Senior Women Web
Image: Women Dancing
Image: Woman with Suitcase
Image: Women with Bicycle
Image: Women Riveters
Image: Women Archers
Image: Woman Standing

Culture & Arts button
Relationships & Going Places button
Home & Shopping button
Money & Computing button
Health, Fitness & Style button
News & Issues button

Help  |  Site Map

Women Winemakers:
Big House's Good-Value Selection Grows with Georgetta Dane at the Helm

by Sharon Kapnick

Occasionally a story is so colorful and so much fun, it practically writes itself. This is one of them.

The Big House Wine Co. in Soledad, California, was the creation of the endlessly entertaining, zany, irreverent and clever Randall Grahm — the winemaker who in 2002 held a mock funeral for the cork. In 2006, after Grahm got the religion of terroir and biodynamics, he sold Big House to The Wine Group. It inherited Big House’s popular white, rosé and red wines, contracts with growers, screw-cap closures, and all the edgy names and penitentiary-themed labels and graphics Grahm and Big House ( were known for. (In typical Grahm fashion, his inspiration for the name Big House came from the nearby Soledad State Correctional Facility; it was chosen, current winemaker Georgetta Dane says, because “relatives of inmates confused one facility with another.”)

Big House has deftly expanded upon the house that Grahm built. Much of the credit goes to winemaker, aka warden, Dane, who brings a feminine touch to the brand. “We’re all about blends,” she explains. Dane has a maternal attitude toward them. “They’re like my kids,” she says. “I know them so well.” She makes a few blends for each prospective wine, and then a favorite is chosen.

Dane approaches blending much as a perfumer approaches her craft, mixing essential oils with a base, middle notes and top notes. She has a canny ability to envision how all the different grapes will bring out the best in one another. She’s combined as many as 24 varieties in one wine (Big House Red)! She works — she herself might say plays — with some 40 varieties, from the familiar — Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec and Syrah — to the obscure — Fer Servidou, Freisa and Teraldego. But you won’t find a drop of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot in her wines.

Dane’s background is as unusual as her blends are creative. She earned a master’s degree in food science in her native Romania, and her first job offer was making wine there. That was fine with her. After all, “there’s not much romance in making sausage,” she says. In 1998, after four years in the wine business, she emigrated from Romania to the US with her winemaker husband. With no jobs lined up, no knowledge of English and a two-month-old baby in tow, they serendipitously landed in California at Kendall-Jackson just when it was building a new winery.

Page Two>>


Follow Us:

SeniorWomenWeb, an Uncommon site for Uncommon Women ™ ( 1999-2023