Sonoma County, CA (March 5, 2021) – 43 years ago, on March 8, 1978, the Education Task Force of Sonoma County created the first “Women’s History Week” to correspond with International Women’s Day. Two years later, The National Women’s History Project was founded in Santa Rosa, with a goal of “writing women back into history.” By 1986, 14 states had declared March as Women’s History Month, and in 1987 Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month.

This month, Sonoma County Tourism kicks-off a series recognizing some of the prolific women shaping the destination’s culinary, wine, adventure, wellness, agricultural and sustainable experiences.

“Women in Sonoma County have been demonstrating their influence in all fields, from cultivating the land to leading culinary innovations and sustainable wineries to instilling a culture of well-being in our lifestyle,” said Claudia Vecchio, Sonoma County Tourism president and CEO. “They are all artists in their own way, painting a bright and empowering future for young girls everywhere.”

Women in Wellness

As the world emerges from the pandemic, people are seeking out opportunities for wellbeing. Sonoma County is blessed with a number of women who are recognized for their progressive work in natural remedies. Rosemary Gladstar, Sonoma County native and known as the “Mother of Herbalism,” founded the California School of Herbal Studies in Forestville in 1978 and launched the ever popular Traditional Medicinals brand of herbal teas. Herbalist, nutritionist, and whole foods chef Lily Mazzarella owns Farmacopia, an apothecary with a custom tincture bar and integrative health clinic and brings her talents to nonprofit project The Botanical Bus, a mobile health clinic for farm workers. A fourth generation Sonoma County native Erin Wilkins, owner of Herb Folk, brings her personal ancestral healing traditions into her practice as an Asian American herbalist, Japanese acupuncturist and host of cultural culinary virtual workshops.

It’s no doubt that women frequently wear many hats, like Ace It! Bike Tours owner Frieda Lewis, who is also a registered nurse and contributes at a surgery center. “I feel that being the only woman owner of a bike tour & rental business in Sonoma County has its perks. We have different ideas and approaches to our partners and guests. I actually feel that being a nurse helped my business grow. Such as, forming excellent communication, compassion and a positive attitude with patients, as I apply this to my business with our guests and employees!”

Women in Culinary, Wine & Spirits

Leslie Wiser brings the food of her Chinese-German heritage to Sonoma County’s lush soils with her partner Sarah Deragon on their Radical Family Farm in Sebastopol. For local chef and Food Network regular Duskie Estes, having other female chefs in Sonoma County like Crista Ludtke of boon eat + drink, Domenica Catelli of Catelli’s, and Liza Hinman of The Spinster Sisters support each other is instrumental. “We rode bikes for No Kid Hungry together. They proved to me I could do something that I never thought I could. I hadn’t ridden a bike in over 20 years, and we did 300 miles together! We have each other’s backs in all things.” In her new role as Executive Director of Farm to Pantry, Duskie explains that “for years, only the lucky few got to have access to all the incredible produce Sonoma County has to offer. Now I get to see everyone have access to that incredibly fragrant peach or amazingly gorgeous head of lettuce. I get to be Robin Hood every day.”

Chantal Forthun has led the winemaking team at Flowers Vineyards & Winery since 2012, prioritizing sustainability and respecting the land and people. She has studied native yeasts for years, innovating a technique of making their own ‘tea of yeast’, and spraying the native yeast all over the winery after cleaning and laying new concrete. There is also a wave of female distillers in spirits, like breast cancer survivor Tara Jasper, who is an award-winning gin distiller with her brand Sipsong Spirits. Her “Fight Like a Girl” cocktail initiative raises funds for the national breast and ovarian cancer charity Bright Pink.

Women Opening New Businesses

Women are expressing the spirit of resilience in Sonoma County, boldly opening transformative new businesses during the pandemic. Twin sisters Brittany and Brianna run Reed & James Events, and they just opened Heritage Alchemy, a shop filled with hand selected eco-friendly brands and a refill station to help build a better, more sustainable future. Katie Bundschu is the first female winemaker in her six-generation California wine family and just opened the doors to Abbot’s Passage Winery + Mercantile, challenging conventional expectations while honoring process and history. Chef Casey Thompson tapped Chef Melanie Wilkerson as her Executive Sous Chef for her new restaurant, Folktable, serving vivid flavors that relish in the abundance of Sonoma County.

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 Experience Sonoma County, where Life Opens Up. Just as wine “opens up” when it’s allowed to breathe, Sonoma County inspires visitors to open up to new experiences. Just 30 miles north of San Francisco, Sonoma County is one of the world’s most progressive food and wine destinations and is home to more than 425 wineries ranging from small family-owned properties to global brands.  Visitors also can explore stunning natural resources while hiking among towering redwoods, cruising the rugged Pacific coastline, and discovering inviting small towns.  More information can be found at SonomaCounty.com.

Birgitt Vaughan
Director of Global Media Relations
Sonoma County Tourism
707-522-5826
[email protected]