The Barrel Room's Interview with Cathy Corison - January 2016

Our first winemaker dinner of the year was a huge success, thanks largely to Cathy Corison. The reputation her wines carry brought an awesome crowd, and the care she took talking to our guests ensured the evening was one to remember. We are so happy we got the chance to ask a few questions for those who could not attend - thank you Cathy! 

For more on Corison Winery and our winemaker dinner click here. 


What are some of your most memorable wine drinking experiences? 
Too numerous to count over the 40+ years. But backpacking with a bladder full of Kronos Cabernet is right up there. My husband, William Martin, buys a box of inexpensive wine, drains it and fills it back up with something tasty. If we’re careful, we can make it last for many days. 

How has Napa wine culture changed since you began Corison? 
I started making wine for other people in the 70’s and early 80’s, most notably at Chappellet Vineyard, and then made the first vintage of Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in 1987. It’s hard to believe, but when I arrived in Napa 40 years ago last June, there were 30 wineries in the valley (about 500 now!), the wine industry was still clawing its way out of prohibition, which ended in 1933, and the Napa Valley was economically depressed. Less than a year later the Paris Tasting catapulted Napa on to the world stage and the rest is history.

We love women in wine and The Barrel Room is so impressed by you being the first woman winemaker-proprietor in Napa. What was it like? How do you feel the industry's inclusion of gender has changed or not changed? 
It has been a bumpy road but I have always chosen to focus on doing my best. It’s thrilling to make something that speaks of time and place and makes people happy. Women still make up only 10% of full-control winemakers but they do such a great job that it seems like more. When I did a harvest internship at Freemark Abbey in 1987, I’m pretty sure that was the first year that women had hauled hoses around in a Napa Valley winery (there was another woman in the cellar at Inglenook that harvest). Fast forward to now and women are integrated into all positions in wineries. Pretty exciting.

Do you have any advice for new winemakers? 
If you love wine, just do it.