Nichole Salengo is the head winemaker at Berryessa Gap Vineyards and a graduate of UC Davis’ viticulture program. That program, as well as its sister programs at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and Fresno State University, are quickly growing a new crop of women winemakers who could steer the industry in new directions. (Photo by Fred Greaves)

The new face of women winemakers emerges from California universities’ viticulture programs

Plus: Sacramento’s other baseball team, a fresh start at Jim-Denny’s diner, and more

Back May 10, 2023 By Dakota Morlan

By Dakota Morlan

There are some industries in California where women are still underrepresented, and one of those is winemaking. 

UC Davis’ undergrad program for grape growing (viticulture) and winemaking (enology) requires, among other disciplines, courses in plant science, food science and microbiology — areas of study in which women are poorly represented. Additionally, the day-to-day work of a winemaker can require heavy physical labor and ‘round the clock hours during harvest season. But that’s not stopping female winemakers in the Capital Region who have made the craft their own and are changing the landscape of California’s wine country. 

Comstock’s feature story “Women Who Wine” explores how winemaking programs at several California universities are producing a new crop of female winemakers with fresh ideas. 

For a decade, Nichole Salengo has been “capturing the unique terroir” of the Yolo County region as head winemaker at Berryessa Gap Vineyards. She has a background in geology that she combines with skills earned through UC Davis’ viticulture and enology program. 

Cal Poly grad Mollie Haycock followed her passion for biology all the way to Scott Harvey Wines in Plymouth’s Shenandoah Valley, where she has taken on the mantle of winemaker. 

And at Oak Ridge Winery in Lodi, chief winemaker Laura Chadwell (another graduate of UC Davis’ viticulture program) is known for her popular Old Soul Zin, “with its warm raspberry allure mingled in maple notes and touches of roasted red pepper.”

Here’s the rest of the Capital Region Rundown: Ever heard of the Sacramento Solons? Before the River Cats came to town, there was another Minor League baseball team, and some old-timers still remember them fondly; Chef N’Gina Guyton is breathing new life into Sacramento’s iconic Jim-Denny’s diner; a day in the life of Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen; and our May Startup of the Month fights pests with AI. 

Recommendations from our editors:

Judy: I just returned from a weekend in Chicago with my two best friends and it was fabulous! I’d never been before and there was so much to do. We took a river cruise which highlighted the spectacular architecture in the city; visited the outstanding Art Institute of Chicago, perched on a ledge 104 stories up on the Sears Tower and danced at a terrific blues club, Kingston Mines, recommended by Greater Sacramento Economic Council President and CEO Barry Broome. Of course, a trip to Chicago wouldn’t be complete without a pilgrimage to the baseball shrine that is Wrigley Field, a historic, old-school gem built in 1914. And, of course, I had a Chicago dog while there!

Jennifer: I decided to join the library chapter of Sacramento Turnverein after attending my first Oktoberfest last fall and am now thoroughly involved in the goings-on of Sacramento’s German American cultural center (despite not knowing more than five words of German). I attended the Maifest, complete with Maypole dancing and spaghettieis, this weekend and will be volunteering at the Wiener Kaffeehaus later this month. Stop by and I’ll serve you kuchen in full Tracht. 

Dakota: Last weekend I ticked off a theater kid bucket list item: Attend “Sleep No More.” If you haven’t heard of this now iconic production, it’s an immersive experience like no other and not for the faint of heart. The interactive “play” loosely follows the story of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” with film noir influences that pervade every corner of the fictional McKittrick Hotel. Attendees wear ghostly masks and chase characters through dark corridors — a voyeuristic experience that is only rarely shattered by one-on-one interactions with characters (if you’re lucky). For those of you who enjoy a bit of mystery, make-believe and horror, definitely add “Sleep No More” to your itinerary the next time you find yourself in New York City. 

I had a “one-on-one” with a character during which she gave me a note to deliver and replaced my mask with her “marked” one.

Odds and Ends

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