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Powerhouses in the Cellar

The Women of Ribera del Duero and Rueda

Women’s History Month


women La Loba 1k

“In my opinion, women [are] more intuitive when wine tasting."

Ángela Cachazo of Bodegas Félix Lorenzo Cachazo

Powerhouses in the Cellar

Article by James Beard Award-winning author Laura Werlin @cheezelady

The month of March is a harbinger of warmth and bountiful gardens soon to come. Along with those are longer days – a time of renewal. Here and around the world, the first official month of spring also brings a focus on women by way of International Women’s Day as well as the entire month being designated Women’s History Month.

The Women of Ribera del Duero and Rueda

The month of March is a harbinger of warmth and bountiful gardens soon to come. Along with those are longer days – a time of renewal. Here and around the world, the first official month of spring also brings a focus on women by way of International Women’s Day as well as the entire month being designated Women’s History Month.

It is the emphasis on “international” that brings us to our own focus – the women making names for themselves in the wine industry in Ribera del Duero and Rueda while in the process lifting the profile of the regions themselves. We asked a few of them about their experience as women in the wine industry in their respective regions and more expansively as well. They share their advice to women just starting out in the industry and their own paths to being leaders.

Territorio Luthier

Territorio Luthier CEO Cristina Alonso came to the wine business in a roundabout way. After working as an environmental engineer, she latched onto the idea of starting a wine tourism company in Spain. She had no experience in that business and was instead motivated by the prospect of a fun business. She caught the wine bug along the way and with that, started making wine. She then met her business partner, Fernando Ortiz, and the two decided to make wine together in Ribera del Duero.

Located just outside the city of Aranda del Duero – the main city in Ribera del Duero – Bodega Territorio Luthier is a small operation, making just over 8,000 cases a year. The namesake Territorio Luthier is their flagship wine, but they make three other brands including Hispania, Lara O, and Luthier.

We asked Alonso if she faced any particular challenges starting a winery as a woman. Her answer was a solid no. “I think people face challenges that are different in each case, and gender is just one factor among many; it is not a bad or good one, it depends on the situation. But at least for me I always felt like another person in the wine industry.” As with many of the women we interviewed for this article, Alonso explained that it’s about what each individual brings to the industry, not so much their gender.


A much larger operation, Garciarévalo in Rueda is the place winemaker Reyes Martînez-Sagarra calls home. There, she makes noteworthy Verdejo wines under the Tresolmos brand as well as the new limited production Harenna label.

Martínez-Sagarra didn’t set out to become a winemaker. Instead, she was studying the food industry and along with three of her friends, realized that wine was where she wanted to be. All four of them turned their focus to winemaking.

She started in the winemaking business just out of college, where, like anyone new to a profession, she faced challenges. She keeps perspective on whether those challenges were because she was a woman, however. “In the early years, I had some difficult situations. I don’t think it was only because I was a woman; it was also due to inexperience – both factors combined. But I think that with perseverance and without giving up, you finally get your position and the respect you deserve.” Judging by the multiple awards her wines have garnered, she has done just that. She offers simple advice to women just starting in the wine business: “train and travel.”

Bodegas Pandora

Also in Rueda, Rosa Garza has been quietly forging a path in the wine industry since 2000. Determined to become a winemaker, she got her masters in oenology, viticulture, and wine marketing and then set off to France as well as Mendoza in Argentina to learn her craft. Fast forward to the present, and she is the manager and technical director (winemaker) for two wineries including Bodegas Pandora, where she makes award-winning Rueda Verdejo and other white wines. All her white wines are either lees-aged to increase body and mouthfeel or both lees-aged and barrel-aged to bring spice and richness. She makes organic versions of some of her wines as well.

Not unlike Martínez-Reyes, she faced challenges early on but as she gained more experience, she also gained more respect. “My beginnings in the sector were advising wine farms in 1999. [At that time,] it was not very common to see women in the countryside, so I met people who, because I was a woman and young, just out of university, did not respect my opinions. So I had to show what I knew probably more than if I had been an older man; but with a lot of work and effort you earn respect in the sector. In any sector!”

Do women bring something different to winemaking than men? Garza answers with a qualified maybe. “Well, I have always been told that my wines are very elegant and have a lot of personality and that a feminine hand can be seen in them, but I really don’t know if it is because I am a woman.”

Her advice to budding women winemakers is sound. “Have patience, work hard, travel a lot, work in different areas around the world, learn and fall in love with the profession, because then you will enjoy it a lot, like I do. May you be strong and do not give up in the face of the obstacles you may encounter.”

Bodegas Félix Callejo

For Noelia Callejo, winemaking is in her blood. Her parents started Bodegas Félix Callejo in the village of Sotillo de la Ribera in Ribera del Duero when she was six years old, and with that, the dye was set. After studying agricultural engineering and viticulture, she had the opportunity to work in one of the Napa Valley’s most prestigious wineries at the time, Araujo Estate Wines, where she worked for a year. Like Rosa Garza, she went to Mendoza to further her winemaking skills. She returned to Araujo for another year before returning to the family winery to make wine with her brother, José Félix. Clearly the combination of her experience abroad and in the family winery paid off. She and her brother were named winemakers of the year in 2021 by the highly respected wine writer, Tim Atkins, MW.

Callejo is mostly positive about her experience as a woman in wine, though she says she notices that the presence of female winemakers does not have as much visibility as her male colleagues. Mostly though, she says it’s about what an individual brings to her craft. “In my daily work, working hand in hand with my brother José Félix, my vision complements his experience very well and is a combination of many factors, [including] my personal experience, not just the fact of being a woman.”

Unsurprisingly, her advice to women entering the field is to work in other regions in the world. “It is very important to value the landscape of other regions and see the diversity that exists in the world of wine, learn from other winemakers, and be able to acquire your own vision.”

Her overarching belief is likely shared by women in the wine business the world over. “Women winemakers have been and are present; we need to [have] the same focus as male winemakers, not only in March.”

Bodegas Félix Lorenzo Cachazo

Like Noelia Carrejo, Ángela Cachazo is also a next-generation winemaker. Her father, Félix, founded their namesake winery, Bodegas Félix Lorenzo Cachazo, in 1946. Perhaps equally important, he was also one of the eight founders of the Rueda D.O., a difficult endeavor that Ángela says inspired her even more to carry on the family legacy. By creating the D.O., Félix Cachazo and his colleagues not only put Rueda on the map, he also helped elevate Verdejo to Spain’s number-one selling white wine. Ángela’s brother Eduardo handles the formidable job of marketing the wines.

Because she grew up in the wine business, Cachazo doesn’t think her gender affected her experience developing her skills. However, she does think the way women taste wine might be different. “In my opinion, women [are] more intuitive when wine tasting. The feminine [sense of] smell gets the aromas with more intensity [and] the type of aromas easier.”

If there’s any difference with women in wine, Cachazo says, it’s about how wine is marketed. And this irks her. “It is widely considered that there are wines for women and wines for men. In general, in many markets white wines or sweeter wines are considered to be more enjoyable for women, but the truth is that [all] consumers could be a starting point, not necessarily targeted by gender. Women might be more attracted to a specific design of label, but we must finish with the myth of having wines targeted by gender.”

La Loba

Ana Carazo, founder and winemaker of La Loba in Ribera del Duero, has faced more struggles than the other women we interviewed. She says that she is sure some of her challenges have been because of her gender, that at times her efforts to make wine have been thwarted by her male colleagues. But if you meet Ana, you know she is not going to let anything stop her. She’s small but mighty, having worked every facet of her operation by herself until recently. Her output is also tiny – just 1,250 cases currently though with plans to expand.

Given her spirited sense of adventure, it makes sense that her motivation for becoming a winemaker was, in part, its inherent challenges. “It is a world about which I have always had a lot of curiosity and concerns, and since its scope is so broad, there is always something that ‘calls me’ to move forward.” She also likes its unpredictability. “It is very varied and diverse, you never get bored; it gives me what I like, and it fulfills me in my daily life.”

Although she had been managing all the operations by herself, she says she now has a team of men helping her. And, she says, she is grateful. “In the end it is finding people, and these guys respect me as one of them, there are no differences. That is a gift of life for me, and for La Loba.”

Familia Martínez Bujanda

Familia Martínez Bujanda is a powerhouse of a wine company, owning five brands including its newest – Finca Montepedroso in Rueda. All of the wineries source grapes exclusively from their own vineyards, and because those vineyards are in different places, this allows them to have a broad expression of place in all their wines. This wine brand’s roots are certainly among the oldest, having started its first winery in 1889. The rest, as they say, is history.

As export manager, fifth-generation family member, Marta Martínez Bujanda, is a powerhouse in her own right, particularly given the fact the company exports 70 percent of its total production. Because she grew up in the family business, she says she has not met resistance as a woman in her highly credentialed rise to her current position. Quite the opposite. Her great-grandmother and grandmother worked in the fields while her mother trained to work in the winery. She takes a practical view about gender. “We have assumed the challenges as a family, without making gender [a] gap. The wine sector requires unwavering determination and perseverance to face all the challenges that are presented to us.”

She does, however, see certain strengths among women. “I think that women have a lot of sensitivity, we know how to work as a team and we are constant, I would highlight these three values.” For someone who grew up hiding between barrels and running through the vineyards, her gratitude for the business she was born into runs deep. So too her hope for the future for women within it as well as all other industries. “I hope that the day will come when being a woman and a worker is no longer an object of comparison and debate in our sector and in other professions. That the attitude and quality of work be valued equally, that it is not judged or valued based on gender.”

Or as Cristina Alonso from Territorio Luthier put it, “Have a glass of wine and drink for all the women in your life. And then a second glass and drink to all the men.” Salud.