Top 100 Most Influential U.S. Winemakers

10-Mia Klein is among the most widely respected winemakers in California. She is credited with an innate ability to craft wines of finesse and balance from top-quality fruit. She began consulting with several of Napa’s biggest names including Araujo, Bressler, Spottswoode, Viader, and Fisher. But Klein may be best known for her work at Dalla Valle Vineyard, where she successfully followed Heidi Peterson Barrett as winemaker. Her label Selene is exclusively focused on the Bordeaux varietals that thrive in the Napa Valley vineyards. Mia is the winemaker for several small, super-premium producers in Napa, including Bressler Vineyards, Boyanci, and Cimarossa Vineyards, and she is the consulting winemaker for Palmaz Vineyards.

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9-Robert Foley became a famous winemaker after his stint at Pride Mountain Vineyards, the wines of which were served in the White House by both President Bush and President Clinton. Foley has a clear passion for alternative grapes such as Charbono and Petite Sirah and makes incredibly rich red blends under his personal brand, Robert Foley Vineyards. Foley is known for Switchback Ridge, Hourglass, Paloma, School House, Dos Lagos, Engel Family wines and his own label Robert Foley located on Howell Mountain.

8-Heley Turley began became the winemaker for B.R. Cohn, then founding winemaker for Peter Michael Winery in the Knights Valley wine region, one of Sonoma County's original five American Viticultural Areas. At Peter Michael, she helped to define the emerging style of California Chardonnay and developed Les Pavots, Peter Michael's flagship blend of red Bordeaux varietals. This project developed into Marcassin, one of California’s most respected Pinot Noir and Chardonnay labels. She has also worked as a consulting winemaker for a number of wineries, including Colgin Cellars, Kapcsándy Family Winery, Blankiet Estate, Pahlmeyer Winery, Landmark Vineyards, Bryant Family, and Martinelli. She was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the Wine Spectator in 2010. 

7-Gina Gallo: With over 24 wine brands, and over 70 millions cases of wine produced and tens of thousands of acres of grapes, E. & J. Gallo Winery is the world's largest family-owned winery and the largest exporter of California wine. Gina Gallo is winemaker, spokesperson and all around wine supporter. But beyond that she has tirelessly promoted wine in general and helped quality control and quality assurance for her wines on the backend. Long gone are the days when the name Gallo was associated with Ripple and Thunderbird and their offerings also include higher-end fine wines. Sure, they are a wine-behemoth, but Gallo sells more wine than anybody and Gina’s influence to women everywhere and her charity work is unsurpassed.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

6-Heidi Barrett. Say the words “cult wine” and you mean Heidi Barrett. It was at Dalla Valle where she gained prominence by creating powerful, elegant Cabernets, including the famous “Maya” cult wine, a proprietary Cabernet blend that received two perfect 100-point scores from Robert Parker. She was hired to make wine for Screaming Eagle in 1992 and again received two perfect 100-point scores not to mention a mass of adoring fans. At the Napa Valley Wine Auction, a 6-liter bottle 1992 Screaming Eagle Cabernet set a world record for the highest price ever paid for a single bottle of wine at $500,000. Currently she makes her own wine under the La Sierena label and after all the fuss, she still makes damn fine wine.

5-Paul Hobbs is owner and winemaker for Paul Hobbs Winery, CrossBarn Winery and Vina Cobos in Mendoza. Paul is a pioneer in this industry, from having a hand in the discovery of Malbec’s potential in Argentina, to venturing into regions such as Hungary, Armenia, Uruguay and Cahors. He has his hands in soil all over the world and is recognized as being one of the best in identifying regions that are over or undeveloped and finding a solution. He’s a farmer at heart but also a good businessman. He looks at the industry to see where he can make a market improve and he looks at a region to see what he can discover

4-Robert Trinchero. Vintners Hall of Fame inductee, Trinchero took over Sutter Home Winery and made Amador County Zinfandel, purchasing fruit from some of the oldest vines in California. In 1972, looking for a way to make the wine more intense, he drained off some of the juice before fermentation and left some natural sugar in it. Say what you want about White Zinfandel, it was affordable, introduced non-wine drinkers to wine, and preserved some old Zinfandel vineyards that might have been lost forever. Wine Spectator gave Trinchero its Distinguished Service Award for “having introduced more Americans to wine on the table than anyone in history.” Trinchero has played a large role in hosting Auction Napa Valley, which has contributed tens of millions of dollars to charity.

3-Paul Draper has been the chief winemaker at Ridge Vineyards in Sonoma since 1969. Without any formal training in winemaking, Draper first gained recognition for his Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon when it placed fifth at the Judgment of Paris wine tasting. Draper has played a significant role in the history of California wine through his pioneering work in popularizing vineyard-designated wines as well as instigating the resurgence of old vine Zinfandel, rescuing the grape from obscurity and demonstrating its full potential. He also continues to mentor many California winemakers. In 2013 he was chose Winemaker’s Winemaker at ProWein. He was also chosen as the San Francisco Chronicle’s Winemaker of the Year in 2006. His Ridge Monte Bello is iconic.

2-Merry Edwards. Vintners Hall of Fame inductee she was the founding winemaker at Matanzas Creek Winery in Sonoma and as a consultant, made wines for such clients as Pellegrini Family Vineyards, Liparita Cellars, Lambert Bridge Winery and Fritz Winery. She taught the first clonal seminar at UC Davis. Few California vintners took her seriously when she introduced the notion, acquired during a research trip to the Burgundy region of France, that particular grapevine clones, when grown in specific areas, produced wines with more complexity and interest. She has been making Pinot Noir longer than any woman and most men and was instrumental in showing that Russian River Valley is capable of making outstanding Pinot Noir. Edwards was named Winemaker of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle, Named one of "The 50 Most Influential Winemakers in the World" by Wine and Spirits Magazine, and named "One of America's Top Fifty Most Influential Winemakers" by Forbes.

1-Phillipe Melka Is one of the most in-demand red winemakers working today. Melka, whose list of clients includes highly regarded producers such as Seavey, Quintessa and Vineyard 29 is not following in anyone's footsteps. Trained in Bordeaux but passionate about California, this Frenchman has his own take on Napa Cabernet and cut his teeth at Chateau Haut-Brion, Badia O Coltibuono (Italy), Chateau Petrus (France) and Chittering Estate (Western Australia). Realizing the potential of Napa he’s dedicated his life’s work to consulting and eventually starting Melka Wines. Other consulting projects have included Gemstone, Dominus Estate, Cliff Lede, Hundred Acre, Parallel, Moone-Tsai, Dana Estates, and Lail Vineyards. Though Melka remains somewhat under the radar, his influence is apparent in his fingerprints being at more wineries than anyone else.