Meeting Annie Favia at a recent tasting was invigorating and informative. One expects the unexpected when it comes to talented Winemakers and their wide-ranging personalities, and Annie didn’t disappoint. Direct, yet gracious. Determined, yet graceful. Her wines, much the same. Take the 2010 Favia Cerro Sur. Sampled twice at a pair of terrific tastings, the predominantly cabernet franc (15% cabernet sauvignon) wine was the class act each time. Boasting hallmarks of wholly woven integration, finely knit tannins, perfectly scaled balance of finesse and power, the wine ranks with the very best cab francs worldwide. It’s a showstopper, but, like it’s Winemaker, not due to overt behavior, rather the lack thereof. Thoughtful, complex, fully realized even at this relatively youthful stage, like all the wines Annie Favia makes, the Cerro Sur is worth the search and the price.
Speaking of search and price, Maggie Harrison (Antica Terra and Lillian wines) just released her first-ever cabernet sauvignon, and, like it’s Winemaker, it’s a winner. Maggie, a Manfred Krankl (Sine Qua Non, Mr K wines) disciple, couldn’t just keep it simple, so it’s a single vineyard Lillian cab from Howell Mountain in Napa, but it doesn’t carry a vintage designation, and she’s not saying (my guess – mostly 2011 with a little 2012). Slight reductivity on opening burns off quickly, as does a medicinal note on the initial aroma. The wine unfolds and develops with air into a mid-weight, high-toned beauty, redolent of bitter orange peel, red currants, dried apricots and sloe gin (good stuff, like the Plymouth brand, not the $5 garbage you used to sneak from your Dad’s liquor cabinet) (do I know my target audience or what?). The lengthy finish sports a touch of chalky residue, and the overall impression is one of a divine sipper with a long future and a broad palette of food affinities. Like Maggie, it is uncompromising, uniquely individual, and chock full of promise.
Heidi Peterson-Barrett was once known for being the spouse of Bo Barrett (Chateau Montelena Owner/Winemaker). Until she wasn’t. These days, she ranks as one of the most prolific and sought-after Winemaking Consultants on the planet, female or otherwise. When your resume includes Screaming Eagle, Paradigm, Grace Family and Dalla Valle, you can write your own ticket. In 1996, Heidi started her own project, La Sirena. This week, we popped the cork on our last bottle of 1999 La Sirena cabernet sauvignon at its 15 year mark and were rewarded for our patience. It moved like a Slinky, showing bundles of herbes de Provence here, lacquer-like aromas (and textures) there, green walnut husks in its (what else) huskiness, a plethora of dried (cranberries) and fresh (blackberries) fruit, constantly moving from one step to another. As fabulously complex and ever-changing as it is right now, it probably has at least another 15 years to go. Nice job, Heidi.
The common thread here wasn’t the fact that these were all women Winemakers. It’s that the wines, across the board, couldn’t be classified as ‘feminine’. Far from it! When it comes to the world of winemaking, there is no Boy’s Club.