Women Winemakers in California Wine Country
Northern California’s Women Vintners
Since the 1880s when Hannah Weinberger was recognized as California’s first woman winemaker, women have been an integral part of winemaking history. The 1960s and 1970s saw an uptick in the numbers of women interested in the winemaking industry. In recent years, multiple Top 100 Lists have included 30% of wines from wineries led by women winemakers — a steady increase of both involvement and recognition.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we celebrate just a few of the many renowned women vintners who call Northern California’s wine country home.
In addition, Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar at Archer Hotel Napa is featuring one of these amazing women winemakers every week. Join us and raise a glass to them — and to the other wonderful women in your life.
Ondine Chattan Winemaker — Angels & Cowboys (Share A Splash)
Launching her career at Cline Cellars, Chattan followed her Fresno State graduate work in enology at Ridge Vineyards and spent the next 18 years at Geyser Peak. Joining Share A Splash in 2017 united her experience and ambition in making wines that are inclusive and welcoming.
Chattan takes a hands-on, multidisciplinary approach to winemaking. Knowing that the work must happen in the vineyard, she focuses on building strong relationships. She’s introduced some of her favorite growers to the Share A Splash family and works to expand sourcing relationships, always with a focus on refining quality and dialing in the coastal style. She embraces blending with a mindset of knowing what is compatible, as well as looking at the potential — how something will evolve over time.
Montse Reece Winemaker — Pedroncelli Winery
Hailing from Catalonia, Spain, Reece grew up in a culture that considered wine as food. She earned her degree in agricultural engineering/enology from Rovira I Virgili University and worked her first harvest in a small cooperative in Penedes.
Leaving Spain for Sonoma, Reece worked for several vineyards before joining the winemaking team at Pedroncelli Winery in 2007. She earned her stripes in the Pedroncelli family, becoming in 2015 the iconic winery’s third winemaker and the first without the namesake. Focused on making wine in a traditional way compared with today’s standards, she’s a champion of the distinct zins and reds of Dry Creek Valley — resonating with the flavors, sense of place and food friendliness all reminiscent of growing up in Spain.
Chris Kajani President and Winemaker — Bouchaine Vineyards
A Napa native, Kajani earned her master’s degree in viticulture and enology from UC Davis. After almost a decade as a winemaker at Saintsbury working with Carneros pinot noir and chardonnay, she joined the Bouchaine family in 2015 as winemaker and general manager. Today, she is president and winemaker extraordinaire of the estate-focused producer. Kajani and her all-female crew hand-harvest at night, picking based on taste. She remains flexible, knowing that though wine is one of the world’s oldest industries, it is constantly evolving.
Her winemaking philosophy? Be in the vineyard all the time. And her mantra? Pick for flavor. Get serious about the details. Don’t take shortcuts. And above all, enjoy the wine.
Nicole Hitchcock Head Winemaker — J Vineyards & Winery
Growing up and working in the Central Coast where wine was a constant, Hitchcock recognized the high value placed on food and wine and their ability to elevate the social experience. She earned her degree in viticulture and enology with a minor in Italian at UC Davis and an MBA from the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University. After spending a summer at an agriturismo in Todi, Umbria, she worked a harvest in Napa Valley, transitioned to sales and completed a harvest internship in Western Australia before honing her expertise as an award-winning sparkling and still winemaker.
Hitchcock joined J Vineyards & Winery in 2015 as head winemaker. With an “unapologetically California” style, she has worked to improve upon the house style by tweaking the traditional techniques for sparkling wines and introducing still wines (particularly pinot noir) to the program. In 2022, Hitchcock was named Winemaker of the Year by the Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition — 100% judged by noted winemakers.