WOMEN WINEMAKERS Why So Few? Big Gender Shift Ahead!

By Payne Johnson

facts, figures and graphics in this article  about women winemakers are courtesy of  Dr. Lucia Gilbert and her husband  Dr.Jack Gilbert

Lucia Gilbert

Lucia Gilbert



Of the 3200 + wineries in California, approximately 10% of the wineries have a woman as their lead winemaker, and the number will double soon!

jack gilbert

Jack Gilbert


Modern women are rapidly proving to be successful vineyard winemakers as well as assuming management positions in marketing and other segments of the wine business, and many are becoming acclaimed today.


Much of this women winemaker’s advancement has been centered in the California vineyards, and to me, a particularly telling statistic is that suddenly, for the past ten years, the majority of advanced degree students at the famed University of California-Davis Viticulture School, have been female!


It is also not surprising to note that women are believed to be responsible for purchasing approximately two-thirds of all wine sold in the United States!  That is a major ‘Tell’ for wine marketers.


A leading catalyst in this movement to encourage and increase the number of women becoming leaders in producing and selling fine wine, is Lucia Albino Gilbert, Ph.D. Lucia developed the concept and organization titled “Women Winemakers of California,” (see:http://womenwinemakers.com/ and is currently a Professor of Psychology and Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University. Her background includes having served as a Centennial Honors Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Lucia labors daily in her quest to honor woman as wine industry leaders and is working to do so alongside her husband, John Card Gilbert,Ph.D. a Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry at Santa Clara University.


Lucia takes great pride in mentoring and keeping track of the growing numbers of women who are becoming some of the stars that craft the great wines in the California wine industry. She gathers data supporting that continuing growth of women in the field, noting that currently, almost 10% of California wineries have women as the main or lead winemakers and she strongly believes that the figure will increase to 15-20% in the near future, further narrowing that traditional gender gap. She keeps track of who are the successful women in wine, where they received their educations and experience, which are the regions in which they work, whom they work for, and carefully compiles their accomplishments and triumphs in developing fine wines.

Below are a few of the women who merit

special attention for wine lovers:

claudia gilbert 

Claudia Schubert

A Wine Industry Success Story


 Claudi Schubert was recently promoted to be President of Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines, headquartered in Napa, California.After earning an MBA at Harvard Business School, she started at Diageo in 2002 as director of financial planning and analysis, was appointed general manager for the Pacific Northwest before now being named the new President of the Company.

Diageo wine brands from Napa Valley, Sonoma, Central Coast, France, New Zealand and Australia include Beaulieu Vineyard, Sterling Vineyards, Sterling Vintner’s Collection, Rosenblum Cellars, Chalone Vineyard, Acacia Vineyard and Provenance Vineyards. The division also imports classified Bordeaux and Burgundy estate-bottled wines.

 Kris Curran

Kris Curran

Kris Curran put Pinot Noir back in the limelight with her most famous wine, Sea Smoke, which was featured in the movie Sideways. She currently lives in Santa Ynez, an area that’s expanding in popularity.

She has consulted at Koehler Winery, Seasmoke Cellars, Foley Wines, Cambria Winery, Badge and D’Alfonso-Curran Wines, with husband Bruno D’Alfonso.

 Heidi Peterson Gilbert

Heidi Peterson Barrett

As winemaker for Screaming Eagle Cabernet she was awarded a one-hundred point score making she and her Cabernet an overnight sensation. Then in 2000 and 2003 its success continued as the most expensive California wine ever sold and continues demanding the highest retail prices today thanks to Heidi’s efforts. Now a world famous wine consultant, Heidi has launched La Sirena, a wine of similar quality to that of Screaming Eagle, but La Sirena wine is substantially more affordable. Other wineries that Heidi has worked with include: Dalla Valle Vineyards, Paradigm Winery, Grace Family Vineyards, Amuse Bouche, Lamborn Family Vineyards, Showket Vineyards, Fantesca, Diamond Creek Vineyards and Niebaum-Coppola.

 Helen Turley

Helen Turley

She was making Chardonnay in Napa when her brother asked her to produce Old Vine Zinfandel at Turley Winery. At Turley she found success in her signature winemaking style of using ripe old vine zinfandel grapes and natural yeasts. Eventually Helen started her own label, Marcassin, which also produces Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They are rich wines that see extended barrel aging. Some have noted they’re as good as drinking gold and just about as expensive.  Helen Turley has had her hand in Pahlmeyer, B.R. Cohn Olive Hill Vineyard, Turley Wine Cellars, Peter Michael Winery, Colgin, Bryant Family Vineyard, Martinelli Winery, Green & Red, Harrison, La Jota, Landmark and Turley Wine Cellars, BR Cohn

  • Among all California wineries, a significantly smaller proportion of women than men winemakers are also owners of their wineries (4% vs. 47%). Among those wineries with women winemakers, 39% are both owners and winemakers; among those with men winemakers, the figure is 52%.
  • Of the 2600+ lead winemakers in California, approximately 1% of the female winemakers and 11% of the male winemakers craft wine for more than one California winery.


women stats

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