Women and the Vine: the Inspiring Women Working in California’s Wine Industry

In honor of International Women’s Day, we take a look at six of the most inspiring women working today in California’s wine industry.


Stephanie Terrizzi THE GROWER: Stephanie Terrizzi, Giornata Wines

Stephanie Terrizzi’s interest in wine was sparked more than ten years ago while working at a wine bar in Illinois. Her desire to get closer to the action led her to Sonoma County where she was inspired by some of Sonoma’s best wine professionals.  Completing her Certificate in Viticulture from Santa Rosa Junior College, she then went on to pursue a degree in Enology, Chemistry and Plant Science from Fresno State.

Stephanie currently manages the small west-side Paso Robles vineyard Luna Matta and is doing vineyard consulting for one of the country’s top young female winemakers.  She received top praise for her work with Italian varietals from Jon Bonne who stated in his best seller The New California Wine: “Stephy has become the area’s great alternative vineyardist…making the most successful Nebbiolo yet in the state.”

Check out her Aglianico and Nebbiolo from Luna Matta or for a real treat, her Ramato- a Pinot Grigio made with extended skin contact in the orange wine style.

Sold by most quality boutique wine shops or at http://www.giornatawines.com/

A tasting room in Paso Robles is available by apt.

Jenne Lee Bonaccorsi

THE WINEMAKER: – Jenne Lee Bonaccorsi, Bonaccorsi Wine Company

In 1999, Jenne Lee and Michael Bonaccorsi formed the Bonaccorsi Wine Company, setting out to produce wines inspired by their own love of Burgundy and the Rhone.  Sourcing fruit from only the best vineyards, Bonaccorsi Wine Company produces limited quantities of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah, carefully selected from the coolest areas of the Central Coast.

In January 2004, Michael Bonaccorsi suddenly passed away, leaving behind a legacy of winemaking.

Jenne Lee Bonaccorsi continues to make the wine, and in 2007 her wines were among Wine Spectator’s ‘Magnificent 30’ Pinot Noir producers.

Bonaccorsi’s winemaking style includes minimal intervention in order to capture the essence of both the grape variety and the terroir.  Bonaccorsi’s wines continue to be both delicate and concentrated, remaining one of the more elegant producers of wine in the Central Coast.

Tastings are available in Buellton by apt. or can be purchased here


Gillian BallanceTHE SOMM: Gillian Ballance, Master Sommelier

In 2012, Gillian Balance passed the Court of Master’s Level 4 Master Sommelier exam, becoming one of only 19 women to have ever passed.

Working for over 20 years in the hospitality industry, including work at such well-known restaurants as Windows on the World in New York and Bottega Restaurant in Napa Valley, Balance worked as the wine and beverage director at Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara, overseeing the 20,000 bottle wine cellar for Miro Restaurant, recipient of Wine Spectator’s “Best of Award of Excellence.”

As of April 2013, Ballance became the Education Manager for the West for Treasury Wine Estates.  She also continues to act as a guest judge for wine competitions and conducts numerous seminars and lectures throughout the country.

Jill BernheimerTHE PROPRIETOR: Jill Bernheimer, Domaine LA

Jill Bernheimer opened the iconic Domaine LA in 2009 after running a successful wine blog and online store as hobby for years.  When business began to increase, she opened the brick and mortar location on Melrose, bringing the world of natural, low-alcohol and low-intervention wines to LA.

While the shop is small, EVERY wine inside it is a gem and Domaine LA is one of the few places where you could wander in, pick a bottle blind and still come home with a delicious wine.

A HIGHLY curated list, Jill only stocks wines that she enjoys drinking and can recommend to her customers.  She also focuses only on small production wines, preferring to support the underdogs in the wine world rather than the mass produced wines seen elsewhere.  The wines of DomaineLA are also generally made from organic or biodynamic grapes, utilizing native yeasts in fermentation and other low intervention methods.

Domaine LA hosts wine tastings every Friday and Sunday, as well as multiple events throughout the week such as winemaker tastings or seminars. Come in and let Jill pick out something great for you, she won’t steer your wrong.

Domaine LA: 6801 melrose ave, los angeles ca 90038


Melissa SorongonTHE MAVERICK: Melissa Sorongon, Piedrasassi/New Vineland

Melissa Sorongon is a woman of many hats.  You may find her pouring wine made by her husband Sashi Moorman at their small tasting room, Piedrasassi, in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.  Perhaps you see her overseeing the family’s grain-to-loaf bakery, New Vineland Bread or selling their delicious loaves at a local farmer’s market, with young daughter Juliet in  tow.  Or maybe you’ll find her managing the couple’s winemaking consulting business or working the press during harvest.  Regardless of what hat she is wearing, Sorongon shows she can really do it all.

Not simply the woman behind the man, Sorongon is the woman beside him.  Every vintage of Moorman’s numerous wine making ventures (Piedrasassi, Stolpman, Domaine de la Cote, Sandhi, Pence Ranch, need I go on?) serves to reflect the incredible partnership between these two wine greats.

Visit her at her tasting room and bakery open weekends in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto


Merry Edwards

THE LEGEND: Merry Edwards, Merry Edwards Winery

This year marks Merry Edwards’ 41st year in the wine industry.  In her time, she was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintner’s Hall of Fame and became only the fourth woman to win the coveted James Beard Award for Best Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional in the United States.

Throughout her career, Merry Edwards has worked at such legendary wineries as Mount Eden, and Matanzas Creek before establishing her own Merry Edwards Winery.  Edwards is also responsible for the creation of the UC Davis clone 37, referred to familiarly as the “Merry Edwards selection,” which performs beautifully in the Russian River Valley.

Edwards’ examples of endurance and innovation are inspirations to the wine industry.  She continues her efforts to create world class wine under the Merry Edwards label.  Her wines can be purchased at most wine stores or here

Wine tastings are available seven days a week at her winery in Sonoma County.




WSA/NASA Silver Pin Certified Sommelier, Central Coast wine enthusiast and overall travel junkie


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