Lucia Albino Gilbert, PhD, and John C. Gilbert, PhD, Professors Emeriti, Santa Clara University and The University of Texas at Austin, are joined by Zelma Long, Lane Tanner and Shelly Rafanelli-Fehlman as guests on the show, discussing the experiences of women winemakers. Tune in to hear about the Gilberts’ new book, Women Winemakers: Personal Odysseys, for which they traveled the globe, interviewing women winemakers from France to New Zealand. Zelma, Lane and Shelly are just three of the many winemakers featured in the book.
Hear about the Trailblazers (those who began their winemaking careers before 1980) and those who followed them. Of course, for the show we stepped further back in time to learn about how the Gilberts’ interest in women winemakers came about. Their research (which began a decade ago) culminated in findings being reported on their website: womenwinemakers.com. You can also catch updates and news on their Facebook page: Women Winemakers of California and Beyond.
Their new book captures the passion, courage, and talent of the women who are successfully making their way in what has long been a male-dominated field. In this groundbreaking volume, Lucia and John Gilbert, professors and lovers of wine, set out to make women winemakers and their contributions to the wine industry more visible. They engaged in one-on-one conversations with dozens of trailblazing women winemakers from throughout California and important wine regions of France, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, and Spain.
During the show we learned which winemaker began her career in air and water pollution, which one’s great-grandmother came to the U.S. because she knew she wouldn’t be included in the family wine business in the “old country,” and which one just received her doctoral degree. Psst! Congrats, to Dr. Zelma Long.
Dr. Long is considered to be one of the female pioneers in California wine, and was the first woman to assume senior management of a Californian winery, Simi Winery, of which she was president from 1989 to 1996. She founded and was the first president of the American Vineyard Foundation to help finance research in enology and viticulture and also founded the American Viticulture and Enology Research Network (AVERN).
When her in-laws planted vines in Napa Valley, she signed up in 1968 for a master’s degree in Enology and Viticulture at the University of California, Davis. She was the second woman to enroll in enology at UC Davis and the only woman in her class. Interrupting her studies, she began her winemaking career at Robert Mondavi Winery for the 1970 harvest, rapidly working her way up to the position of Chief Enologist. In mid-1979, Zelma was recruited as winemaker for Simi Winery, in Healdsburg, in Sonoma County. Two years later, Simi was acquired by Moet Hennessey, with whom she worked for the next 18 years as both winemaker and CEO. From 1976 to 2005 she also oversaw the wines of her family winery, Long Vineyards, in the Napa Valley.
Currently, Zelma is the Winemaking Partner for Vilafonté Estate Vineyards & Winery. Established in 1997, Vilafonté was the first winery in South Africa to focus exclusively on luxury wines of international status, growing and making two Bordeaux blends. She oversees the winemaking and style development of the Vilafonté wines and is on site in South Africa during harvest, through pressing and barreling, and then again at blending and bottling. Zelma also applies her talents as Winemaker for Rosati Family Winery in Hopland, CA. In addition, she has established Zelma Long Wines Consulting Practice and works with clients in California, Washington, Israel, Provence, and Bordeaux.
Lane Tanner received a B.S. in Chemistry from San Jose State University in 1976. It wasn’t until after she left a job that had stationed in Glendive, Montana, for the winter one year that her career veered towards wine. Andre Tchelistcheff recommended Lane for the enology job at Firestone Winery in Santa Barbara County in 1981, where she eventually became winemaker. Since then Lane has long been a pioneer for and crafter of award-winning Pinot Noirs. In recognition of her winemaking talents, Lane was a nominee for prestigious Wine Enthusiast’s 20th Annual Wine Star Award in the “Winemaker of the Year” category.
Shelly Rafanelli-Fehlman is the fourth-generation winemaker at her family’s A. Rafanelli Winery, which her great grandfather, Italian immigrant, Alberto Rafanelli founded in 1911. She received a degree from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, in agricultural business with a marketing concentration. After graduation she planned to work in marketing at a large winery. But the family winery did not have a marketing department, and she thought that it made sense to get involved in marketing and production, given her education and degree.
Shelly has taken over all production at the winery. With the help of her husband Craig Fehlman, who manages all of their vineyards, they intend to carry on the family tradition of handcrafting exclusive premium red wines. In addition to learning from her father, she’s taken winemaking classes at the University of California, Davis, and attends seminars to continue to hone her winemaking skills. A. Rafanelli is known for its Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, which are the only wines it produces.
Listen in as these women in wine (and John Gilbert) all discuss their career paths, changes in the industry, and what’s ahead!