The world of wine and spirits has historically been a male-dominated arena – from the old-school sommeliers in bowties and silver tastevins around their necks to the grand chateaus passed down from father to son. However, this ancient industry has evolved and grown to cater to its bellowing fan base. No longer only a boys’ club, women have become a driving force in the production, service and consumption of wine. Forget the notion of girls sipping chardonnay and white wine spritzers – we, ladies, can grow the grapes, make the wine and serve it up, too. And it’s plain to see at Annisa, an intimate West Village restaurant, in our own Manhattan.
Translated from Arabic, the word annisa means “women”, a central theme to this restaurant. Owned and operated by two seasoned and acclaimed women in the world of food and wine, Jennifer Scism and Chef Anita Lo, Annisa has earned a reputation of offering exceptional and creative “contemporary” American cuisine. While that was enough to peak our interest, the real draw for us, was their extensive wine list, featuring wines that are either made by female vintners or made at vineyards with female proprietors.
The wine list ranges from New World to Old World, from New Zealand to Italy - reaffirming our assumption that women are making their mark on an international level. While there are many wines on the list worth noting, we’ve selected a few, with help from some friends, that takes us across the map.
2004 Isabel Estate Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Marlboro, NZ, $40
This Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand has high energy and makes its presence known at the table. Racy acidity and bright citrus fruits come together in this well-balanced wine made by female vintner Robyn Tiller.
2003 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, Russian River, $80
With over 30 years of winemaking under her belt, Merry Edwards has earned quite a reputation for producing great wines – and a few awards to go with it (Chronicle’s 2004 winemaker of the year). This wine is a great expression of a New World pinot noir – with its bright red fruit – like raspberries and cherries and notes of vanilla from oak.
2000 Amarone "Le Ragose", Italy, $85
This family owned vineyard, run by the Galli family, handles all aspects of the wine - from production to marketing. Their attention to detail comes through in the richness and complexity of the wine – featuring notes of raisins and spice. While the 2000 may be a little young and slightly tannic, after a few years in bottle, it should mature into a beautiful, well-balanced wine.
2000 Francesca Vicent Robert Lo Piot Priorat, $80
Francesca, or Cesca as she likes to go by, is the proprietor of the vineyard that bares her name. While founded in 1999, the land has been in Cesca family since the 13th century. This Priorat (priorato), a blend of 90% granacha (Grenache) and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, has concentrated black fruit and spice notes with firm tannins. This wine is a great complement to many of the dishes at Annesia.
It’s clear the face of wine is changing. Women are producing and selling top wines around the globe. While there is still a long way to go, we’re confident that women can drink their way to equality - and we're more than happy to support the cause one bottle at a time.
photo: Cesca Vicent Robert in her vineyards in Priorato, Spain.