Vintages - Meet 8 Top Women Winemakers

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Feature Story: Meet 8 Top Women Winemakers

In honour of International Women’s Day, we turn the spotlight on the talent behind some of your favourite wines.

As you browse our website or the shelves in our stores, you come face to face with the creations of some of the most talented, respected winemakers in the world. In honour of International Women’s Day (March 8), we want to draw your attention to the work of eight women who play starring roles in shaping the wines you love.

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RENEE ARY of Duckhorn Vineyards

Renee Ary earned degrees in chemistry and art from Saint Mary’s College of California and studied winemaking at UC Davis and Napa Valley College. After working in the laboratory of Robert Mondavi Winery for four years, Renee joined Duckhorn in 2003, working with winemaker Mark Beringer. Beringer was instrumental in providing Renee with a complete, rounded understanding of farming and viticulture. Over the next 11 years she worked as a lab manager, oenologist and assistant winemaker, becoming associate winemaker in charge of Duckhorn’s Sauvignon Blanc and Monitor Ledge Vineyard wines before being named Duckhorn’s winemaker in 2014. Renee excels in small-batch winemaking, working to allow “… vineyards [to] speak and convey the soul of the wine …” and reflect the legacy of this iconic winery.


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ELENA BROOKS of Sister’s Run

Elena Brooks left her native Bulgaria to study viniculture in Australia, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in oenology from the University of Adelaide. Though Australia remains her adopted viticultural home, she has crafted wines in Spain, Italy and Bulgaria. Highly skilled and experienced, Elena has a long list of accolades including being part of the team that crafted the Geoff Merrill Reserve Shiraz 2004, which in 2005 earned Australia’s highest winemaking award: the coveted Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy. Her wines have also taken honours at the Great Australian Shiraz Challenge, the Decanter World Wine Awards, the Royal Brisbane Wine Show and the Barossa Wine Show. In 2017, she became the first winemaker to win back-to-back Best in Show trophies at the AWC Vienna. Much in demand, Elena crafts wines for several leading Australian producers, including Heirloom Vineyards and her own Dandelion Vineyards, as well as Sister’s Run.


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ONDINE CHATTAN of Cannonball Wine Co.

A true renaissance woman, Ondine Chattan became enthralled with art, science and nature at an early age. The daughter of an artist and a theatre set designer, she spent her days studying insects and flowering plants in the marshlands near her home, or visiting museums and exhibits in nearby San Francisco. For some time she was caught between pursuing a career in science or one in the arts, when a lecture on viticulture at the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo clarified the issue, showing Ondine that winemaking would allow her to combine her interests. A daring winemaker known for her willingness to take risks, Ondine has a master’s degree in oenology from California State University, Fresno; and has worked for Cline Cellars, Ridge Vineyards and Geyser Peak (serving as director of winemaking from 2010 to 2017 at the latter), to name but a few.


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JANE COOPER of Ohau Wines

A visit to a Hawke’s Bay winery in the early 1990s prompted an interest in wine that saw Jane Cooper move away from pursuing a law degree to studying viticulture and oenology at New Zealand’s Lincoln University. She has travelled and worked in places such as Chile, Australia’s Hunter Valley, and the Trento region in Italy, as well as serving 14 years as general manager and chief winemaker at Matahiwi Estates in Wairarapa. Her work in Ohau is helping define this new subregion; a unique area on the North Island’s Kapiti Coast that saw its first harvest in 2009. One of New Zealand’s leading winemakers, she is much in demand as a wine judge and is chair of judges for the prestigious Royal Easter Wine Show Awards. Along with her wife, Lesley Reidy, Jane opened her own urban winery, Alexia, in Greytown in December of 2020.


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KELLY MASON of Domaine Queylus

Born and raised in Montreal, Kelly Mason has a Bachelor of Science from Western University, an International MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University and a viticulture degree from Brock University. Her wine career began in 2007 with an internship at Saintsbury Winery in the Carneros subregion of the Napa Valley. She specializes in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and her work in Ontario included stints with such notables as Tawse Winery and Le Clos Jordanne before she joined Thomas Bachelder at Queylus in 2013. Kelly has been the principal winemaker at Queylus since 2016. Some of the fruit for Domaine Queylus wines is sourced from the 30-year-old vines of her eponymous Mason Vineyard. She purchased this Twenty Mile Bench site in 2012.


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NADIA ZENATO of Zenato

Founded in 1960, Zenato is one of the most significant and well-known names in wine. Family-run, innovative, and dedicated to the preservation and celebration of indigenous varieties such as Trebbiano di Lugana, Zenato has long been a benchmark for tradition and quality. Nadia Zenato began working alongside her father, Sergio, when she was 20, representing the family at international trade fairs. Today, her responsibilities include communications and sales, where she endeavours to enhance and preserve the international profile of the iconic Zenato wines. Her work has seen her become involved with many important initiatives and she continues to be a sought-after presenter and educator. Nadia also helms a line of jewelry, which features designs inspired by her family’s wines and her world travel.

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SUSANA BALBO of Dominio del Plata

Argentina’s first female oenologist, Susana Balbo graduated with honours from the Don Bosco University, in Mendoza, in 1981, and has served as president of Wines of Argentina three times. Her remarkable career has included groundbreaking work with Torrontés in Salta, as well as having a lasting influence on women’s issues, sustainability and politics.


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DR. LAURA CATENA of Bodega Catena Zapata

Dr. Catena is a renowned flying winemaker, author and, until very recently, a pediatric emergency department doctor. When her father, iconic winemaker Nicolás Catena, turned 80 in 2019, she shifted her focus to overseeing the family’s wine operations. When at home in San Francisco, she volunteers her medical skills at a clinic for the homeless.

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