Recent studies show that women buy more wine than men and have a very acute palate when tasting wine.
So if you are looking for something different to give your wife or mom on Mother's Day, consider including a bottle that shows a woman's touch in making the wine. There are a number of excellent female winemakers or vineyard founders and some have been at it a long time.
"They said I was crazy," recalled Gay Callan, who planted Chatom vineyard in the early 1980s. The site, in a remote part of Calaveras County, was planted with sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Callan sold most of her grapes to other wineries until 1985, when she started making wine.
"I remember our local police not knowing what to do about grape gondolas and other vineyard equipment being on the road," she said.
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Another foothill female winemaker is Katie Quinn, who has been at the helm of Amador Foothill winery since the early 1980s. Her zin, Rhone-style reds and distinctive sauvignon blanc have garnered a number of medals over the years.
In Napa, two standouts are Eileen Crane of Domain Carneros and Paula Moschetti of Frogs Leap Winery. Crane has been winemaker and chief executive officer for a number of years; she's been influential in developing techniques at the sparkling wine facility.
At Frogs Leap, Moschetti makes wine and supports the winery's highly acclaimed green approach to vineyard and winery management.
In Sonoma, Phylis Zouzounis has specialized in making zin at Duex Amis since 1987. Another successful Sonoma zin maker is Brenda Lynch of Mutt Lynch Winery. Lynch, a dog lover, takes it a step further by giving her labels a whimsical dog look and name.
Here are a few to seek out for your mom.
Domain Carneros 2004 Brut
A sparkler with plenty of lively bubbles along with bread and apple in the nose. Follows through to the flavors, which remain vibrant and clean. A perfect wine to toast Mom on Mother's Day. About $25.
Mutt Lynch Sonoma Zinfandel
The 2006 "Portrait of a Mutt" has plenty of berry in a slightly subdued style that does not go over the top. It's called a mutt because of the addition of a small amount of carignane. Blackberry is mixed with a bit of earthiness on the nose while the berry flavors have a nice bright component that invites another taste. About $16.
Chatom 2006 Chardonnay
Chardonnay is not a strong player in the foothills, where warmer weather tends to challenge winemakers with this varietal. But Chatom continues to make a successful straightforward non-oak chardonnay that has a crisp, bright apple character. A double gold medal winner at the recent foothill wine judging. The winery is on Highway 4 close to Murphys. About $18.
Wine picks are from Tom Bender, wine instructor at Columbia College and wine steward for O'Brien's Market, 4120 Dale Road, Modesto, 545-8100.