Supporting female-run businesses is one small way to celebrate Women’s History Month this year, and if you’re planning to revel in the lady power with your girlfriends (virtually or otherwise), how about imbibing with wine from a female-led brand? The industry, like many others, has long been male-dominated. But over the years, more and more women winemakers, sommeliers, and beverage directors are establishing themselves as leaders in the business. What’s more, Black women in wine are launching new labels and companies, too — several of which are great resources for those looking to shop or network within the industry.
Ahead, TZR is spotlighting six women in wine — each one is sharing what it means to be a female business owner or leader, how they’re innovating in the industry, and the biggest surprises they’ve encountered thus far. Keep scrolling to read about their experiences, and don’t miss the shopping sections with plenty more varietals by female winemakers. Cheers!
Cameron Diaz & Katherine Power, Co-Founders of Avaline Wine
With a shared interest in wellness and pure products, actor Cameron Diaz and entrepreneur Katherine Power launched their clean wine brand, Avaline, in the fall of 2020. “Cameron and I are both conscious of the ingredients in the products we use, from food to beauty. We knew the contents of everything that went in and on their bodies — why not wine?” Power tells TZR. After researching ingredients and the wine-making process, the duo’s drinking habits completely shifted. “We wanted to enjoy a glass of wine without having to question anything,” Diaz explains. “Both Katherine and I knew so many women looking for the same qualities in their wine: Made with organic grapes and without unnecessary ingredients.”
The co-founders wanted to make clean wine more easily accessible, too. “Two years ago, if we wanted clean wine, we had to pre-order or drive across town to a specialty shop,” Power shares. “This is why Avaline was born. We wanted anyone to be able to grab it at their grocery store before heading to a barbecue or a friend’s house.”
By partnering with industry experts and learning the ins and outs of wine-making and farming practices, Diaz and Power value their place in the industry and the ability to connect with like-minded customers. “We’re in a male-dominated industry — rather than see this as a barrier, we see it as an opportunity,” Power shares. “We know how to make products that modern women crave and truly want.” Diaz adds, “Our community has responded positively to having a clean and delicious wine that’s approachable and suitable for every day. The most rewarding part is that we’ve provided a wine that consumers feel confident drinking and have continued to raise awareness regarding transparency.”
Diaz and Power’s ability to understand their customer keeps them focused and confident in their product, which they say is essential as a female entrepreneur. “The most important thing to know about running a business, especially as a woman, is that you just need to be yourself, have confidence in who you are and in your product,” Power says. “As women, we feel we have to be more convincing as entrepreneurs and business professionals, and in most cases, this is true. We need to change the story. Being a female business owner means standing up for what you believe and providing an honest product based on consumers’ values and needs, and that is what we are doing with Avaline.”
Diaz adds, “The process of creating Avaline was as much a creative endeavor as it was a business venture. I don’t know if there was ever a time that it felt like we were doing this for any other purpose but to create a beautiful, delicious wine that we could share with a like-minded community. There is something very gratifying about that. Approaching it with a spirit of ease and fun and doing so with your friend. I think you can really feel it in the end product.”
Zidanelia Arcidiacono, Sonoma-Cutrer's Pinot Noir Winemaker
“I sometimes felt out of place as a woman and felt that I had to change myself to fit in with my male colleagues,” Zidanelia Arcidiacono, Sonoma-Cutrer’s pinot noir winemaker, tells TZR of her beginnings in the wine industry. “I never imagined it would be so difficult to break into it.”
With more time and experience, Arcidiacono realized that she could shine brighter by being herself. “I became more confident, and I then felt like I could really dedicate myself to what I am passionate about, which is making wine,” she shares. “At Sonoma-Cutrer, I’m fortunate to work alongside a team of women who inspire me every day. From the vineyards to the cellars, we show the industry the importance of women in wine-making and serve as a driving force to those who wish to make it in.”
Arcidiacono’s Mexican-Argentinian-Italian heritage drives her mission of inclusivity within the wine industry, too. “I’m extremely proud to be a part of a minority in the wine industry,” she tells TZR. “Every day, with our achievements and perseverance, we are taking steps forward toward inclusion.”
Sonoma-Cutrer’s sustainability program is another opportunity that’s given Arcidiacono confidence through leadership. “Sonoma-Cutrer prioritizes protecting the environment in all viticultural and wine-making processes, allowing us to give back to the earth today and for future generations,” she says, describing her role overseeing the program as a “privilege.”
“I’m so passionate about making wine,” she adds. “Seeing people enjoy our wine and knowing that it’s a part of people’s memorable life experiences is incredibly rewarding. It’s extraordinary to me to think that our wine reaches thousands of unique palates, and each one discovers the incredible harmony found in each of our wines.”
Maria Rivero González, CEO of RG
Wines from lesser-acclaimed regions don’t always get noticed. Still, Maria Rivero González, CEO of the certified sustainable winery RGNY, is making must-try varietals out of North Fork, Long Island. Under the parent company RG, founded by Rivero González, RGNY and all of RGMX, is a deeply-rooted Mexican heritage company innovating in unexpected territories. “We always envisioned growth into different regions and markets,” González tells TZR. This pull toward lesser-known areas allows the company to capitalize on untapped quality, resulting in a thrill of discovery for customers. “It’s always a pleasure to help people discover other regions,” González says. “When it comes to making wine, the possibilities are endless because there are no real ‘expectations’ from these regions. We’re hoping to bring forth innovation while challenging the grapes and wine-making techniques used on the North Fork. We’re always looking to be creative in our delivery, brand, and overall experience.”
The CEO says winemakers, female or male, can spark change and innovate within the industry, but being a Mexican woman gives RGNY a unique perspective. “Our team is a group of energetic, young people that like to question the status quo and want to have a little fun while achieving maximum excellence in our products,” she shares.
Recently dubbed the “new kid on the fork,” González says new is exciting for her brand and the growing customer base. “The most surprising thing is how people keep coming back,” she reveals. Continuing, “We’ve been surprised at how well customers want to try our funkier, creative things; our white wine made with red merlot grapes is our best-selling wine! It’s unique, and everyone is willing to give it a chance.”
But González has more than buzzy It factor — her innovation and innate drive are deeply part of her. “I’ve always felt so proud to be Mexican. We, as a culture, are fun, witty, creative, and inventive — and our food is the best!” she explains. “Being a female business owner means so much to me. I have three older brothers, and we’re all very different and manage businesses [differently]. But all four of us have great capabilities to do it.” Adding, “Before, in Mexico, women stayed at home. Things have changed, and I’m glad. I love my job, and I believe I am damn good at it!”
Cori Lee Seaberg, Co-Founder & President at Out East
Before becoming an entrepreneur, Cori Lee Seaberg, the co-founder, and president of Out East wines, spent 13 years in the fashion luxury sphere working for Gucci, Chloé, and Christian Dior. Experience at such distinguished fashion houses set Lee Seaberg up for success by giving her the confidence to venture out on her own and build a brand. “After I left corporate America, I wanted to work on something I was truly passionate about and something I could call my own,” the wine entrepreneur tells TZR. “I’ve always had an affinity for wine and wine-making. So co-founding Out East felt natural but has certainly not been an easy undertaking.”
Because her wine business began as a passion project, Lee Seaberg felt a steep learning curve from learning the complexities of importing wine from France to dealing with state-specific regulatory considerations and working with numerous distributors. “The alcohol business is complicated and takes time to navigate,” she explains. Though Out East has morphed into a bonafide business, along the way, it’s awarded her new experiences, learning opportunities, and new relationships. “Visiting the vineyards in France and working closely with our wine-making team is a thrill,” she shares. “We’ve built such strong and meaningful relationships that it’s like working with family.” Weaving a philanthropic ethos into Out East is another meaningful part of Lee Seaberg’s role. “We’ve supported several charitable organizations since our founding — something I am personally very proud of,” she shares.
Despite its many challenges, Lee Seaberg finds her role as a female leader an endlessly rewarding and humbling experience. “Female entrepreneurs are having a long-overdue moment, and I’m grateful to be doing what I am doing now,” the wine entrepreneur says. She’s also grateful for the partnership. “My business partner, Patrick, and I have known each other for 12-plus years now, and we were friends before joining forces professionally. It’s really rewarding to be able to work with someone with whom there’s a foundation of implicit trust. This has been key for us as we’ve grown the business. While we have very different backgrounds and skillsets, we complement each other quite well. We’ve built a strong business with multiple wines in our portfolio, and the best is yet to come!”
Above all, Lee Seaberg values a message of togetherness which she hopes to spread. “I’m proud of the business I’ve built with my partner and continue to be thankful to my parents for what they taught me at a young age: You can be anything you want to be as long as you do so with honesty and integrity. And, having recently become a mother to a baby girl myself, I’m very much looking forward to teaching her the same lessons.” She continues, “If I can be of service to other female entrepreneurs in the meanwhile, all the better. After all, one of our mottos at Out East is ‘Better Together.’ That applies as much as when opening a good bottle of wine as it does to empowering other women along their entrepreneurial journeys.”
Victoria James, Director of Beverage and Partner at COTE
As a partner, beverage director, and sommelier at Cote Korean Steakhouse in New York City, Victoria James has many insights into the world of female-led wines. “For a long time, the world of wine was dominated by an old boy’s club, and today I’m proud to be a woman in the industry I love so much, but a lot of work still needs to be done,” she tells TZR. “The more voices from diverse backgrounds we have in wine, the more innovative the industry will be. That means more women, more BIPOC, more inclusion!”
Here, four of James’ favorite female-led wines:
“J. Lassalle Champagne — we carry both at Cote Miami (by the glass!) and Cote New York. It’s rare to find female-run wineries in Champagne, let alone one that’s run by three generations of women. For me, this is one of the quintessential wines of the region filled with so much joy — we always carry it at our restaurants.”
For those with an adventurous palette, James says, “Krista Scruggs makes fun and funky wines and cider-wine blends in Vermont under her label, Zafa wines. They’re charming and happy wines that are perfect for picnics and parties.”
Natural wine lovers, this one’s for you. “Martha Stoumen makes natural wines in California that many sommeliers will clamor to get instantly upon release,” James tells TZR. “Made in small quantities, she’s already amassed a cult-following for her beautiful and expressive wines.”
Is there any better female duo than a mother and daughter team? “Michèle Ouellet and Melinda Kearney are the mother-daughter team behind Lorenza wines, cheerful rosé that I’m always delighted to drink when it’s released,” James shares. “Many New World vintners are still finding their footing in pink wine production while Lorenza was one of the first to celebrate honest rosé, made from old vines, and made in traditional methods.”