Wonder Women: 10 female California winemakers to watch

Genevieve Janssens

9 Genevieve JanssensHailing from a long line of winemakers, Genevieve Janssens has grape growing in her blood. Born in Morocco and raised in France, as a child she closely observed her winemaker father and dreamed of one day making wine herself. Studying oenology at the University of Bordeaux, she cut her teeth making wine at her family estate in Corsica in the mid-70s and went on to consult for a number of French châteaux.
Moving to the sun-drenched Napa Valley in 1978, she was lucky enough to be mentored by the godfather of Californian wine, Robert Mondavi, whom, she says, shared her father’s holistic approach to grape growing.

“He had such a passion for perfection. We’d finish a blend and he would say, ‘This is excellent, but we can do better’. He pushed me to make the very best wines possible.” In 1989 she took on the role of director of production at Opus One – Mondavi’s Napa-based joint venture with Baron Philippe de Rothschild, becoming director of winemaking at Robert Mondavi Winery in 1997.

From the beginning, Janssens has pursued her goal of making approachable, fruit-forward wines of elegance and finesse that complement food. She played a pivotal role in the building of the To Kalon winemaking facility within the To Kalon vineyard – the winery’s first major renovation since it was founded in 1966. Janssens is optimistic about the future of Californian wine, believing that quality “will continue to soar”.

9 Responses to “Wonder Women: 10 female California winemakers to watch”

  1. Very enjoyable and thorough article, but am surprised you missed Bibiana González Rave, winemaker for Wayfarer and the San Francisco Chronicle’s Winemaker of the Year.

  2. Steve Bslmutj says:

    How did you leave off Jordan Fiorentini from Epoch.

  3. Sandra Roberts says:

    Missed one…Danielle Cyrot. Cade Estata, Howell Mtn

  4. Kent Benson says:

    Didn’t know WSET ever had “sommelier” exams. Might want to double check that. First paragraph of Terrizzi profile.

  5. Kent Benson says:

    Re Barrett profile: Since the topic is winemakers, give credit where credit is due. The person who “made” the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was Mike Grgich.

  6. Penny Gadd-Coster is a winemaker in Sonoma County who won “Winemaker of the Year” in 2013 in the inaugural Wine Industry Awards, a great achievement considering contenders were from the entire Napa, Sonoma and greater Bay Area winemaking regions! She’s also won over 30 Best of Class, Best of Show, Sweepstakes, Gold medals and 90+ point ratings for four wines in the past few years!

  7. Bob Kugler says:

    You missed Signe Zoller at 72 years young, graduated from Davis with a MS in enology chemistry. Founding winemaker for Jess at Kendal Jackson and now winemaker for AVE.

  8. Nice article, and I’m sure we all have additions to make. Mine are Milla Handley of Handley Cellars in Anderson Valley and Shauna Rosenblum of Rock Wall Wine Co.

  9. Carlos Rodda says:

    Agree with Kent above, it was made by WINEMAKER Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, winery was OWNED by the Barretts!

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