At Portland Wine Week, Maine’s second annual festival celebrating food and beverage, women in wine were front and center. Among those featured at the June event were two West Coast winemakers whose stories are as compelling as their bottles.
In every sense of the word, Carol Shelton is a pioneer. The award-winning winemaker, based in Santa Rosa, Calif., spent nearly 20 years making wine at Windsor Vineyards before establishing her own winery in 2000 and launching an eponymous line of wines. Speaking on a panel of women in the industry, she talked about helping her mother in the kitchen as a preschooler, identifying herbs and spices by scent alone. That talent for identifying aromas, combined with an aptitude for science, led her to earn an enology degree from University of California, Davis. But forging a career as a female winemaker in the late 1970s was no small feat. Shelton encountered resistance from male colleagues who frowned upon women doing cellar work. But she was undeterred. “It never occurred to me that [wine] wasn’t a job for a woman,” she said.
Brianne Day, of Day Wines in Dundee, Ore., was also featured on the speakers’ panel. She happily acknowledged that Shelton paved the way for next-generation winemakers like herself. Day attended the festival with her toddler son in tow.
When Day was a teenager, her family moved to the Willamette Valley, in the heart of Oregon wine country. Later, a trip to Italy sparked a deep sense of wanderlust. “I wanted to see what this magnetic attraction was all about,” she said, referring to her growing love of wine. She traveled throughout the world’s wine regions, and worked in France, New Zealand, and Argentina. Upon returning to the Beaver State, she worked for vintners she admired, and learned the retail and restaurant sides of the business before making her first vintage in 2012.
If Shelton and Day are any indication, the intergenerational sisterhood of wine is alive and well. That spirit of camaraderie shows up in every wine they make.
Day Wines “Vin de Days” Rouge 2018 This lithe beauty is crafted from pinot noir, pinot meunier, and pinot gris sourced from four viticultural regions in Oregon. Dark berry fruitiness (the result of adding whole clusters to crushed grapes during fermentation) combines with savory and herbaceous notes, plus gentle tannins on the palate. 13.75 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). Around $28. At Social Wines, South Boston, 617-268-2974; Streetcar Wine & Beer, Jamaica Plain, 617-522-6416.
Carol Shelton Wines “Wild Thing Rendezvous Rosé” 2018 This robustly hued pink is made in the saignée method, where a portion of the juice from crushed red grapes (mainly Mendocino-grown carignan and zinfandel) is “bled” from the vat and cold fermented as a rosé. Scents of cranberry, crushed strawberry, and a pinch of garden soil lead to a juicy, mouth-filling cherry-berry palate. 13.5 percent ABV. Around $18. At The Cheese Shop, Concord, 978-369-5778; Medfield Wine Shoppe, Medfield, 508-359-4097.
Carol Shelton Wines “Monga Zin” 2016 A minty whiff of eucalyptus and aromas of saffron beguile, followed by dark, brambly fruit. Crafted from zinfandel grapes hailing from Southern California’s Cucamonga Valley, this pour offers exuberant concentration and ripe tannins. 14.5 percent ABV. Around $25. At Medfield Wine Shoppe; Bacco’s Wine + Cheese, Boston, 617-574-1751.Ellen Bhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.