as a mix of 6 from Majestic)

Barak found a passion for winemaking and the beautiful Sonoma County early. Jenn holds a BS in Oenology and MS in Viticulture and Oenology, focusing on tannin chemistry, from Fresno State. After completing school and internships she landed at E & J Gallo Winery; where she started as the associate winemaker focusing on Bordeaux varietals at Frei Brother’s Winery.

Today she is the Winemaking Assistant at Louis M. Martini, the home of iconic Cabernet Sauvignon. Grapes for Louis M. Martini Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 were selected from several premium Napa vineyards, including Cypress Ranch Vineyard, Sun Lake, William Hill and Sage Canyon, allowing Louis M. Martini to craft a complex Cabernet Sauvignon in a beautifully balanced blend.

black cherry blackberry and plum with cedar and spice; black olives and liquorice with an inky texture and plush, rounded tannins.

Very Good.

Match with red meats, such as pan-fried duck breast.

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