Women of Garagiste

By Melanie Webber

If this year’s
Garagiste Festival is any evidence, women are making strong inroads into the
IMG_3130traditionally male-dominated wine industry.  Of the 48 garagiste wineries
pouring at this year’s festival, nearly 60% boast a woman as winemaker, owner
or co-owner. And that is good news for the industry, at least in this female
oenophiliac’s opinion. Today, less than10% of California wineries have women as
the main or lead winemakers. 

It is easy to
immediately jump to the conclusion that this small number is all about sexism –
and the legacy impact of male dominance in the field should not be discounted –
but it is probably as much a
reflection of what historically were the pure physical challenges of
winemaking, as of anything else. The good news is that today’s technology and
equipment equals the playing field -- after all, almost anyone can drive a
forklift, stomp grapes or clean barrels.   And while the truth is
that no one thinks twice about the gender of a winemaker while lingering over a
particularly fine Zinfandel or tasting for the first time the wonders that can
be wrought from Carignane by a really good winemaker, the wines produced by J.Dusi’s Janell RCamybutlerDusi, Ranchero Cellars’ Amy Butler, Giornata’s Stephanie
Terrizzi or Rangeland Wines’ Shannon Gustafson – all women winemakers
pouring at the 2012 Garagiste Festival - can certainly makes us all exceedingly
grateful that the winemaking playing field has, indeed, been leveled. 
And, of course, for the team at the Garagiste Festival (50% of which are
women), there is huge pride in seeing the significant influence of women in the
garagiste movement

This emergence in the
garagiste arena is no surprise. Garagiste winemaking by its very nature
provides a richly unique environment for women (as well as men) to learn
winemaking on the job, as well as to experiment, and to maintain control,
because the businesses are small and the winemaking completely hands-on – one
of the many reasons garagistes wines can be so sublime.   And, for many garagiste wineries, the operation is truly mom and
pop, with the winery often the second job for both, meaning that it truly is
all hands on deck by necessity.  That direct learning can be as good as
anything taught at a university viticulture program. Plus, because these are
small businesses usually with no employees, it puts the owners/co-owners out in
the front of the winery, not behind the scenes – meaning these hardworking
women, passionate about their hand-crafted wine, are very visible to the
public, providing excellent role models for girls who may contemplate making
wine as a career choice (or career women who are contemplating making a second
career choice)!

Another woman who has
had a powerful influence in the Central Coast wine industry as sommelier andS178-WN15Degrees003bw.mi_embedded.prod_affiliate.76
proprietor of 15C Wine Shop and Bar is Ali Rush Carscaden, who has built her
business into the Central Coast’s go-to
place for both industry and in-the-know wine consumers.  To highlight the
remarkable women of garagiste, Ali is hosting a special pre-Garagiste Festival tasting - “The Women of Garagiste" - at her brand new
Templeton location, Saturday November 3rd at 6pm, featuring the wines of five of the women
winemakers/owners (Alta Colina Vineyards, Ambyth Estate,
, J. Dusi, and Ranchero Cellars) pouring at the
festival. And, to taste the wines of all the men and women who are pouring some
of the best artisan wines anywhere in the world, join us at The
Garagiste Festival
, on November 10th at beautiful Windfall Farms!

Melanie Webber is in charge of Public Relations for The Garagiste
Festival. Her public relations agency, mWEBB Communications, Inc., won a
2011 American Business Award for PR/Communications Campaign of the
Year. She is a lover of all things Central Coast, especially the wines,
and is working on advancing her wine knowledge through the WSET program.