- The Premier Italian American Newspaper Since 1931 -

Celebrating the Women of Wine

The National Association of Women of Wine was founded in Florence, Italy in 1988 to spread the culture and knowledge of wine through the training and enhancement of the role of women in the wine sector. The group was founded by Elisabetta Tognana, a Venetian entrepreneur who resettled in Tuscany and within the first year, 70 women had joined the association.

Today, the group has become the largest women’s association of wine in the world and has more than 900 associates including producers, restaurateurs, winemakers, sommeliers, journalists and wine experts throughout Italy.

Donatella Cinelli Colombini is a legendary pioneer in the world of wine, who has worked tirelessly not only to craft incredible wine, but also to champion the role of women working in the wine industry. She is the president of the national association, le Donne del Vino, the Women of Wine, as well as president of the Consortium of Orcia Wine. Donatella’s daughter Violante, works with her as the head of marketing for their estates.

She owns two wineries, Casato Prime Donne in Montalcino, located in the Chianti wine region and Fattoria del Colle in Trequanda. Her wine estate, Casato Prime Donne is 100 acres, containing the winery, cellar and vineyards where only Sangiovese grapes are grown. All of the people who work at Donatella’s properties, including the head winemaker, Valérie Lavigne, are women, which is unique in Italy and a beacon of progress for women in the wine industry. Her vineyards produce 150,000 bottles per year and among her portfolio of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG wines are Progetto Prime Donne, Riserva and Lo Sono Donatello Brunello di Montalcino.

The Antinori Sisters are part of a family that has been committed to the art of winemaking for over six centuries. In 1385, Giovanni di Piero Antinori became a member of Arte Fiorentina dei Vinattieri, the Florentine Winemakers’ Guild. Throughout the next 26 generations, the Antinori family has made innovations to the art of winemaking, coupled with bold decisions, while upholding the utmost respect for traditions and the environment.

Today, Albiera Antinori is the president of Marchesi Antinori with the close support of her two sisters, Allegra and Alessia, while their father, Marchese Piero Antinori, is the honorary president of the company. Tradition, passion and intuition are the three driving forces that led Marchesi Antinori to establish itself as one of the most important winemakers of elite Italian wine.

Albiera, Allegra and Alessia grew up in the family’s 15th century palazzo in the center of Florence and spent their summers at the family’s Tuscan wine estates in Chianti Classico and Bolgheri. Although Albiera carries the title of president, she is the first to explain that duties are split between all three Antinori sisters, with each finding a niche to pursue. Alessia oversees the Antinori Art Project, while Allegra looks after the family’s numerous restaurants, including Cantinetta Antinori. Albiera loves architecture, so much so that a decade ago, it was her passion that brought to fruition the construction and opening of the family’s newest Chianti Classico winery, which contains both the business headquarters, as well as a museum. A true wine empire, the Antinori family produces a total of 80 wines from 72,000 acres of vineyards.

Paola Lanzavecchia Paola Lanzavecchia is the fourth generation of her family to run Villadoria, a wine estate located in the town of Serralunga, in the heart of Barolo in the Piedmont region. The winery, known for its excellent Barolo and Barbaresco wines began in the late 1930s. Paola learned the art of winemaking from her father, Daniele Lanzavecchia, who continues to be an integral part of the business. From a young age, she wanted to make winemaking her life and Paola’s earliest recollections are of time spent with her grandfather walking in the vineyards. Even though she was not yet a teen, Paola learned to tend the vines of the esteemed Nebbiolo grapes and ultimately become one of the first women winemakers in the Piedmont. Now a mother herself, she hopes that her baby daughter will have the same experiences of happiness in her home as well as in the vineyards of the beautiful Langhe region.

Gina Gallo comes from one of America’s most famous families of wine and regardless of whether talented winemakers are made or born, she has all of the credentials to fill the bill. As the granddaughter of California wine pioneer Julio Gallo, Gina has winemaking in her blood. E & J Gallo Winery, founded in 1933, is the largest exporter of California wines and the largest family-owned winery in the United States.

Gina followed in the footsteps of her father and grandfather to become a winemaker for Gallo Family Vineyards Sonoma Reserve. She is the head of vineyard operations for the winery and the winemaker for the Gallo Signature Series, creating award-winning wines from grapes grown by her brother, Matt.

Learning the business from the ground up, Gina began in sales and then studied viticulture and enology. She went to work in the research winery that Gallo uses to evaluate different grape varieties and growing regions and soon the creation of wines become her calling. “Wine is pleasure,” says Gina. “It has to be beautiful to look at, beautiful to smell and astonishing to taste. Wine should make you smile.”

Jole Dellapiana was born in the same year that her parents, Ernesto and Lia began the Rizzi Winery. Located in the Langhe Valley of the Piedmont, the family winery has almost 100 acres of vineyards and is most famous for its outstanding Barbaresco vintages, which is run by Jole and her brother Enrico.

Emanuela Tamburini is a graduate in Viticulture and Oenology from the University of Pisa. She has dedicated her life to the family winery which covers 125 acres, including magnificent vineyards in Chianti and the Montalcino area, established in 1890. Through five generations of the family, the passion for viticulture have remained central to the winery’s success.

Felicia Palombo handles the production of her family’s Fattoria di Luiano in Tuscany. The Luaino label and vineyard was acquired by her grandparents over 60 years ago, which was soon producing excellent vintages. Felicia and her brother Alessandro are the newest generation, where she is the creative force behind the winery’s excellence.

Arianna Occhipinti studied oenology at the University in Milan and in her early 20s, began making wines in her hometown of Vittoria, in the Sicilian Province of Ragusa. The first vintage from her Occhipini Winery was released in 2006 when she was just 24 and had just an acre and a half of vines. She now has over 50 acres growing Frappato and Nero d’Avola grapes, producing critically acclaimed red wines.

Cristina Mariani-May is the third generation proprietor of the internationally renowned Castello Banfi vineyard estate in Montalcino, Tuscany. She is also the president and CEO of Banfi Vintners, a leading U.S. importer of fine wines. She is a natural international ambassador for her family’s brand and says, “We are selling not just wine, but a way of life. It’s about something slower, calmer and more in touch with family.”

Miriam Coppi of the Coppi Winery in Puglia, is part of a family of wine makers begun by her father Antonio, whose passion and knowledge of wines has been passed along to Miriam and her siblings, Lisia and Doni. For each of them, the love for wine is first and foremost a love for the land, where passion, tradition and innovation have brought success to a dream begun more than 40 years ago. Today, the vintages of the Coppi Winery are known around the world.

Caterina Sacchet of the Carpineto Winery grew up in the business in the heart of the Chianti Classico area of Tuscany. The winery was established in 1967 and has grown to five estates with over 1200 acres of land in Tuscany, producing 2.5 million bottles per year. Caterina always attempts to personalize the wines she creates, bringing out her own style and of her role, she says, “A winemaker is a true artist!”

Marianna Cardone runs the winery that was begun by her grandfather Giuseppe and nurtured by her father Franco, to become one of the most prestigious family-run wineries in Puglia. Cardone Vini is located in the Itria Valley and Marianna says, “Since the beginning, we have been driven to represent the quality of Puglia and our wines are the natural fruit of the earth and land.”

Marilisa Allegrini is a winemaker for one of the most renowned family estates in the Valpolicella region of northeastern Italy. The Allegrinis have farmed the land in this hilly area since the 16th century and are now considered the benchmark producer of the famous red wine, Amarone. In 2001, looking to broaden their horizons, the family expanded the company’s wine production to Tuscany, first in Bolgheri and then Montalcino.

Alessandra Boscaini of Masi Wine is the seventh generation of a family that has been making wine in the Valpolicella region of Veneto for over 200 years. Her father, Sandro Boscaini was one of the creators of Vinitaly, now one of the world’s foremost international wine exhibitions. Under his direction, Masi was voted “European Winery of the Year.” Today, Masi wines are exported to 86 countries worldwide.

Cristina Ziliani, one of the three children of legendary winemaker Franco Ziliani, now runs the Berlucchi Winery in Franciacorta, Lombardy. Sixty years ago, Franco changed winemaking history with the first Franciacorta sparkling wine, which became an enormous international success. Today, Berlucchi Franciacorta is managed by Cristina and her brothers, Arturo and Paolo.  

Laura Bianchi did not always want to be a winemaker. Despite growing up at Castello di Monsanto, the winery her father established in Chianti Classico in the 1960s, she wanted to go to law school. After graduating with honors, she followed her heart and returned to the winery where she grew up. Her legal training was put to the test when the international chemical firm named Monsanto sued to force the winery to change its name. After an exhaustive search, Laura found a key document. Years earlier, the president of the chemical group visited the winery and wrote in the guestbook, “What an honor to have the same name. You produce wonderful wines.” The case was dismissed. Now, with more than 30 years of experience as a winemaker under her belt, Laura continues the family legacy.

Faye Lottero grew up on the vineyard, la Fattoria in Tuscany. She became a lawyer, but returned to the vineyards two decades ago to immerse herself in the creation of wine. She took the helm of the estate, became a winegrower and thanks to her, la Fattoria earned the first organic label for a Chianti Rufina vine. She has also created the winery’s Puro wines, which are produced without adding sulfates.

Roberta Urso is a wine expert and public relations executive for the Cantine Settesoli in Menfi, Sicily. Located in the island’s Province of Agrigento, the winery received excellent scores for several of its recent vintages, including Cantine Settesoli Jummare Vermentino and Isoletta Lucido Pinot Grigio. Roberta is also the Sicilian Regional Delegate of Le Donne del Vino.