Trailblazers, trendsetters, mavericks, and masters – the women who have forged the rich tapestry of Napa Valley have brought bravado, grit, integrity, and tenacity to the wine and culinary industries. And, they have paved the way for the future generations of women, artfully leaving their notions and craft on this world-class destination.

In a wine industry traditionally dominated by men, the nuances of a handful of pioneering women paved the way for many behind them. The history of Napa Valley would be incomplete without mention of Hannah Weinberger, Josephine Tychson, and Cristina Biale, each of whom was a pioneer and history-maker in her own right.

Weinberger, Tychson, and Biale each took over wine businesses for their families after the passing of their husbands. While unconventional for the time, the stories of these women have become somewhat mythical in modern day. Biale, for example, bucked the ruling mandates during the Prohibition era and, legend has it, sold bootlegged wine using the secret code name, “Black Chicken”.

Today, we honor and highlight some of the trendsetting women in the Napa Valley wine and culinary scene.

Heidi Barrett


It’s safe to call Barrett the “cult queen” and know that this is prestigious nomenclature. She is the woman behind many of California’s most beloved cult wines, including the likes of Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle Vineyards, Fantesca Estate & Winery, Vineyard 29, and Kenzo Estate.

Noteworthy: Well, where, you may ask, might you try Ms. Barrett's wines, since she is responsible for so many adored wine labels. For starters, swing by Amuse Bouche Wines, located in Downtown Napa, where an array of interesting Barrett blends will certainly pique your interest. From there, the sky’s the limit.

photo courtesy of Amuse Bouche Wines

Deneen Brown

Owner, Brown Estate Winery

The first Black-owned winery in Napa Valley, Brown Estate Winery is run by Deneen and her siblings, the second-generation behind the brand that was established by their parents in 1980.

Noteworthy: The flagship wine at Brown Estate is Zinfandel, and it has been one of the highest-rated Zins out of Napa Valley since the late 1990s. Brown Estate grows and makes wine at the family property in the Chiles Valley and runs the swanky second floor Brown Downtown Tasting Room in Downtown Napa.

Coral, Deneen, and David Brown, photo courtesy of Brown Estate Winery

Amelia Moran Ceja

Owner, Ceja Vineyards

Ceja’s story began in the 1960s with a dream of owning a winery when she and her family left everything behind in a small village in Jalisco, Mexico, to settle in the Napa Valley. Her dad worked as a vineyard foreman here in Napa Valley. Today, Amelia and her husband preside over Ceja Vineyards which is truly a family business, maintaining the dreams from her youth, from immigrant vineyard farmworkers to winery proprietors in one generation.

Noteworthy: Ceja’s largest claim to fame: she was the first Mexican American woman to be selected president of a winery. Experience the Pinot Noir and other blends at Ceja Vineyards, located in the beautiful Carneros region of Napa Valley.

Victoria Coleman

Winemaker, Lobo Wines

Victoria Coleman is celebrated as the first Black woman winemaker in Napa Valley, and she is also honored for being the inaugural Black woman to graduate from the UC Davis enology/viticulture program.

Noteworthy: Lobo wines are sustainably farmed and are exclusively crafted from single vineyard, 100% estate grown fruit.

photo by Napa Valley Register

Cathy Corison

Winemaker, Corison Winery

Cathy Corison's journey into winemaking began nearly 50 years ago, inspired by a college course, leading to a master's degree and various roles before establishing her own winery in 1987. She leads with a non-interventionist approach, crafting wines that balance power and elegance through gentle handling and meticulous aging.

Noteworthy: Corison Winery crafts acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignons reflecting Napa Valley's terroir, celebrated globally for their balanced power and elegance.

photo by Bob McClenahan

Priyanka French

Winemaker, Signorello Estate

French is only the third winemaker in the decades-long history of Signorello Estate and, for a relative newcomer to Napa Valley, the shoes were big ones to fill. She received an undergraduate degree in Food Science and Technology in India while also studying wine, then came to the United States to sharpen her skills through internships and received her Master’s in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis.

Noteworthy: Signorello Estate suffered significant loss in the devasting fires of 2017 but has since then risen and returned to its roots and house style – iconic Bordeaux blends. Discover the classic wines through exclusive private tasting opportunities that feature the Signorello wines along with cheese and charcuterie pairings.

photo courtesy of Signorello Estate

Jammir Grey

Chef, Compline Restaurant

With a passion for art and cooking, Jammir Grey aspired to become a chef from a young age, with a particular dream of working in Napa Valley. She pursued her aspirations at New York’s Culinary Center of America before finding her way to Napa.

Noteworthy: Located in the heart of Downtown Napa, Compline is renowned for its Californian cuisine and world-class wine list.

photo courtesy of Compline Restaurant

Julie Johnson

Winemaker and Proprietor, Tres Sabores

Julie co-founded Frog’s Leap Winery in 1981 and played a pivotal role in establishing "Women for Wine Sense," an organization dedicated to women in the wine industry. As the current winemaker and owner of Tres Sabores, she is celebrated not only for her exceptional wines but also for her ability to cultivate meaningful connections and friendships with every visitor to the winery.

Noteworthy: Tres Sabores emphasizes sustainability, serving as a certified organic grower of various wine varietals and fruits, while also maintaining dual-purpose livestock to support property maintenance and supply Bay Area farm-to-table restaurants.

photo by Briana Marie Photography

Helen Keplinger

Winemaker and Proprietor, Keplinger Wines

With a background in Enology from UC Davis, Helen has lent her expertise to renowned wineries like Cellars Melis, Kenzo Estate, and Bryant Family Vineyards. Currently, she serves as the esteemed winemaker at Keplinger Wines, where she was awarded 2023 Winemaker of the Year by Vinous.

Noteworthy: The small tasting room located in Downtown Napa packs a big punch. The wines are exceptional and the Keplinger Sumo is a powerhouse.

photo by Steven Freeman

Paula Kornell


Winemaking runs in the Kornell family. For Paula, the daughter of winemaker Hanns Kornell who was founder of Kornell Champagne Cellars, working in the wine industry is second nature. Gaining additional experience at Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Robert Mondavi Winery, and Oakville Ranch Vineyards, Paula also became the President of the Board of Directors for Napa Valley Vintners – a position her father once held.

Noteworthy: After many years championing some of Napa Valley’s most known vintages, in 2019 Paula launched her own sparkling wine brand, Paula Kornell Sparkling Wine. Kornell believes that one need not wait for a special occasion to open a bottle of bubbles.

Robin Lail

Proprietor, Lail Vineyards

Perhaps no woman in Napa Valley has a stronger pedigree than Rutherford native Robin Lail. She grew up at Inglenook, her great-grand-uncle was Gustave Niebaum; and she began her winemaking career under the mentorship of Robert Mondavi. After co-founding Dominus with Christian Moueix and Merryvale Vineyards with Bill Harlan, in 1995, she and her two daughters launched Lail Vineyards.

Noteworthy: Lail produces what many say is the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world. Lail, who remains a stateswoman in the Napa Valley region, regularly advocates for sustainable agricultural practices.

Kristy Melton

Winemaker, Freemark Abbey Winery

Melton took the winemaking helm in 2020, becoming Freemark Abbey’s eighth winemaker since 1886 and the first woman winemaker at this long-standing and historic winery.

Noteworthy: Established in 1886 as Napa Valley's 16th bonded winery, Freemark Abbey is celebrated as one of the first Cabernet producers in the region, housed in its historic 1899 stone winery. It pioneers aspects of winemaking, including featuring one of the first tasting rooms and introducing single-vineyard wines.

photo courtesy of Freemark Abbey Winery

Cindy Pawlcyn

Owner and Executive Chef, Mustards Grill

When Pawlcyn opened Mustards Grill in 1983, the dining scene in Napa Valley looked very different than it does today, and she was one of the first to inspire finer dining with a casual flair in this now foodie paradise.

Noteworthy: Pawlcyn continues to keep the menus fresh and evolving. With more than 35 years in the business, she is no stranger to what works in the kitchen – many dishes are so iconic they are regularly on the menu.

Bettina Rouas

Owner, Angèle Restaurant & Bar

No stranger to culinary hospitality, one could say that Rouas was made for this. Her father, Claude Rouas, started the chic Auberge du Soleil resort in Rutherford and she further sharpened her skill at icon, The French Laundry, as well as at the Napa Valley gem, Bistro Don Giovanni.

Noteworthy: Housed in a historic boathouse with natural raw wood ceiling and windows overlooking the Napa River, plus a beautiful waterfront patio for alfresco dining, Angèle, which opened its doors in 2002, is a charming French brasserie featuring many must-have classics such as the Croque Monsieur and the Beef Tartare plus a fresh and evolving list of culinary delights.

photo courtesy of Angèle Restaurant & Bar

Elaine St. Clair

Winemaker and Master Brewer, St. Clair Brown Winery & Brewery

Elaine uniquely holds the commercial title of both Winemaker & Brewmaster – a rare achievement, especially in the world of beermaking.

Noteworthy: Melding the fine craft of both winemaking and beer brewing, this hip winery/brewery boasts a relaxed and easy vibe and array of fun and eclectic wines and beers.

Laina Brown

Proprietor, St. Clair Brown Winery & Brewery

Laina makes up the the other half of this women-owned winery and brewery, located in the heart of Downtown Napa.

Noteworthy: Housed in a chic urban greenhouse, St. Clair Brown also serves small plates, sourced from their verdant on-site garden, and hosts live music and local food truck nights.

Laina Brown and Elaine St. Claire, courtesy of St. Clair Brown

Pam Starr

Winemaker, Crocker & Starr Winery

After earning her stripes – 18 years’ worth of them – working at various wineries, Starr founded Crocker & Starr alongside her business partner, Charlie Crocker.

Noteworthy: This small production winery located in charming St. Helena is most often celebrated for its Sauvignon Blanc but discover other delightful varietals including Cabernet Franc and sparkling wines, too.

photo courtesy of Crocker & Starr Winery

Hailey Trefethen

Winemaker, Trefethen Family Vineyards

Hailey Trefethen didn’t simply join the wine industry – she was born into it. And, one could say that she stayed close to her roots.

Noteworthy: Established in the 1960s, the long history of Trefethen Family Vineyards still carries on today, with Hailey and her brother, Lorenzo, now leading the way for the family business.

photo courtesy of Trefethen Family Vineyards

Elizabeth Vianna

Winemaker, Chimney Rock Winery

Holding space for 20 years with Chimney Rock Winery, Vianna is one of few Latina winemakers in the United States. Her road to wine was unconventional, to say the least – she studied at Vassar College in New York and worked as a clinical toxicologist before falling in love with wine – but, she certainly found her passion and her home in Napa Valley.

Noteworthy: While the iconic façade of the winery, located on the famed Silverado Trail of Napa Valley, along with its association with the famously sharp-tongued celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay, might make Chimney Rock recognizable, it’s the long list of wines that keep guests returning for more. Try the Elevage, a Rosé blend that is perfect for summer.

Beth Weber Novak

President & CEO, Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery

In 1987, Beth Weber Novak became the first second-generation family member to join Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery, later becoming the youngest president of the Napa Valley Vintners in 1998, and the first woman to hold the position.

Noteworthy: Among the earliest adopters of organic farming, Spottswoode has been certified by CCOF since 1992, with additional biodynamic practices supporting its thriving ecosystem.

photo courtesy of Spottswoode Winery

This Women’s History Month, we shine a light on the many incredible women who make Napa Valley shine – from the pioneering women who were integral in this iconic winemaking landscape to modern day mavens bringing innovative thought and ideas to this blend. Napa Valley has a rich history that is woven with stories of pioneering women who have shaped its legacy.