The Next Generation of Family Owned Wineries

On a recent virtual tasting, I met four people who are continuing their family traditions by working in the family winery. But what stood out was that all four people were women. I love seeing more women take leading roles in their wineries and wrote about it in the Napa Valley Register and share it here.

Wineries all over the world have been passed down from generation to generation. Whether it is two generations or 15 generations, historically the winery is handed off to a male in the family. But over the last couple of decades, that has shifted, and more women have continued their family legacies.

Laura Catena of Catena of Bodegas Catena Zapata & Bodegas CARO in Mendoza, Argentina, moderated a panel with Anne Trimbach of Trimbach in Alsace, France, Laure Colombo of Vins Jean-Luc Colombo in Cornas in the Rhone Valley, France and Alessia Collauto Travaglini of Travaglini in Gattinara, Piemonte, Italy. These women were all born into multi-generation family-owned wineries. Each one followed a different path before joining their family business and they shared their stories in a virtual tasting.

Laura Catena
Proprietor, Bodegas Catena Zapata & Bodegas CARO, Mendoza, Argentina

Laura Catena is a fourth-generation Argentine vintner, physician, and author. Her great-grandfather founded Catena Winery in 1902 and Laura joined her father Nicolás Catena Zapata in the winery in 1995. While her father is often referred to as “the Robert Mondavi of Argentina,” Laura has been called “the face of Argentine wine.” Laura is a proprietor of Bodegas CARO, a winey born of the alliance between two families, Nicolás Catena and Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite).

When Laura first began working with her father in 1995, men were in the top positions. There were some women in winemaking but none in viticulture. Winemaking studies were less than 30 percent female and after graduation, many went into business, not winemaking.

Laura’s entire career, she has fought for equal pay. While she knows there is still so much work to be done, she is very excited about the future because of all of the extraordinary women working in wine today.

Bodegas CARO, CARO 2017 ($70) — A blend of two noble grape varieties, Caro is a blend of 74 percent Malbec and 26 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes come from the best blocks of the high-altitude vineyards in Mendoza. The wine is aged for 18 months in French oak. The Malbec softens the bitterness of the Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine has aromas of red fruit, violets and baking spices and has a beautiful richness on the palate. The tannins are firm, and the acidity is refreshing.

Anne Trimbach
Export manager, Trimbach, Alsace, France

Trimbach in Alsace, France has an extraordinary legacy going back to 1626. Anne Trimbach is the 13th generation in her family, yet she is the first woman to be in the forefront of the family business. Anne grew up in the winery always knowing that she wanted to work there. Anne studied economics in Strasburg and then got her master’s degree in winemaking in Burgundy. She returned to Alsace in 2008 to formally work as a winemaker and Trimbach ambassador.

Her great uncle expressed his doubts when she returned to Alsace. He questioned how she would be able to manage work and a family.

“I had to prove myself and I think my family is happy with the work I have done,” she said. Today Anne has a daughter and she travels to spread the word about Trimbach. She also built a website and started sharing the Trimbach story on social media, catching the attention of many people.

Trimbach “Réserve” Riesling 2017 — Riesling is half of Trimbach’s production. For the Reserve Riesling, the grapes are sourced from old vineyards that are 45-50 years old with marl and limestone soils. The aromas in this wine are gorgeous. Notes of stone fruit, lime peel, flowers, grapefruit, and a touch of petrol. But as lovely as the nose is, it is about the sensation on the palate. The wine is dry, steely, and vibrant.

Laure Colombo
Winemaker, Jean-Luc Colombo, Cornas, Rhone Valley, France

Jean-Luc Colombo established the winery in 1994 and Laure is the second-generation. She grew up in the small village of Cornas “in the middle of nowhere,” as she described. Laure’s goal was to escape. She did not plan to work in wine. Instead, she wanted to live in big cities and travel around the world. After an internship with wine importer Palm Bay International, Laura worked in India and then at Moet and Chandon for one year. “Traveling around the world, I learned about my roots. India and Champagne were not in my blood, and I wanted to come back,” she said.

Laura joined the family in 2010, learning little by little as she worked with her mother and father. “It is not easy to come back and work with your family. I would not say that I took over, rather I joined the family adventure.” Laure received a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and enology in Bordeaux and then went on to receive her master’s degree in enology from the University of Montpellier. In addition to being the winemaker at Jean-Luc Colombo, Laure started a winery with her husband in 2014.

Jean-Luc Colombo 2018 Saint-Peray AOC “La Belle De Mai” ($45) — A blend of two-thirds Roussanne and one-third Marsanne, the grapes come from a single vineyard in the oldest part of the small 10-hectare appellation located next to Cornas in the southern part of northern Rhone. The grapes are handpicked and fermented together in oak barrels and then the wine is aged on the lees for six months. The wine is beautifully aromatic with floral perfume, herbaceous, and wet stone mineral notes. On the palate, the wine is velvety with a rich round mid-palate. The delicate acidity lingers on the palate.

Alessia Collauto Travaglini
Sales and marketing, Travaglini, Gattinara, Piemonte, Italy

When Alessia was a little girl, her dream job was to be a truck driver. The fifth generation of the Travaglini wine family, she lived in front of the winery and would see the suppliers arrive each day and would talk to them. As a child, she thought this was the perfect job. As Alessia grew up, she and her sister were introduced to everyday aspects of the business. She would follow her mother during tours of the winery and would get caught, thanks to her stained lips, for putting her finger in the barrels. She spent Sundays in the vineyard during pruning, and her father would talk to her about the secrets of the vines. Her parents’ passion for wine was transferred to Alessia and her sister.

Alessia studied economics at university. Out of personal curiosity, she studied to be a sommelier, receiving her Certificate of Sommelier in 2017. Alessia worked in restaurants and learned to talk about other wineries before coming to her family winery. This experience “opened my mind and made me curious but most importantly about the communication of wine,” she said. “It is not about a single characteristic but about the stories, the link to the territory, that make wine special.” Now when Alessia is talking about her own wines, she thinks about how she used to present other wines.

Travaglini 2016 Gattinara DOCG ($30) — The Travaglini family has vineyards on each of the four hills of Gattinara. Each hill has a different altitude, sun exposure, soils, and vine age. This 100 percent Nebbiolo is a blend of all four vineyards. The wine is aged for three years, two of which are in big Slovenian oaks. This wine has lovely notes of dried roses, raspberry, cherries, and cinnamon. On the palate, the wine is fresh and sleek with grippy tannins and minerality on the finish.

As each new generation continues the tradition of their parents and grandparents, it is inspiring to see such amazing women at the forefront.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.