Good Spirits: 14 Women-Run Distilleries and Wineries To Make You Thirsty

Good Spirits: 14 Women-Run Distilleries

And Wineries To Make You Thirsty

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While craft breweries are hot to trot these days, the distillery or winery has been around since a bygone era. Making your own alcohol and bringing joy to visitors (and people who buy your booze, far and wide) is as time-honored as drinking itself is, but we’re kind of loving that ladies are at the helm. Here are 15 standout women-run spirit companies that are changing the game for drinkers all over the country.

Water Street Brewing

John Bleichert took his love of brewing from his kitchen to Germany and back to Binghamton. Now crafting 217 gallons of European-style beers at a time, he still keeps the old home-brew kit behind the scenes to make the occasional small batch at Water Street Brewing Co. John and his wife, Michele, started home-brewing in the early 2000s, often doing double batches on the weekend while decked out in self-made Bleichert Brewing aprons. In 2009, they decided to leave the corporate world behind and pursue their passions, hanging up those aprons and opening a brewery for real.

Champy

Champy was founded by entrepreneur, two-time Emmy award-winning executive producer and Boston-based entertainment and lifestyle television personality, Jenny Johnson. A genuine lover of bubbly, Johnson has always been attracted to the celebratory spirit that revolves around sparkling wine and its ability to spontaneously transform an ordinary moment into an extraordinary one. In 2015 she collaborated with Penny Gadd-Coster, executive director of winemaking at Rack & Riddle in Sonoma, CA, to develop Champy a high-quality sparkling wine that would inspire people to celebrate life, not just on momentous occasions but every day. The chardonnay and pinot noir blend produced in Sonoma County, CA is of the finest quality and retails at a desirable price, allowing people to celebrate moments both big and small with a glass of Champy. Be Present. Be Spontaneous. Be Champy.

Thorpe Vineyard

100% woman owned and operated since 1988, the Thorpe Vineyard is situated on the south shore of Lake Ontario, adjacent to the beautiful Chimney Bluffs State Park and about halfway between Rochester and Syracuse. Located near the Lake, the vineyards get the benefit of warmer water to prevent late spring and early fall frost to extend our growing season. This, combined with owner Fumie Thorpe’s endurance and instinct for science, has resulted in one of New York’s best kept wine secrets. Thorpe Vineyard is known by many as “The Little Winery on the Great Lake”. What started out as a small barn on the shores of Ontario Lake has now turned into a full-fledged production site for some wonderful New York State wines. With vineyard locations near the lake, you get the benefit of warmer weather into the fall to ripen the grapes, and cooler weather in early spring to prevent bud-break. Fumie Thorpe’s natural instinct for chemistry and a passion to create has resulted in one of New York’s best kept wine secrets. Having a college degree in meteorology probably didn’t hurt either, as the key to growing good grapes has a lot to do with weather patterns and temperature swings. The breathtaking view, the fresh lake air, and the chance to visit Thorpe’s charming tasting room make it all the more worthwhile!

You & Yours Distilling Co

You & Yours Distilling Co. is California’s first urban destination distillery, located in San Diego. Products made on-site include their flagship gin and vodka. Their team’s mission to produce high-quality spirits and continue to revitalization of the neighborhood. With the new laws that went into effect last year, the distillery will be able to produce, serve and sell their product onsite. But, rather than just stick to distillery tours, Laura will roll out a full cocktail menu (mini cocktails!) to accompany her distillery tours & tastings, making it an all-encompassing experience. In addition, Laura is the founder of cocktail blog, Distillerista, where she’s constantly developing new recipes & sharing her favorite at-home entertaining tips.

Blinking Owl Distillery

Blinking Owl Distillery  was the first craft distillery located in Orange County, California, which is just a short train ride or drive from Los Angeles and San Diego. There are 3 owners, two of which are women. The owners are: husband and wife team Brian and Robin Christenson, and actress Kirsten Vangsness (well known for her role on Criminal Minds). Any or all three can be found behind the bar on any given day. Blinking Owl is chic, yet comfortable and the spirits are as unique as they are delicious, making it perfect for a date-night or evening out with friends. Blinking Owl currently produces a Vodka, OC Orange Flavored Vodka, an Aquavit and just released its Gin, which features the primary flavors of Juniper, Hibiscus (as it is the flower of Santa Ana), Lemon Peel, Orange Peel, and Sage. The team is committed to using local and organic ingredients, enhancing the quality of each spirit. In addition to tastings and tours, guests can enjoy cabana service—perfect for private parties and celebrations. At Blinking Owl, the love of cocktails runs deep—Brian’s great grandfather was a bootlegger in Nebraska, so the love of hand-crafted spirits is in his DNA. And while neither Robin nor Kirsten have bootleggers in their family trees, both are passionate about this business. After a successful career in the medical industry, Robin put all her efforts towards the spirt industry and now has a level 3 degree from Wine and Spirit Education Trust (as does Brian).

One Woman Wines

For Claudia Purita, sustainability and self-reliance have always been a way of life. Growing up on her family’s farm in Calabria, Italy, Claudia assisted in growing vegetables and wine grapes and raising small animals from very young age. At her father, Domenico’s, side she learned to value the land and the fruits that it provides. After moving to Long Island and spending several years in the restaurant industry, Claudia decided it was time to “return to her roots.” Much of her vineyard, which she calls One Woman Wines, was hand planted and each vine has been meticulously tended to by Claudia’s exacting touch. Day in and out, she has labored, largely by herself, to produce the highest quality fruit. The superiority of her work is evident in each of the wines made from the vineyard. A few sips will lead you to appreciate just what one woman’s hard work can produce.

The Cavalleri Winery

The Cavalleri Winery, one of Franciacorta’s most historical names, has developed over time with dedication and commitment to the project as outlined by the founder: to produce a wine with the utmost respect of the territory, to enhance the soil and lead a sustainable and pragmatic agricultural model. After years of study and research, the 42 hectares of land are cultivated biologically, with the only treatments in the vineyard being copper and sulfur, and using some techniques from the biodynamic practice. Giulia Cavalleri is the director.  In the 1980s, Giulia joined her father Giovanni and together they built what is now the Cavalleri Winery. She began with a focus on the Italian market and beginning to build foreign sales as well, and after the death of her father, she expanded her role and got involved in the complicated world of oenology and agronomy. Today, supported by a technical wine staff, her sister Maria, her daughter Diletta, and her nephew Francesco, she directs the Cavalleri winery, with 42 hectares of vineyards and 250,000 bottles produced. She is applying all her knowledge to further her goal, and continue the original vision of the winery: to produce exceptional wines, respect the territory from which they derive, and to produce them using healthy and ethical methods.

 

 

Prison City

Though Prison City Pub & Brewery just opened its doors in December 2014, the dream Marc and Dawn Schulz had to open a brewpub dates back to 2001.  Having looked at, literally, every available commercial property in the city of auburn for over a decade, the stars finally aligned and the property at 28 State Street was not only available but an absolute perfect fit for the feel they wanted in their pub and brewery. During this long process, they came across a much decorated home brewer out of Rochester. Enter Ben Maeso. During their initial meeting, ben came with a cooler full of home brews and just knocked the Schulz’s’ socks off with his all Brett IPA and blueberry/cherry sour beers. Brewed to perfection in small batches. Just what they wanted the beers made in the restaurant/brewery to be. Beautiful, artistically made beer to compliment pub fare featuring local ingredients and carefully crafted dishes. In the short time the brewery has been open, they have garnered national attention with:  A silver medal for their Belgian pale ale, bleek worden, at the 2015 great American beer festival,

 

In addition to these accolades, the brewery consistently grabs attention at Brewfests around NYS and beyond with their other sour beers like Cherry Poppins and cool hand cuke, along with fan favorites such as puff puff shiv, a brown ale dosed with 50 boxes of cocoa cocoa puff cereal.

Hangar 1

Caley Shoemaker, head distiller of Hangar 1 Vodka (in Alameda, CA, just across the San Francisco Bay) is one of the few female distillers in the country. You might have heard about Fog Point Vodka this year — it made almost every media outlet – vodka infused with fog from the SF Bay area (no joke). She’s the distiller behind that innovation! At just under 30 years old, Caley is: The new Head Distiller for California’s own Hangar 1 Vodka, distilled in Alameda using only the freshest ingredients available, One of the few female distillers in an industry dominated by men, Caley got her start in distilling at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey and learned everything she could about the process and science there. She takes her knowledge to Hangar 1 where she focuses on creating the freshest tasting vodka and is inspired by the local bounty she finds at the farmer’s markets

 

Recently inducted on the Zagat 30 Under 30 List!

Phyllis Clinton Vineyard

Clinton Vineyards in Clinton Corners, NY, owned by Phyllis Feder.  She is immensely gracious and charming, as well as very spry, and looks surprisingly young. At 80 years old, she is the oldest woman proprietor of a vineyard in the US!  Clinton Vineyards was established in 1976 by Ben Feder, a book designer and artist who fell in love with the Hudson Valley in 1974. Inspired by the beautiful wineries and vineyards of the French countryside, where he’d spent time as an art student after World War II, Feder recreated this experience in Dutchess County. He modeled the 100-acre Clinton Vineyards in the tradition of European vineyard estates, specializing in growing a single grape, producing white and sparkling wines. The latter is made in the classic French méthode champenoise, learned by Feder at the famed House of Bollinger. The first release, the 1977 Seyval Blanc, garnered strong praise from The New York Times, resulting in an enthusiastic sell-out. Ben Feder died in 2009, but Phyllis Feder continues to maintain her husband’s legacy. She has served as vice-president of the NY Wine & Grape Foundation.

Hudson-Chatham Winery

Dominique DeVito owns the award-winning Hudson-Chatham Winery. DeVito is a writer and founding member of the Hudson-Berkshire Beverage Trail. The concept behind the Hudson-Chatham Winery is to showcase select New York State wines in an enjoyable setting. Besides the large and airy tasting rooms, guests also enjoy great scenery and views on the property. In its relatively short time of operation, the Hudson-Chatham Winery has notched many distinctive awards for its wines, consistently winning medals at the Hudson Valley Wine & Grape Association, the New York Food & Wine Classic, the NY State Fair, and the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition. Their reds have received scores in the high 80s from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast magazines. In summer 2012, their 2010 Baco Noir Reserve Casscles Vineyard won a prestigious Double Gold medal from the NY State Fair Wine Competition – the only Hudson Valley wine to do so.”

 

Spirit Works

Spirit Works, California’s Sonoma County may be synonymous with wine, but this female-powered distillery is making a strong case for the region’s spirits. Last December, co-founder Marshall released her Straight Wheat Whiskey, made with organic red winter wheat from the Sacramento Valley. Distilling from local grain is both time-consuming and labor-intensive (most start-up whiskey brands purchase their base spirits in bulk from industrial producers), but this “grain-to-glass” method suits Marshall’s focus on non-GMO, organic, sustainable and local ingredients and suppliers. This setup also allows for experimentation including using ancient grains such as emmer and amaranth to make spirits and finishing rye whiskey in sloe gin barrels.

Clinton Vineyards

Clinton Vineyards in Clinton Corners, NY, owned by Phyllis Feder.  She is immensely gracious and charming, as well as very spry, and looks surprisingly young. At 80 years old, she is the oldest woman proprietor of a vineyard in the US!  Clinton Vineyards was established in 1976 by Ben Feder, a book designer and artist who fell in love with the Hudson Valley in 1974. Inspired by the beautiful wineries and vineyards of the French countryside, where he’d spent time as an art student after World War II, Feder recreated this experience in Dutchess County. He modeled the 100-acre Clinton Vineyards in the tradition of European vineyard estates, specializing in growing a single grape, producing white and sparkling wines. The latter is made in the classic French méthode champenoise, learned by Feder at the famed House of Bollinger. The first release, the 1977 Seyval Blanc, garnered strong praise from The New York Times, resulting in an enthusiastic sell-out. Ben Feder died in 2009, but Phyllis Feder continues to maintain her husband’s legacy. She has served as vice-president of the NY Wine & Grape Foundation.

Marjim Manor

At the Winery at Marjim Manor  in Appleton, NY (Greater Niagara), spirits takes on a whole new meaning. Owned by Margo Bittner, the winery is also haunted and she tells ghost stories over tastings. The Winery at Marjim manor is located in Western New York’s fruit belt. This W.O.W. (Woman Owned Winery) is owned by Margo Sue Bittner. The Marjim name comes from a blending of her first name with that of her husband, Jim. It is a name they created 30 years ago when they began dairy farming. The Winery is a truly a family affair: Margo Sue Bittner is president; Margo’s daughter, Janet Walker assists with sales and marketing. The fruit comes from Bittner-Singer Orchards, where Margo’s husband Jim, is president. Their sons work full time at Bittner-Singer Orchards also. The 9500 square foot mansion has a unique appearance and history. Formerly called Appleton Hall, it is built of bricks imported from Italy by its original owner, Shubal Merritt, who bought the property from the Holland Land Company. It features a wrap-around enclosed porch, carefully restored to its former glory.

 

Aly Walansky

Aly Walansky is a freelance lifestyles writer based in New York City, who contributes regularly to iVillage, SheKnows.com, xoJane, Huffington Post, and The Fashion Spot as well as many other print and web outlets.

2 Comments
  1. Congratulations and best wishes for continued success in all of your activities which is truly a “family affair.”

  2. “Hot to trot”, really? I don’t think that means what you think it means. Even if you’re using it in the slang sense of “sexually avid/available” it doesn’t make sense in this context. If you mean “craft breweries are hot right now,” just write that. If you’re going to use banal cliches, at least use them correctly. ba

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