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Women and Wine: Trends in Family Winemaking

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You may wonder why I’m writing about this—snore—another wine event that you can’t attend unless you’re a member of the trade or media (we’re both). But this story is different.


I look forward to this event more than any other in Los Angeles, and this year they Family Winemakers of California included a San Diego event that was also open to the public. Over 250 wineries participated for the tenth year in Pasadena and while there were many familiar faces, many were also there to show their first vintage.


Imagine that this event is open to only family run wineries and while you might say “of course” take a moment to think about how few businesses or industries today are run by family members. What’s even more shocking is that some of these operations only make a total of 100–300 cases a year, while others are approaching the 35,000+.


These aren’t hedge fund guys looking for a vanity project—they are working wineries (sure they may have retired with hedge fund money used to get started) but you have to own and operate these wineries to be included. The goal of the organization, which was founded in 1991, to “protect the little guy” and keep them informed as well as give input on issues directly affecting these wineries and winemakers (many act in a dual capacity) such as direct shipping, etc.


With the tough economic times, issues of global warming, water shortages for farmers in California and more, I really admire the folks who make these wines. They do it because they have a passion for it and put their heart and soul into every bottle.


It was fun yesterday running into old friends, meeting new ones, but here are a few trends:


  • Cabernet prices for small producers seem to have leveled out
  • More varietals like Sangiovese, Granache, and Roussanne coming down the pike with the 2006/07 releases
  • Lots of Sauvignon Blanc
  • Lots of bottles called RED
  • Lots of guys tasting in Hawaiian shirts
  • Lots of pretty women pouring
  • Lots of women winemakers
  • Lots of women owners married to the winery owner or winemakers
  • Trend towards very minimalist label
  • Trend towards very LOUD labels (can’t say these seem approachable to me)


The place was packed and I purposely limited myself to only one and half hours to taste and only Cabs and an occasional Pinot (couldn’t help myself) or white from a first time producer.


So I highly recommend that you go to familywinemakers.org and see which wineries participate and try supporting “the little guy/gal.” They need you now more than ever.


Have a favorite family winemaker? Post your story at womenwine.com

Photo courtesy of Women & Wine

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