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Trailblazing Women Leaders of California

During Women's History Month, California celebrates the remarkable contributions of women across various industries, from visionary entrepreneurs in winemaking and fine dining, to leaders in hospitality and local artisans. Here is a list showcasing their work that helps to inspire and shape future generations.


At Her Table in SLO County
From Feb. 27 – Mar. 10, At Her Table, an inclusive and all-welcoming festival, takes place highlighting the culinary expertise and business acumen of women across San Luis Obispo County. Activities include curated tasting menus, varied classes and industry-led discussions, all championing and honoring the contributions of women in the food and beverage industry. 

Women’s History Month Events in Downtown Napa
Throughout March, the CIA at Copia will host Women's History Month events spotlighting the diverse achievements of its female graduates, including pop-up events showcasing exceptional women in the culinary field. Additionally, businesses in Downtown Napa, such as Bar Lucia, will host celebrations, including a Tansy Wine Tasting on Mar. 18 and First Street Napa's Ladies' Night on Mar. 25, featuring a block party, tastings, raffles and more in honor of the women contributing to their success.

Alisal Ranch to Host Act 2 at Alisal Women’s Retreat
Alisal Ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley is hosting its inaugural Act 2 at Alisal retreat from Mar. 10-12, tailored for women aged 40 and above, with Monica Corcoran Harel of Pretty Ripe as the host. The retreat offers a multi-day program including activities, seminars and workshops led by special guests to empower women in midlife, covering topics such as career pivots, midlife health, style, and skincare, alongside traditional ranch activities like yoga and horseback riding.


Sipwell Premium Sustainable Canned Wines
Sipwell, a female-founded and Black-owned company, produces premium organic wine in infinitely recyclable cans. Founded by Hilary Cocalis in 2021 and inspired by her love for wine and desire for single-serving options, Sipwell offers four award-winning wines sourced from organic vineyards in California's Central Coast. It was recognized as the first canned wine to make Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Wines list.

Uncorking the Feminine Force Behind Breathless Wines
Breathless Wines, a family-owned winery in Healdsburg, was established by sisters Sharon Cohn, Rebecca Faust, and Cynthia Faust in honor of their late mother. Guided by winemaker Penny Gadd-Coster, the winery specializes in méthode champenoise sparklers known for their vibrant fruit aromas and crispness, reflecting the sisters' dedication and their mother's spirit. Beyond winemaking, the sisters advocate for women's empowerment, family and community through philanthropic efforts.

Women-Owned Businesses Shaping Santa Maria Valley
The Santa Maria Valley owes much of its charm to the passionate women behind its top wineries, breweries, restaurants and businesses. Cambria Winery is entirely women-owned and run by founders Barbara Banke and Jess Jackson, winemaker Jill Russell, and proprietors Katie and Julia Jackson. Guadalupe Social Club, founded by friends Brooks Van Wingerden and Lexie Bell, also stands out as a family-friendly space offering local wines, beer, and food.

Litty Mathew’s Greenbar Distillery
Litty Mathew is the co-founder and spirits-maker behind LA's first distillery since Prohibition, Greenbar Distillery. Since founding Greenbar in 2004 with her husband, Mathew has shaped the distillery's diverse spirit portfolio, focused on sustainability and culinary creativity, resulting in the world's largest range of 100% USDA-certified organic spirits and eco-friendly beverages. Beyond crafting drinks, she leads Greenbar's sustainability efforts, including a partnership with Sustainable Harvest International and the planting of over 1 million trees in exchange for products sold since 2008.

Mendocino County’s Women-Owned Wineries
Mendocino County, recognized as America's Greenest Wine Region, has several wineries owned and operated by women. Founded in 2003, Theopolis Vineyards is owned by Theodora R. Lee, originally from Texas. In her non-wine life, she is a San Francisco trial lawyer. Testa Vineyards, established in 1912 by Maria Testa Martinson's Italian immigrant great-grandparents, wears many hats as a winemaker, accountant, manager, landscape artist, mom and voice of reason. Family-owned and farmed since 1955, Martha Barra’s Barra of Mendocino produces estate-grown organic wines.

Napa Valley’s Pioneering Female Winemakers
Pioneering women like Josephine Tychson of Freemark Abbey and Cristina Biale of Biale Vineyards laid the foundation for Napa Valley's winemaking legacy. At the same time, contemporary trailblazers such as Cathy Corison, Heidi Barrett, Beth Weber Novak, Robin Daniel Lail, Julie Johnson, Pauline Lhote, Elizabeth Vianna, Helen Keplinger and Victoria Coleman continue to shape Napa's wine excellence. They continue to propel innovations in sustainability, expertise in varietals, and groundbreaking achievements that highlight the indispensable role of women in the region's winemaking history.

18Seventy Brewing Co. in Modesto
18Seventy Brewing Co. prides itself on using locally sourced ingredients from Modesto's farmland to create unique-tasting brews, with small batches ensuring they can source distinct grain and hop crops. Bridget, the prominent figure behind 18Seventy, is a proud female presence in the predominantly male brewing industry. The brewery, queer owned and operated, embraces inclusivity and welcomes all patrons warmly.

Epidemic Ales 
Erin Schally and Holly Brown are the driving forces behind Concord's renowned Epidemic Ales brewery and taproom, who are known not only for their exceptional brews but also for their dedication to community and causes. Their special releases, such as the D-Day brew honoring veterans on Veterans Day and the Lady Boss IPA celebrating women on International Women's Day in March, exemplify their commitment to highlighting important events and supporting various initiatives.

French Aperitif Tasting in Yolo County
Corinne Martinez, a native of Winters, co-owns Berryessa Gap Vineyards, following in the footsteps of her father, Dan Martinez, who became one of the largest farmers in the area after immigrating from Spain. With degrees from UC Berkeley and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, She recently retired from Microsoft after 20 years and now focuses on L'Apero Les Trois, a tasting room she founded with local women Georgeanne Brennan and Nicole Salengo, offering French aperitifs and seasonal farmhouse dinners featuring local fruit and classic appetizers.


n/naka’s Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida-Nakayama Create Opportunities for Women
n/naka is widely regarded as one of the nation's premier dining destinations, boasting two Michelin stars and frequent appearances on "best of" lists. Co-chefs and co-owners Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida-Nakayama have prioritized creating opportunities for women at their modern kaiseki restaurant, aiming to provide more space and training within an industry historically dominated by men.

Courtney Kaplan’s James Beard Award Winning OTOTO
OTOTO, the beloved Echo Park sake izakaya co-owned by Courtney Kaplan and Charles Namba, boasts over 50 sakes by the glass. As the first sake-focused restaurant to win a James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine & Other Beverages Program, OTOTO offers not only a diverse selection of sakes, including rare bottles, but also educational opportunities like Sunday Sake School and special events featuring sake brewers from Japan, making sake exploration accessible and enjoyable for all.

Socalo’s Legendary Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger
Originating from Le Perroquet's kitchen in the '70s, chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger are culinary pioneers in the Los Angeles area. Their legacy spans from Border Grill to Socalo, an all-day Santa Monica haven at Gateway Hotel. Diners can experience modern Mexican with a California twist that showcases a variety of dishes from jackfruit tinga tacos to aguachile flautas. These trail blazers champion LGBTQ+ rights, sustainability and anti-hunger initiatives.

The Platypus Cafe
The Platypus Cafe, a recent addition to SLO County, is a queer-owned establishment offering a diverse menu of Australian bites, charcuterie, sandwichesand flatbreads. Guests can also indulge in Vittoria Coffee from Australia and select wines from Australia and New Zealand, all within a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere open to all patrons.

Mocha Magic in Modesto
Maria Apodaca's journey from an Easy-Bake Oven enthusiast to the owner of Modesto's beloved Mocha Magic Cafe and Bake Shop reflects her passion for the kitchen and deep connection to her hometown. Inspired by her family's roots in Modesto and her own culinary expertise, Apodaca has created a thriving bakery that has become a staple for both locals and visitors.

The Popcorn Store
For 15 years, The Popcorn Store, owned by Cherise, has delighted customers in Elk Grove and Rocklin with its array of gourmet popcorn flavors. From classic white popcorn to seasonal specialties, such as the signature "California Mix" combining gourmet white, cheddar and caramel popcorn, visiting The Popcorn Store promises an unforgettable experience with flavors rotating monthly to cater to every taste bud.

The Gourmandise School at Santa Monica Place
Founded in 2011, The Gourmandise School is a women-owned and operated recreational cooking school in Santa Monica. Clémence de Lutz, Sabrina Ironside, and Claire Hutchens combine their culinary expertise, marketing, operations, and management backgrounds to provide education on creating delicious meals and treats from locally sourced, sustainable ingredients. Their inclusive cooking classes cater to all skill levels, ages and interests, connecting the Los Angeles food community through diverse recipes from around the world.

Animae’s Tara Monsod 
Recently announced are the restaurant and chef semifinalist nominees for the 2024 James Beard Awards, with Tara Monsod, Executive Chef at Animae, securing San Diego County’s sole nomination for Best Chef: California. Monsod’s nomination underscores the national recognition of San Diego's food scene and highlights her remarkable contributions to the community as a BIPOC LGBTQ+ chef in her first Executive Chef role. With an all-female leadership team, Tara crafts a menu of complex dishes that reflect her identity as a first-generation Filipino American, resonating deeply with San Diego's significant Filipino American population, for whom Animae represents a cherished fine dining experience.

The Cauldron in Buena Park
The Cauldron in Buena Park, owned by Lara Hanneman, epitomizes female entrepreneurship through Hanneman's 23-year tenure as the creative director of Knott's Scary Farm. Her dedication is evident in every detail, from the craft cocktails, which are artistic masterpieces, to the French cuisine that adds an element of elegance, ensuring guests have an exceptional experience.

Zero-Waste Restaurateur, Jessica Waite
Jessica Waite, an Oceanside restaurateur and regeneratarian, leads Disruptive Dining (The Plot, Wrench & Rodent), a restaurant group focused on healthy, sustainable dining options. Through the expansion of three new dining concepts in 2023 and doubling her staff, Waite emphasizes community engagement, education and partnerships with local farmers and fisher people. Her success demonstrates that a regenerative business model can pave the way for sustainable growth in the restaurant industry.

Nationally Recognized Gourmet Eateries in Long Beach
Colossus Bread, founded by Kristin Colazas Rodriguez in 2018, earned the title of Best Bread in California by Food & Wine magazine in 2022. The Pie Bar, launched by Laurie Gray in Downtown Long Beach in 2016, plans for nationwide growth after local success. Chef Dima Habibeh's restaurant Ammatoli brings Levantine flavors to Downtown Long Beach and earned her a James Beard Award semifinalist nomination in 2024, while Chef Kat Vacharabul owns successful eateries Hangry Belly and Koolberry at Steelcraft Long Beach.


Discover the Deep Feminist & Artistic Roots of Hotel Figueroa
Founded and built by women in 1926 as an exclusive women's hostel by the YWCA, Hotel Figueroa was a groundbreaking project in the US, that served as a haven for solo female travelers and a meeting place for women's clubs in LA. Inspired by pioneering aviatrix Maude Bouldin, the country’s first-ever female managing director, the hotel's legacy continues to be shaped by women, from the current Managing Director Connie Wang to its highly curated art programming featuring works of local independent female creators.

Kimberly Walker’s Granada Hotel & Bistro
The Granada Hotel & Bistro, a historic 17-room boutique hotel in downtown San Luis Obispo, underwent a full renovation in 2012 as Kimberly Walker's first hotel. With its exposed brick exterior and stylish restaurant and bar, the hotel offers an ideal setting for enjoying dinner or a crafted cocktail, complemented by contemporary art displayed throughout, sourced from both local and renowned international artists. At the heart of the hotel, the Granada Bistro serves locally sourced cuisine, an assortment of wines from around the world and handcrafted cocktails.

Pioneer Lynn Flanagan of Motion Events
Lynn Flanagan, a pioneering figure in the road racing industry, founded Motion Events, a woman-owned and family-run business in 1981 and organized fitness events in Southern California. After her retirement in 2009, her daughters, Christine Adams and Ellen Larson, took over the company. Flanagan’s dedication to her staff, community partners and participants left a lasting legacy, as her company continues to produce events that attract participants from across the nation to Southern California, honoring her passion and commitment.

Hollywood Hotel Pays Homage
The Dixie Hollywood Hotel pays homage to a beloved sister, Dixie, whose life was tragically cut short. In her honor, her sisters created a 70-room haven that reflects her essence. The pet-friendly retro motor inn, nestled in the heart of Hollywood Boulevard, offers a serene ambiance, supports eco-friendly initiatives, and hosts dramatic art murals, all while supporting various charitable causes. 


Julianna Henderson of The Potter’s Nook
Julianna Henderson, the visionary behind The Potter's Nook in Burbank, embodies artisan entrepreneurship, evident in her commitment to excellence through locally sourced ingredients and handcrafted pottery. Her leadership fosters creativity and inclusivity, resulting in a dynamic atmosphere. Beyond her bistro, Henderson actively supports local artisans and sustainability initiatives, creating a beloved cultural destination at the intersection of food, art and community.

Katie Walden’s Avant-Garde Floranthropist
Katie Walden, founder of Floranthropist in downtown Redding, showcases her adventurous, nature-inspired floral designs using locally grown blooms. With over 20 years of experience, Walden's avant-garde style is reflected in Floranthropist's two vibrant locations - the Market offering curated gifts and clothing, and the Studio featuring botanical delights. In addition to retail, Floranthropist provides boundary-pushing floral arrangements for weddings and events, spreading flower joy throughout the community.

Sustainable Women-Owned Businesses in Sausalito’s Marinship
Sausalito’s Marinship is a unique ecosystem of female makers, artists and innovators all working towards creating a sustainable future. Botnia Skin Care not only creates each of their natural and organic products in their lab in Sausalito but they also grow their ingredients at their micro farm. Whatever they can't produce themselves, they partner with local Marin and Sonoma farms and factories. Small-batch shoemaker Freda Salvador pays extra care in not creating waste and mindfully sourcing their leathers. Landfall Leatherworks uses locally sourced retired sails and leather that would have otherwise gone to the landfill to make handmade unique bags.


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