The women you can meet on International Womens' Day 2019 (and after) »

At Meet the Makers: Women in Beer, Wine and Spirits

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Women Winemakers

Women Winemakers [©Wendy Chung]

Danielle Allen and Jayne Lewis, Two Birds Brewing
Jaz Wearin, Modus Operandi Mona Vale NSW
Meet the Makers, Women in Beer Wine_and Spirits
Claudia Roughley, Underground Spirits Canberra


Cellarmasters and BWS have created Australia's first drinks festival with an all-female line-up to celebrate International Women's Day in March. 

At Meet the Maker: Beer, Wine & Spirits, you'll be able to meet some of the leading winemakers, brewers and distillers. Here are some of the drink industry's trailblazing women:

Gwyn Olsen, Briar Ridge and Pepper Tree Wines, Hunter Valley
Gwyn received the prestigious Gourmet Traveller Wine’s Young Winemaker Medal in 2014, and is a rising star of the Australian wine industry. Gwyn studied Oenology at Roseworthy University in Adelaide, graduating in 2005, completing her first vintage in France, with a further six in New Zealand, and three in the Hunter Valley.

In late 2015, Gwyn became the Head Winemaker for the well-known Briar Ridge and Peppertree Wines based in the Hunter Valley.

Kathleen Quealy, Quealy Winemakers, Mornington Peninsula
Kathleen is a pioneer in the Australian wine industry and, in 2016, became the first female ‘Legend of the Vine’ awarded by Wine Communicators of Australia. A job on the McWilliams bottling line in the late 70s led to Wagga Wagga, where Kathleen studied viticulture and winemaking under the tutelage of pinot gris advocate Max Loder.

Word of the burgeoning Mornington Peninsula and its cool, pinot-friendly, climate piqued an interest upon graduation. Kathleen has spent the subsequent years cultivating a reputation for elegant pinot grigio and pinot gris, innovative skin contact white wines and characterful, site expressive Pinot Noir.

Sarah Pidgeon, Wynns Coonawarra Estate, Coonawarra
Sarah Pidgeon grew up in a wine-loving family in Armidale, NSW, and went onto study winemaking at Roseworthy Campus in South Australia. Vintages in Margaret River, Swan Valley, Napa, Coonawarra, Griffith, and Paso Robles cemented Sarah’s love of cabernet sauvignon.

In 1998 she was appointed winemaker at Wynns Coonawarra Estate, and has since won several accolades for the estate, including Winemaker of the Year at the 2016 Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology Awards for Excellence – sharing this award with colleague Sue Hodder.

Jayne Lewis and Danielle Allen, Two Birds Brewing, Melbourne
These Two Birds are trailblazers within the industry, and founded Australia’s first female-owned brewing company in 2011. Having been friends for almost 10 years, it was a trip to USA, during which they visited several craft beer breweries, that inspired the duo to take a leap of faith and start their own brewery – and the rest is beer history.

Today, Jayne and Danielle make award-winning craft brews from their brewery in Spotswood, Melbourne.

Jaz Wearin, Modus Operandi, Mona Vale
A six month-trip to USA inspired beer lover Jaz Wearin and her husband Grant to start their own brewery in Sydney's Northern Beaches in 2014. Just three months in to operating the business, they won numerous prestigious accolades, including Champion Australian Beer at the 2014 Australian Craft Beer Awards.

Jaz, a country girl who’s always liked beer, is passionate about creating craft brews that capture the imagination – and taste buds – of beer lovers everywhere.

Claudia Roughley, Underground Spirits, Canberra
Underground Spirits was founded in 2017, and specialises in crafting premium spirits made in small matches with the highest quality and sustainably grown local wheat.

As its CEO, mum of two Claudia is passionate about maintaining the innovative spirit of Underground Spirits, while ensuring its premium products are enjoyed by an international audience.

Laura Carter, Applewood Distillery, Adelaide Hills
A genuine adoration for the hidden aspects of Australia’s flora led Laura – winemaker, distiller and co-owner of Applewood Distillery – to craft distinctly aromatic Gin and Amaro, speaking volumes of the sites, soils and the forgotten cultures of Australian history.

Utilising native flavours such as peppermint gum leaf, desert limes and wattleseed, her products are crystalline in their expression of origin.

Alexia Roberts, Penny’s Hill, McLaren Vale
At the tender age of 16, Alexia undertook some work experience at the Penfolds winery in Barossa, and she hasn’t looked back since! After studying winemaking, she completed vintages in Italy and France. She found her home in South Australia’s picturesque McLaren Vale, where she has been the Group Winemaker at Penny’s Hill since 2013.

Alexia has won an array of accolades for the estate, including World’s Best Cabernet at France’s Concours International des Cabernets and the Best Australian Red in Show two years running at Mundus Vini in Germany.

Julie Montgomery, Avon Brae, Eden Valley
Born in Northern Ireland but relocated to country South Australia as a child, Julie majored in Microbiology at university, then morphed careers from winery lab technician to award-winning winemaker. The meticulousness that saw Julie excel in the field of science has also stood her in good stead in the fields!

Julie creates wines that are distinctive in their character, displaying wonderful aromatics, elegance, complexity and finesse.

Janelle Zerk, Z Wines, Barossa Valley
Z Wine is the partnership of sisters Janelle (winemaking) and Kristen Zerk (marketing), whose heritage dates back five generations at the Zerk vineyard in Lyndoch, Barossa Valley, on which they grew up. Janelle studied winemaking at Adelaide University, and has vintage experience in Puligny Montrachet, Tuscany and Sonoma Valley.

Z Wines has a five star winery rating from James Halliday, and continue to impress wine writers and wine shows. They are – to their knowledge - the only 'sister' duo that run a wine business in the Barossa Valley.

Josephine Perry, Dormilona, Margaret River
Josephine Perry studied her degree in Oenology by correspondence through Charles Sturt University, which gave her the opportunity to work abroad extensively. Jo spent seven years managing two wineries in Spain, and has completed vintages in France and harvest in California and New Zealand.

She is the founder of Dormilona, a boutique winery specialising in natural wines.

Sally Blackwell, Hawkesbridge, South Australia/New Zealand
Sally obtained a science degree in microbiology/biochemistry at ANU in 1977, and worked in medical research for three years, but did not enjoy using animals as guinea pigs.

After moving to the Barossa in 1981, Sally put her science skills to good use as a wine lab technician at Cellarmasters. At the same time, she started studied winemaking, and joined the Cellarmasters’ winemaking team as a winemaker in 2000. She enjoys winemaking because she can use people instead of animals as guinea pigs.

Nicole Samodol, Rowlee Wines, Orange
Nicole started her career working in hospitality and tourism in Melbourne. During this time, she immersed herself with the wonderful world of wine, and became a member of the Victorian Sommeliers Association.

She founded Rowlee Wines in 2013 in Orange, where she makes wines from a single vineyard, specialising in cool climate wines including pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling.

Elena Brooks, Dandelion Vineyards, Barossa Valley
Elena Brooks is the Chief Winemaker and CEO of Dandelion Vineyards, the wine company she created, controls and catapulted into critical acclaim worldwide in just 10 released vintages.

Elena, native of Bulgaria, trained in Australia and regularly recognized as not just of Australia’s best, but one of the world’s leading wine producers as her single site Dandelion Vineyard wines continually set new benchmarks for wines of purity, poise and purpose.

Rosie Signer, Heirloom Vineyards, Barossa Valley
Born and bred in Washington State USA, Rosie studied winemaking in her home country and made wine around the globe before landing on the purple patch of South Australia in 2010. Captivated by her adopted nation’s old vine vineyards, Rosie was soon appointed winemaker at Heirloom Vineyards.

Some of her accolades for Heirloom include Best Shiraz and Best Wine of Show in Barossa 2015, Chairman’s Trophy for Best Wine McLaren Vale Wine Show 2017, Best Shiraz and World's Best Red Wine IWC Vienna 2017.

Jo Gear, Ribbon Hills, New Zealand
After working as a cellar hand in Hawke’s Bay, Jo completed her post-graduate diploma in Viticulture and Oeneology at Lincoln University in Christchurch. In 2001, she joined New Zealand’s sauvignon blanc pioneers Matua Valley wines. She was soon promoted to winemaker, and even took part in a vintage in California’s Napa Valley.

Jo joined New Zealand Wine Society in 2005 as its resident winemaker, and has since been making exceptional white wines and rosé wines exclusively for its customers. She has also been an Associate Wine Judge at the Air NZ Wine Awards.

Natasha Mooney, Tash
South Australian winemaker Natasha Mooney – known by friends, family and workmates as Tash – approaches winemaking with an entrepreneurial spirit. Her wines have earned her numerous wine show accolades, and she is passionate about creating styles that are approachable yet thought provoking.

Janiene Bayliss, Ata Mara, New Zealand
As the director of Ata Mara Vineyard, Janiene is dedicated to producing elegant pinot noir and cool climate aromatic white wines from Central Otago. She has been in the industry for nearly 20 years and came from a business and commercial background consulting in global companies.

She has founded the group Women in Wine (WIW) in Central Otago (200 members) whose main objective is to raise the profile of women in the industry, facilitate change, and support other women.


If you can't make it to Meet the Makers on 8 March, visit them at their cellar doors or retail outlets, details below

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February 08th, 2019
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