Wonder Women: 10 female California winemakers to watch

Cathy Corison

2 Cathy CorisonA voice of restraint in a land of ‘look at me’ wines, Cathy Corison has been single-handedly championing elegant, fresh, lower alcohol California Cabernet at her eponymous winery since she launched her own label in 1987.

Born in Riverside, Corison studied biology at Pomona College in Claremont, where she was forced to join the men’s diving team, as a women’s team didn’t exist. Studying oenology at UC Davis in the mid-70s at the same time as Rhône Ranger Randall Grahm, Corison was told by her professor that she’d struggle getting a winemaker job in Napa because she was a woman. Undeterred, she joined Freemark Abbey as an intern and worked her way up to the role of winemaker, then moved to Chappellet as chief winemaker, where she stayed for a decade.

Having also chalked up stints at Staglin Family Vineyard, York Creek Vineyards and Long Meadow Ranch, today Corison makes two Cabernets – a blend from sites near Rutherford, and a single-vineyard Cab from the organically farmed Kronos vineyard next to her winery, which boasts deep, stony alluvial soil.

Uncompromising and exacting in her ‘hands-off’ approach, Corison’s aim is to make terroir-driven “complex wines that walk the fine line between power and elegance” and have “a long and interesting life” ahead of them. So far, she is most proud of the 2001 vintage from her Kronos vineyard. “The fruit flavours are bright, natural acidity snappy and the tannins feel like velvet. This was the first vintage that made me realise what my vineyard could do,” she says.

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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