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Winemakers Women in Wine, PT 1

Cellar Talk with Camille Benitah

In honor of women in wine, get to know Bordeaux-born winemaker with a Napa heart. Interview by Elizabeth Smith. Photography by Mike Battey.

Honoring Women in Wine:
Benitah on winemaking as the link between science and creativity

Interviewed by Elizabeth Smith 

“Wine is an emotion”


1. How did you get your start in wine?

Being born and raised in Bordeaux, wines and vines were never too far away. My parents were modest wine collectors. They started collecting wines in 1972, my birth year, even though it was an unremarkable vintage!

They loved going to buy wine directly from the wineries especially when we traveled from Bordeaux to Dordogne to see my grandmother. We would stop in St. Émilion, Pomerol, and Côtes de Castillon.

At that time, all the wines they purchased would end up in our cellar to be opened in the next decade or more. When it came for me to find a career path, I was drawn to agronomy. I began working closely with agronomists setting up scientific trials and running lab analyses at the INRA (National Institute of Agronomic Research).

As I evolved in the scientific world, I felt that I was missing an outlet for my creativity. Winemaking became that link between scientific knowledge and my passion for wine.

2. Where are you in your career now?

I am enjoying the best time of my career. Since I arrived in the United States, I have only met wonderful people. I work with awesome winemakers and cellar workers. I am incredibly lucky to make wines from some of the best vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, and other regions in California. 

3. How do Naked Angels empower you as a winemaker?

I am so honored to be part of such a great venture. I have been making wines with Naked Wines since 2013, which forced me to grow as a winemaker and push the envelope. The comments from Angels strengthen my will to make better wines. They are inspiring!

4. What’s a BIG lesson you’ve learned along the way?

Wine is an emotion.

5. What’s the message you have for other women winemakers?

Wine is an emotion!

6. What is your big hope for women in wine in the future?

This is a tough question. I feel like in the United States, women winemakers are well represented, and I wish it were the case everywhere.

Lastly – is there a women’s empowerment organization or cause you support or would like to?

Oxfam is an international organization that works to end the injustice of poverty. Other causes near and dear to me are contributing to food banks, ending social injustice, climate change, and pollution.

Left to right: Naked Winemakers Karen Birmingham, Ana Diogo-Draper, Camille Benitah, Jacqueline Bahue, Ondine Chattan, Anne Dashe, Nova Cadamatre and Alex Farber. Photographed by Mike Battey.

Follow Camille Benitah on Naked Wines

Elizabeth Smith is a freelance wine, food, and travel journalist as well as a communications and social media specialist based in the Napa Valley.

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