Three Ladies Who Helped Shape Californian Winemaking

Posted March 05, 2015

Steve Unwin


Daily wine deals emailed to your inbox.

In order to understand the current state of winemaking in this country, you absolutely have to know these names. Cathy Corison, Helen Turley, and Heidi Barrett are trailblazers, visionaries, and forces of nature within the wine industry. They not only helped to establish so much of what we come to expect from top-tier Californian wine, but they paved the way for future generations of women to excel in an industry that was not always so open to a female presence.

Cathy Corison

Years after an undergraduate whim led her to sign up for a wine tasting instead of a trampoline class, Cathy Corison found herself winemaker for Freemark Abbey, and later for Chappellet. The journey wasn’t an easy one, as the wine-world of the late 1970s was one in which female winemakers were few and far between. In 1987 she founded Corison Winery in St. Helena where she produces distinct, low-alcohol Cabernets that have captured the imagination - and palates - of a legion of followers.  

Helen Turley

Helen Turley was a trailblazer in bringing the “flying winemaker” consultant archetype to American winemaking. Just as skilled in the vineyard as she is in the winery, Helen was one of the first people to see promise in Sonoma Coast’s cool climate, planting the seeds (literally) of what would eventually become Marcassin, arguably one of the greatest producers of Burgundy-style wines in America. Her legacy includes fostering some of the finest consultants in the business, including Philipe Melka, and the next person on this list...

Heidi Barrett

Time Magazine called her the Wine Diva of Napa. Born into a winemaking family, and educated at UC Davis, Heidi Barrett’s star ascended on the back of the 1992 vintage. As an independent winemaker, she produced not one, but two 100-point wines that year in the forms of Screaming Eagle, and Dalla Valle’s Maya. Suffice it to say that she has been rocking the wine world ever since, and continues to consult in addition to producing her own labels La Sirena, and Amuse Bouche, a Right-Bank-style red with limited-edition art on each bottle. Oh, and did I mention she holds the distinction of crafting the most expensive bottle of American wine ever sold? A 6-liter bottle of that ‘02 Screaming Eagle auctioned for a cool $500,000.

Steve Unwin (call him Stunwin) cut his teeth in the Washington Wine industry working in tastings rooms on the Red Mountain AVA. In NYC he became an early employee of the wine startup Lot18, where he would eventually earn his Advanced WSET cerification with distinction. Currently, he works with internet wine legend Gary Vaynerchuk creating awesome content all over the internets.
Product Label.

Amuse Bouche Napa Red

95 Wine Enthusiast

Item: 65592

750 mL

Retail: $324.99

$249.97 per btl

Product Label.

Chappellet Signature Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

91 Robert Parker - Robert Par...

Item: 85112

750 mL

Retail: $59.99

$45.00 per btl