Galentine’s Day, a celebration of female friendships, is a delightful antidote to the heart-shaped holiday meant for couples. Galentine’s Day allows us to revel in the strength of women supporting women. This year, we’re embracing the spirit of sisterhood even more by showcasing five outstanding Napa Valley women winemakers in our picks for Galentine’s Day wines.
While Napa Valley’s most notable legacies were shaped by men such as Robert Mondavi, Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, and John Williams, the landscape has witnessed a simmering of female contributions growing into a full-blown boil. As examples, Josephine Tychson (the first woman to build and operate a winery in California in 1886), Heidi Barrett (responsible for some of California’s most notable cult wines), and Cathy Corison (who created her eponymous label in 1987), whose journeys opened doors, inspiring future generations of women to seize opportunities in the industry.
Recent data obtained via email from Napa Valley Vintners reveals that around 32% of the area’s winemakers are female. Brett Van Emst, the organization’s director of consumer marketing, also confirmed that approximately 25% hold the “head/lead winemaker” title.
Compared to the rest of the winemaking world, Napa Valley is on par with Italy, which has seen previous reports stating that one-quarter of its winemakers are female. However, it’s lower than places like Rias Baixas in Spain, which claims that half its winemakers are women.
With California’s most famous region amid a transformative shift, the surge in women at the helm is infusing new perspectives, flavors, and distinct energy into the world of wine.
As we navigate these five exceptional Galentine’s Day wines (some ranging far and wide from Napa’s flagship Cabernet Sauvignon), we recognize and toast the craftsmanship of the talented women behind the labels who are leaving an indelible mark on Napa Valley’s wine industry.
St. Clair Brown by Elaine St. Clair
North Coast AVA
St. Clair Brown Winery is a unique gem in the city of Napa as a boutique urban winery and nano-brewery. With estate vineyards in the Coombsville AVA, everything going into the winery goes out the cellar door, with an annual production of only 1,000 cases and no third-party distribution.
At the helm of St. Clair Brown Winery is the visionary winemaker Elaine St. Clair, a UC Davis graduate who is also the company’s brewmaster. In true Galentine’s Day spirit, Clair is one side of a partnership with longtime colleague and friend Laina Brown. Before founding the distinctive urban oasis in 2010, the duo spent nearly two decades together in roles at Domaine Carneros and Black Stallion wineries.
With a delicate sweetness, the St. Clair Brown Muscat 2022 is an excellent choice for a Galentine’s Day aperitif. From Lake County vineyards (just north of Napa County), this sought-after half-bottle has a modest 2g/L residual sugar that radiates orange blossom and honeysuckle aromas, leading into a vibrant medley of tropical fruits and ripe apricots.
Duckhorn by Renée Ary
North Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2022
North Coast AVA
Duckhorn Vineyards has been a country-wide mainstay on restaurant wine lists since its beginnings in 1976. The winery stands out for its accolades, being named as one of Wine & Spirits’ “Top 100 Wineries” seven times.
Renée Ary leads the winemaking team at Duckhorn and is only the fourth winemaker in the winery’s history. Ary’s experience is steeped in Napa Valley, whose first job was as a full-time lab technician at Robert Mondavi Winery in 1999. As a notable voice in the region, she was one of four winemakers to speak about the unique circumstances of last year’s growing season in the 2023 Napa Valley Vintage Report, available to watch for free on SOMM TV.
Sauvignon Blanc has been part of the Duckhorn portfolio since 1982. The 40th-anniversary rendition is bright and refreshing, incorporating grapes from Sonoma County, Napa Valley, Lake County, and Mendocino County. With 9.5% Sémillon, lemon, lime, and guava aromas set the stage. A small portion (8%) is aged in new French oak, contributing to a silky palate. With refreshing acidity, this textural white is versatile and incredibly food-friendly.
Tres Sabores by Julie Johnson
Ingrid & Julia Rosé 2022
Rutherford & Calistoga AVAs
As Napa Valley relishes its reign on Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s refreshing to discover someone walking their own path. Julie Johnson was one of the founding partners of Frog’s Leap Winery, along with her first husband, John Williams. In 1999, she sought to create something that expressed herself with Tres Sabores (meaning “three tastes”), focusing on wines that explore the taste of the vine, the terroir, and the delight of sharing wine with good company. As a passionate gardener and steward of the land, all Tres Sabores wines are dry-farmed and organically certified. She also grows pomegranates, Meyer lemons, and olives.
The Ingrid & Julia Rosé 2022 is a bright and refreshing wine from dedicated Rutherford estate Zinfandel and Calistoga Petite Sirah. The robust grapes were picked early and whole cluster-pressed, resulting in a hint of color. Aromas of red berries and peach introduce the wine, making way for a balanced palate of fruitiness and lively acidity. The result is a rosé perfect for sharing with friends on Galentine’s Day.
Signorello Estate by Priyanka French
Hope’s Chardonnay 2020
Napa Valley AVA
Signorella Estate has stood as a beacon of greatness in Napa Valley since 1977. Even after the winery burned down in the 2017 Tubbs Fire, it stands as a pillar of strength, maintaining its quality and commitment to craftspersonship.
Priyanka French, Signorello winemaker since 2019, has earned acclaim for her ability to create wines that marry tradition with innovation. After attending school in Mumbai and studying wine there, she came to the United States to complete her Master of Science in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis.
Watch French in SOMM TV’s Drink a Bottle with Priyanka and Meghan.
Named in honor of Ray Signorello Jr.’s mother, Hope Signorello, Hope’s Chardonnay 2020 is a testament to French’s expertise. It’s a harmonious blend of richness and freshness. Aromas of ripe tropical fruits and a hint of citrus entice the senses, leading to an elegant and well-balanced palate. The wine’s bright acidity complements the creamy texture, creating a Chardonnay that is both expressive and refined.
Corison Winery by Cathy Corison
Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
Napa Valley AVA
Corison Winery stands as a venerable presence in Napa Valley, known for its unwavering commitment to producing exceptional terroir-driven Cabernet Sauvignon. Founded by the visionary winemaker Cathy Corison, the winery has become synonymous with elegance.
With a passion for Cabernet Sauvignon and an unwavering pursuit of excellence, Corison has earned widespread acclaim for her ability to produce wines of remarkable depth and complexity. Her journey in winemaking is characterized by a deep connection to the land and a profound understanding of the nuances of each vintage.
Corison Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 is a masterful expression, exuding sophistication and finesse, with aromas of dark berries, cassis, and a hint of violet. On the palate, the wine reveals layers of rich fruit, seamlessly integrated with supple tannins and a lingering, velvety finish. The 2019 vintage highlights Corison’s unwavering commitment to crafting wines of exceptional balance and complexity.