A Note from the Wine Guy Jim Morris and Hope Katz Gibbs, co-hosts, Women Who Make Us Wine Show— Hello and welcome to our bi-monthly podcast and video series that shines a light on the ladies who put the magic into our glasses. We are thrilled to introduce you to today’s guest — Alison Doran, a veteran of the wine industry and one of the first female winemakers in California.
Alison has decades of winemaking experience that started in 1973 when she began studying under “the dean of American winemakers,” André Tchelistcheff, who helped define the style of California‘s best wines, especially Cabernet Sauvignon.
“I started by career as a harvest intern and cellar rat in Alsace and learned about all of the stages of the winemaking process under André,” shares Alison, who had been studying animal husbandry at the University of California, Davis before switching to fermentation science after working with her mentor.
In 1976, she landed a job as a lab technician at Firestone Vineyard and worked her way up to becoming a winemaker in 1981.
After marrying her husband Mark and having two sons, Alison moved to her family’s ranch in Alexander Valley in 2000. For the last two decades, she has consulted for many wineries in Sonoma and Napa Valley — including Romeo Vineyards and Cellars. And, she also started her own family label, Hoot Owl Creek Vineyards.
On being a woman in the wine business: “I have probably had an easier time than most women in the wine business, what with my Dad having a vineyard and winery, having Andre as a mentor, having the UC Davis Degree, and having raised horses since I was a kid. It all gave me a deep understanding of hard work. And, I always thought it was cool to be the only girl/woman in the room at meetings and vineyard seminars; you just ask the right questions and stay observant and watchful and soon you are part of the gang! I have never been easily intimidated, but I have never felt like forcing things was a good policy either. I am sure that most women coming up through the ranks now know most of this, but at the time intimidation by exclusion was the most potent weapon men used, I was pretty impervious to that one.”
In today’s interview, you’ll learn:
- About Alison’s wine journey
- Her time spent training under one of the wine industry’s most popular winemakers, Andre Tchelistcheff.
- The moment she knew: “I must be in the wine business.”
- Her coolest memory as a winemaker
- The challenges of getting into the wine business—and being successful in it
- The best wine she has tasted
- The one project that’s still on her bucket list
- And, of course, her experience being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated business and advice she’d give to other women hoping to work in the wine industry.