Wonder Women: 10 female California winemakers to watch

Helen Turley

7 Helen Turley b&wThe elusive Helen Turley is best known for bringing some of California’s most famous wines into the international spotlight. The Cornell graduate is at the helm of the revered 3.5-hectare Marcassin Vineyard (French for ‘young wild boar’) in the Sonoma Coast, which specialises in boutique botttlings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made in the Burgundian style. Known for being one step ahead of the game, she was an early champion of Sonoma Coast, planting vines there in 1991 at a time when most people considered it too cold for winemaking.

Working as chief winemaker for Turley Wine Cellars until 1995, she has consulted for the likes of California heavyweights Colgin, Kapcsandy and Bryant Family Vineyards. Starting out in the lab at Robert Mondavi Winery then moving to Chappellet, after a brief stint of making wine in Kentucky, Turley went on to become the founding winemaker of the Peter Michael Winery in Sonoma County, where she developed Les Pavots, Peter Michael’s flagship Bordeaux blend.

Helen’s winemaking philosophy is simple: meticulously farmed vineyards, limited yield, long hang time and natural yeast. She is currently writing a book about her experiences at Marcassin.

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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