These Women Are the Masterminds Behind Some of Your Favorite Wines

Some of the most well-known wine brands were started by women.

The next time you're gathered with your favorite ladies and raise a glass, think about the women behind the bottle and say an extra "cheers" for them. Women have been critical players in the wine industry for centuries and are at the helm of some of the largest wine brands in the modern world. Though women-owned wineries are thankfully more common today, it hasn't always been that way. This Women's History Month, let's raise a glass to the trailblazing women-owned wineries both past and present.

Deb Juergenson, founding member and Winemaker at Apothic Wines
Courtesy of Apothic Wines

Apothic Wines: Deb Juergenson

As a member of the E. & J. Gallo company since 1995, Deb Juergenson has been experimenting with the bold flavors of California wine for decades.

After becoming captivated with the Central Valley's unique soil compositions, Juergenson studied geology at the California State University, Stanislaus, where her passion for wine began. She cut her teeth at Gallo in a variety of roles from analytical technician to researcher where she gained experience in the chemistry of wine and how it interacts with barrels. Eventually, she joined Gallo's Coastal Winemaking Team, where she developed a keen palate and skill for blending wines—a talent she carries with her today in her role as winemaker at Apothic.

As a founding member of Gallo-owned Apothic, Juergenson helped create the first wine the label ever produced: Apothic Red ($11, Vivino). In her role as winemaker at Apothic, Juergenson is inspired to bring innovative and untraditional blends to the table. She seeks to intrigue consumers with bold blends, daring varietals, and seasonal releases.

dolores cakebread, cakebread wine, stephanie jacobs
Courtesy of Cakebread, Bob McClenahan, Alexander Rubin

Cakebread Cellars: Dolores Cakebread and Stephanie Jacobs

Cakebread cellars is celebrated throughout the United States for its stellar chardonnay ($46, Drizly) and distinguished pinot noir ($50, Vivino). They also boast an esteemed culinary program inspired by the seasonal bounty of the estate's fruit and vegetable garden. At the helm of that program was Dolores Cakebread, who co-founded the family-owned winery with her husband, Jack Cakebread, in 1973. Dolores served as a driving force in the gastronomic pursuits at Cakebread since its inception. In the winery's early years, Jack tended to the vineyards while Dolores planted the winery's famous garden. Before her passing in late 2020 at age 90, she was a pioneer in Napa Valley's wine and food education culture and co-founded the American Harvest Workshop, a decades-long tradition at Cakebread Cellars that brings together top chefs, local farm purveyors, and media representatives to discuss all things wine and food. She published two cookbooks with Cakebread's culinary director Brian Streeter and served as president of Les Dames d'Escoffier, San Francisco Chapter, an organization aimed at advancing opportunities for women in food, beverage, and hospitality through education, scholarship, and mentoring.

Cakebread still values the importance of wine made by women, and attributes their consistent and balanced wines to current director of winemaking, Stephanie Jacobs. The fourth female winemaker in the company's 40-year history, Stephanie joined Cakebread in 2004 as enologist and has worked her way through the ranks to leading winemaking operations in 2017.

Teresa Carrara and Franzia box
; Goran Kosanovic/Getty Images

Franzia: Teresa Carrera Franzia and Cate Hardy

One of the most recognizable wines in the world thanks to their unmistakable boxes ($13, Drizly), Franzia is known for portability. What you might not know is that the company was founded by Teresa Carrera Franzia who planted her first grapes in the city of Ripon in 1906. Teresa and her husband, Giuseppe Franzia, bought 80 acres of land in California's Central Valley in 1910, where the beginnings of Franzia wine were planted. By the 1930s Guiseppe had retired, and through a steadfast motivation to build an empire for her sons, Teresa took out a $60,000 loan to start the Franzia Brothers Winery. Successfully weathering the storms of prohibition and World War Two alike, Franzia stands today as the leading brand in the United States by sales volume.

Nowadays, Franzia is owned by the Wine Group, and CEO Cate Hardy heads up the business side of things at Franzia as well as a number of uber-popular wine brands like Cupcake and Chloe.

Barbara Banke from Jackson Family Wines
Courtesy of Jackson Family Wines

Jackson Family Wines: Barbara Banke

After co-founding Jackson Family Wines with her husband Jess Jackson 40 years ago, Barbara Banke is still one of the industry's top innovators and philanthropists. Known widely across the United States for their preeminent Kendall Jackson winery, Banke and Jackson have shaped a global portfolio of Jackson Family Wines that include vineyards and wineries in Oregon, France, Italy, Chile, and South Africa (including well-known names like La Crema and Murphy Goode). Now chairman and proprietor of Jackson Family Wines, Banke is a passionate advocate for children's charities around the country and is dedicated to giving back to her community. Most recently, she acted as chair of the Sonoma County Wine Auction, which donated a record-breaking $5.2 million to the local community. Despite co-founding the company over two decades ago, Barbara still plays a hands-on role in developing Jackson Family wine estates, acquiring new vineyards, and strategically promoting the family brand across the country.

Isabell Simi and Simi wines
Courtesy of SIMI

Simi Winery: Isabelle Simi, Melissa Stackhouse and Lisa Evich

In 1876, Guiseppe Simi and brother Pietro made their first bottle of wine under the SIMI label in California. Tragically, after introducing their first harvest in 1890 and expanding their stone cellars in 1904, both Giuseppe and his brother Pietro passed away that same year, leaving the reigns of the company to Giuseppe's daughter, Isabelle Simi. At the tender age of 18, Isabelle took over management of the cellars and winery. She successfully steered the company through prohibition by selling off vineyard holdings in order to retain SIMI's cellars. Thanks to Isabelle, by the time prohibition was repealed in 1933, SIMI was ready to sell the 500,000 gallons of wine from their cellars to the eager and excited public. Just a year later, in 1934, she established the company's first tasting room. Finally retiring in 1970, Isabelle is known as a pioneer for women in the wine industry and as the brains behind one of Sonoma's most reputable and longstanding institutions.

SIMI is continuing the tradition of innovative wine made by women thanks to current director of Winemaking Melissa Stackhouse and Senior Winemaker Lisa Evich. Through a dedication to balance and quality, this powerhouse duo continues to showcase the timelessness of both SIMI and Sonoma County.

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