Women of the Napa Valley
March 4, 2020
The month of March is all about celebrating women, with International Women’s Day on March 8, 2020 kicking Women’s History Month into high gear.
A little background — the first Women’s Day took place on Feb. 28, 1909, in New York City, honoring the one-year anniversary of the garment workers’ strikes for economic rights. Since then, the day quickly became a week, and then an entire month dedicated to the accomplishments of women around the world.
In the Napa Valley, we praise the accomplished women that have made our valley a success year-round, but will gladly take this opportunity to give them some additional well-deserved kudos. While we couldn’t include all the exceptional women of the valley, we wanted to be sure to showcase a few inspirational and powerful women making a name for themselves. Plus, we’ve included a few ways for you to celebrate this important month!
Elaine St. Clair, Winemaker and Brewer at St. Clair Brown
Elaine St. Clair is a bit of an anomaly. She’s the only woman in the United States to hold the commercial title of both winemaker and brewer. She’s worked over 30 years for wineries and breweries, co-founding one of the area’s originals, Napa Ale Works. Today, her downtown Napa outpost St. Clair Brown — which she opened with longtime friend and colleague Laina Brown in 2014 — is also one-of-a-kind. It’s the only tasting spot in Napa Valley operating as a boutique winery and a nano-brewery in one. 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.
Hailey Trefethen, Winemaker at Trefethen Family Vineyards
Hailey Trefethen didn’t join the wine industry — she was born into it. Her grandparents began farming grapes on their Napa Valley ranch in the late ‘60s, and Hailey’s parents, John and Janet, released Trefethen’s first wines. Today, 31-year-old Hailey and her brother, Loren, are taking the reins. As a senior in high school, Trefethen’s summer job was as a vineyard intern, learning the ropes of the viticulture business. After college, she found herself missing being involved in the vineyard, and transferred out of the marketing department to embrace the ‘learn by doing’ mentality for the production process. Today, Hailey is all about honoring the framework her grandparents created and ensuring every year is a great wine year.
Cindy Pawlcyn (pictured above), Owner and Executive Chef at Mustards Grill
When Cindy Pawlcyn opened Mustards Grill in 1983, the area’s dining scene looked very different. She was one of the first to add a casual destination vibe and an eclectic menu that spans cultures. Since then? She’s kept the restaurant fresh for more than 35 years, and several dishes are so iconic she can’t take them off the menu — including the Mongolian pork chop, baby back ribs with warm honey cornbread, and fat, puffy onion rings with house-made tomato-apple ketchup. At one time, Pawlcyn operated other restaurants in the valley, but she pared down to one so she could enjoy more of what Napa Valley has to offer.
Bettina Rouas, Owner at Angele
Bettina Rouas comes from one of the most prominent families in Napa Valley’s hospitality industry. Her father, Claude Rouas, started the chic Auberge du Soleil resort in Rutherford. She worked at many top places around the Valley, including the French Laundry and Bistro Don Giovanni, before opening Angèle in 2002. A charming French brasserie, Angèle is housed in a historic boathouse with natural raw wood ceiling and windows overlooking the Napa River, plus a beautiful waterfront patio for alfresco dining. Here, diners enjoy exceptional classics that celebrate the simplicity and hospitality of both French and American wine country, such as sole meuniere made into a roulade and enhanced with brown butter, asparagus, and potatoes; house-made pate; and escargot with garlic beurre blanc.
Sara Brooks, General Manager at the Napa River Inn
Sara Brooks’s great grandparents, Louis and Josephine Edano, immigrated to St. Helena from northern Italy in the early 1900s. A third-generation Napan, Sara had her start in the hospitality industry at the young age of 19 as a concierge at Silverado Country Club. Although not yet old enough to partake in many iconic Napa Valley activities, she used her experience as a concierge as an opportunity to gain perspective on the visitor and what activities brought them to the region. Brooks continued her career at Napa River Inn and Historic Napa Mill in 1999, and has held the title of General Manager since 2006. With her numerous family members still in the area, (close to 100 relatives just in the Napa Valley) Sara has brought that same feeling of “family” to the Napa River Inn.
Tori Wiese, Bernadette Gonzales, and Laura Pendergrass of the Napa Valley Wine Train
Tori Wiese, Bernadette Gonzales and Laura Pendergrass are the women of the Wine Train. Tori, conductor and engineer, Bernadette, engineer, conductor and dispatcher, and Laura, conductor, and dispatcher are the exception to the rule of the male-dominated railroad industry. With only one percent of conductors being women, the Napa Valley Wine Train has cornered the market on female conductors. Wiese was the first female engineer hired by the Napa Valley Wine Train back in 1989 and has stuck around to don the uniform: a white shirt, burgundy tie, navy vest and hat with a gold-plated “Conductor” bar to let everyone aboard know who’s in charge. Now, all three of them make the Wine Train the experience that visitors from all over the world will travel for.
The CIA at Copia is honoring women with events throughout the month of March, including Julia’s Kitchen: Celebrating French Cuisine on various dates and an International Women’s Day Celebration on March 7.
Compline will host a Good As Hell Winemaker Dinner on March 8 to celebrate International Women’s Day, with all proceeds going to women’s health programs at OLE Health.