edible Marin and Wine Country Winemaker Issue : Page 21
‘Hey, Honey, look at this’—like my hair was green!” In 2004, Welch brought her talent to her own label, Corra Wines. The wines she makes there have furthered her reputa-tion, consistently earning 90-plus ratings. “The ’07 Corra was highly praised,” she says, “But it is the 2008 that I am very proud of. That was a particularly challenging vintage, and the challenging vintages are what separate the men from the boys.” So to speak. MIA KLEIN, Winemaker and Founder of Selene Wines Slender and understated, Mia Klein has earned a powerful reputation in the Napa Valley. As a consulting winemaker for a red-carpet list of estate wineries, she has become known for her exacting palate and a clear-cut conﬁdence to match. “There are 32 shades of gray, so the decision is intuitive, ” says Klein of that moment when she determines that grapes are ready for harvest, or a wine is ready for bottling. “Tony Soter [Klein’s mentor for many years] used to say ‘Ask what the wine wants right now.’ The hardest thing is when the answer is nothing at all.” A National Geographic survey has ranked women’s sense of smell above men’s and studies from Yale University and the University of Connecticut point to an abundance of female “Super Tasters.” But while the rest of the world wants to pinpoint a physical difference between men and women’s palates, Klein rejects the idea that making good wine has anything to do with gender. “I’d hate to break it down to male and female,” she says. “I might say masculine and feminine, and in any kind of creative job you need to be in touch with both. The best winemakers I know, male and female, have a balance of mas-culine and feminine qualities.” Photo of Mia Klein: Courtesy of Skippy, Selene Wines; Photo of Heidi Barrett: Stephen Wilkes She quickly worked her way up from cellar jobs to assistant winemaker. It was during these years, the 1990s, that she developed a long-term winemaking partnership with Soter, whom she credits for her hands-on sensibility. Klein worked as Soter’s assistant at Robert Pepi Winery for several vintages and then began to consult as winemaker for prestigious wineries such as Araujo, Viader and Dalla Valle. This may sound like a meteoric rise, and it was, but Klein’s description is character-istically pragmatic. “My philosophy has been to work with very busy people and stuff spills off. A lot of responsibility came to me very quickly.” In 2000, she started her own label, Selene Wines, and since then her Merlots, Cabernets and Sauvignon Blancs have earned a reputation of their own. In Klein’s opinion, starting Selene has only improved her ability to relate to other estate owners. She clearly thrives on the high stakes of the business of making wine. “You are never fully ready. Do you every feel fully ready working with agriculture and natural systems? You better love it because you’d do just as well being a gambler. So many things are out of control. But that is what keeps every-thing fresh.” HEIDI BARRETT, Winemaker and Founder of La Sirena Wines The most remark-able universal quality of suc-cessful women winemakers is not that they are female. Their most distinct common charac-teristic is that they all seem to be doing exactly what they were destined to do. They are in that select group of people on the planet whose passion and abilities line up ﬂawlessly with their vocation. Winemaker Heidi Barrett exempliﬁes this phenomenon, which may explain her track record as a producer of ﬂaw-less wines. Literally ﬂawless, as her “cult Cabernets” have received four 100-point ratings from Robert Parker. “My mother was an artist and my father was a winemaker at BV. I was good at science and math, and my mom always had us making art. So I am genetically bred for this, in a way,” Barrett says. The tall, elegant Barrett describes wine-making as a combination of agriculture, science, design and marketing, a profession that fully engages both the left and right brain. EDIBLE MARIN & WINE COUNTRY WINEMAKER ISSUE | 21 Klein grew up in Hermosa Beach, California, closer to the rolling waves than the rolling vineyards, but when she took a job in wine retail in San Francisco she knew that she had found her passion, and made her way to UC Davis’ School of Enology. Klein’s no-nonsense demeanor and focus make it easy to see why she was hired immediately upon graduation.