From winemaking in the coveted regions across the U.S., as well as South Africa, here are four spirited women and some of the wines they’re making to pique your curiosity and prompt your palate. With International Women’s Month celebrated duringMarch, take a moment to get to know these women winemakers and their outstanding wines.
Sharon Fenchak, winemaker for Biltmore Wines
What is it like to make wines from vineyards across America? Sharon Fenchak can tell you all about that. Sharon joined the team at Biltmore Wines in 1999 and is now Head Winemaker as of 2018. She oversees wine production not only from Biltmore’s estate vineyards in North Carolina, but also with fruit sourced from key growers and partners in prime wine appellations on the west coast as well. The mission behind the wine portfolio for Biltmore Estate is to continue the legacy of hospitality set by founder George Vanderbilt.
Two wines to try:
Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay North Carolina 2019, $24. Biltmore Reserve Viognier North Carolina, handcrafted from locally-grown grapes, that serves as a refreshing wine year-round. It brings a feast of fruits to your palate, with notes of lime, kiwi, Meyer lemon, Granny Smith apple, and tangerine. The crisp harvest of flavors offers a pleasant mouthfeel and balanced acidity. A wonderfully aromatic white wine, it pairs impeccably with crab, lobster, oysters, prawns, and scallops.
Biltmore Estate American Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, $22. Remarkably smooth, this delightful wine gives you a well-rounded experience. Vanilla aromas fill the nose, while lush cherry flavors and soft, lingering tannins layer on your palate. When enjoying the Biltmore Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, pair it with beef dinners, cheddar and smoked cheeses, gouda, chocolate cake, lamb, and squash dishes.
Megan McCollough, winemaker for Smith & Hook
A native Californian educated at Cal Poly SLO, Megan began her wine career in Central Coast tasting rooms, learning to explain wine to others as she herself learned to craft it. After two harvests at a custom crush facility, she joined Hahn Family Wines as an enologist in 2011. She was promoted to Assistant Winemaker in 2015, then Winemaker in 2017, focusing on the Smith & Hook label’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Blend. No stranger to adventure, she still works closely with the winemaking and cellar crews of Hahn Family Wines and as winemaker for Smith & Hook, she has quickly become a true expert of California’s Central Coast and continues to set an example for other young winemakers in California.
Try one of her latest reds:
2017 Smith & Hook Proprietary Red Blend, $25. Aromas of ripe blackberry and black cherry, balanced with notes of cocoa bean, vanilla and nuanced toasted oak. The refined yet plush palate with flavors of bramble berries, dark fruit, and dried cherry with silky layers of tannins and a hint of slate on the finish.
Linda Trotta, North Coast Winemaker of WX Brands
Linda loves vineyards. When starting her career more than 30 years ago, she initially wanted to go into viticulture. However, there were no women role models for her at the time, so she chose winemaking where mentors like Zelma Long were blazing trails for other women to come up the ranks. Are things different today? Linda has spent her career mentoring and leading teams and she’s proud to say the field IS evolving, but there’s work to be done.
Some wines to try:
2019 Bread & Butter Rosé, $16. This refreshing rosé shares generous notes of fresh strawberry and melon, with hints of hibiscus and rose petal. Juicy red fruit flavors are complemented by balanced acidity and a rich, lively finish
2019 Silver Spur Lake County Sauvignon Blanc, $18. Crisp, dry and vibrant, our small production Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc comes from a singular vineyard block near the Napa River.
From a singular vineyard block near the Napa River, this wine is crisp and dry with vibrant, ripe flavors of guava, apricot, honeysuckle, green apple, lemon zest and candied lemon peel. Tropical fruit aromas are complemented by floral notes and a grassy character. These complex aromas and bright fruit are preserved beautifully through meticulous practices by our Winemaker including gentle hand-harvesting and a cool fermentation in stainless steel. Post-fermentation lees contact adds a layer of creamy richness to the finish. Jamieson Ranch Vineyards is named after an historic rancher who helped to settle the Napa Valley. Today, we pay homage to the rich ranching tradition of the Napa Valley through our wines. Worn by those who made the Napa Valley and American West what it is today, the Spur was a tool used by cowboys and ranchers to direct, propel and advance a horse forward. Similar to a spur, our Winemaker directs grapes grown in exceptional vineyards into become intriguing and elegant examples of their varietal.
Elunda Basson, Winemaker for Steenberg Vineyards
Steenberg Cellarmaster Elunda Basson is an accomplished winemaker and respected specialist of her craft. She joined South Africa’s Steenberg Vineyards in June 2019 at the pinnacle of an illustrious career spanning more than two decades making still and sparkling wines for leaders in the South African wine industry. Located in the storied Constantia wine region, Steenberg Vineyards can also boast of being the oldest registered farm in the country, dating to 1682. Today the property thrives under Elunda's expertise, producing some of the best Sauvignon Blanc wines in the country. Steenberg’s distinctive wines exhibit freshness, elegance and finesse. Alongside Sauvignon Blanc, the vineyards are home to Bordeaux varietals and one of the few investments in Nebbiolo in the Cape area.
Check out this truly unique take on Sauvignon Blanc, the Steenberg NV Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc. $18. It is a traditional method sparkling twist on everyone’s favorite varietal. This sparkling Sauvignon Blanc is made to be fun, fruity and fresh. The nose is full and intense with aromas of passion fruit, summer melons and a hint of lime. The palate is light and smooth yet with a zippy acidity to lift the tropical flavors of pineapple, pear and guava. A fresh brightness rounds off a delicious and refreshing sparkling wine, a perfect drink for a hot summer’s day. The Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc base wine is made in the traditional method, harvested by hand and gently whole bunch pressed at low pressures in order to not extract bitter phenols. The juice was settled overnight and racked clean before fermentation. Fermentation took place at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks and took three weeks to complete. After the primary fermentation; the wine was stabilized and prepared for the secondary fermentation in bottle. The secondary fermentation in bottle took three months to complete and the first disgorgement took place in May 2018.