Wonder Women: 10 female California winemakers to watch

Celia Welch

4 Celia WelchAs a child growing up in Oregon, Celia Welch would sit under a giant oak in her back garden picking grapes from their stems for her winemaker father. During high school she dreamed of working as a perfume maker in France, but, after graduating from UC Davis with a degree in fermentation science, she fled to New Zealand and Australia’s Barossa Valley instead to gain valuable winemaking experience before returning to the Napa Valley to work at Silverado Vineyards. Moving to Robert Pepi winery in the early 90s, she went on to consult for a number of top Napa names during the 90s, including Staglin Family Vineyard.

Today Welch is responsible for California ‘cult’ wine Scarecrow. Launched in 2006, Scrarecrow’s debut 2003 vintage, made from old-vine Cabernet grown on a 10-hectare plot in Rutherford, was given 98 points by Robert Parker – a feat only bettered by Screaming Eagle. A year on, the 2004 vintage sold out in 16 hours. With just 400-800 cases produced annually, depending on the vintage, the wine has a celebrity following and commands healthy hammer prices at auction.

In 2004 Welch launched her own label, Corra, named after the Celtic goddess of prophecy, where she makes high-end Cabernet from grapes grown in Rutherford, Oakville and Pritchard Hill. Keen for her wines to bear the hallmarks of the land from which they came rather than the hand that made them, to retain the vineyard’s personality Welch picks earlier than many in Napa.

The wine she’s most proud of so far is the aforementioned Scarecrow 2003. “Even in barrel shortly after fermentation the wine was a knockout. I was tremendously proud that it presented itself with such beauty and complexity on release,” she says. “It’s such a thrill to take an existing vineyard and realise the quality that was there all along.”

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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