Cana Vineyards of Middleburg winemaker Melanie Natoli was named “Woman Winemaker of the Year” at the 2017 International Women’s Wine Competition, making her the first Virginia winemaker to win in the history of the competition.
Natoli shares the award with Aimee Sunseri of Nicheline Family Vineyards and New Clairvaux Vineyard in Napa Valley, California. Natoli’s best showing wine was Cana Vineyards’ NV Sweet Vermouth, which earned a Double Gold medal, Best of Class designation, and Best of Show in the Dessert/Late Harvest category, according to a Cana Vineyards press release.
Out of more than 1,150 entries, judges awarded only 29 Double Gold medals, 54 Best of Class awards, and six Best of Show awards.
“I commend a competition that showcases the work of female producers in a male-dominated industry,” Natoli said in the release. “We also celebrate every time Virginia wine is recognized on a stage like this.”
The Sweet Vermouth — the first to be produced in Virginia — was made as a collaboration with neighbor Mt. Defiance Cidery and Distillery in Middleburg. Vidal Blanc from Winchester was fermented in stainless steel, while a blend of 13 aromatics and spices were steeped in apple brandy. The wine and brandy were blended and sweetened with caramelized sugar and honey.
Established in 2007, the International Women’s Wine Competition designed to highlight wines that appeal to female consumers as well as highlight wines produced by women. The 2017 competition was judged June 20 and 21 in Sonoma County, California, by a panel of leading women in the wine industry .
Natoli started her winemaking journey in 2009 as an intern. In 2011 she left a career as a physical therapist to follow her passion. She joined the Cana family in February 2015 as Winemaker and Vineyard Manager.
Cana Vineyards won an additional two silver medals at the IWWC for the 2016 Albarino and 2016 Rkatsiteli, and bronze for its 2016 Petit Manseng and 2016 Riesling.