Meet the Next Generation Of California Vintners

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Picture Courtesy Of Melanie Acevedo

Friends at a wine fueled roundtable on breaking the glass ceiling, friendship, and the future of the wine industry.

It’s early in the afternoon on a sunny Sunday in Napa Valley, and the question isn’t whether to have another glass of wine; it’s which one—or whose, really—to have next.

This pleasant conundrum is typical when friends Shannon Staglin, Jasmine Hirsch, Carissa Mondavi, Maya Dalla Valle, and Sarah Heller get together.

Heller’s a chef, but the other four could be a snapshot of the future of California wine.

All are poised to write the next chapter of history at their families’ respective wineries.

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The wine industry has been a male dominated business for a long time—of the more than 3,700 wineries in California, only about 10 percent have a female lead winemaker, according to professors emeritus Lucia and John Gilbert of Santa Clara University’s Women Winemakers research project. But slowly, surely, that paradigm is changing.

Consider that in 2017, for the first time, more women than men were enrolled in the viticulture and enology program at University of California, Davis—both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Consider also this group of friends: Staglin and Mondavi have been pals since around 2011, when they were both working in sales and marketing for their family companies.

Picture Courtesy Of Melanie Acevedo

“We spent a lot of time hanging out at the Rutherford Grill together,” Staglin recalls. Hirsch met Mondavi around the same time: “I remember a mutual friend saying to me, ‘You really need to get to know each other.’” Dalla Valle, who’s a few years younger, is a later addition to the group. All of them have leadership roles at their wineries, but as Hirsch says, “We also know we can always ask each other for advice. I’ve talked a lot with Shannon and Carissa about how to handle critics and so on. Being Napa Cabernet producers, they know that world much more.”

Hirsch’s family vineyard on Sonoma’s far coast is renowned for Pinot Noir.)