Two women making appealing Napa wine
“We love wine with a good story,” says Darwin’s Ltd. manager Joetta Maue. “It creates a conversation with customers.” Maue and wine buying colleague, Malia Chan, stock small-producer bottles for the Harvard Square branch of Darwin’s Ltd., a trio of Cambridge cafes owned by Steven and Isabel Darwin. One bottle with a back story is from Farmers Jane Wine Co., and the story is as interesting as the wine.
Angela Osborne and Faith Armstrong Foster (pictured, from left) met in 2002 while working a grape harvest in Healdsburg, Sonoma County. The two became fast friends. Osborne, raised in New Zealand, ventured to London to learn the wine business, while Armstrong, a British Columbia native, studied winemaking at University of California at Davis. Each went on to establish her own label in different parts of California. Osborne launched A Tribute to Grace Wine Co., named for her grandmother, making all-grenache wines east of Santa Barbara. Foster settled in Napa and established Onward Wines, with a focus on pinot noir. In 2010, the two decided to launch a joint venture, and Farmers Jane Wine Co. in Napa was born.
The company’s name was inspired by the book, “Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat,” by food and farming advocate Temra Costa. The book’s ethos of sustainability is reflected in the winemakers’ choice of vineyards from which they source fruit. A 2013 “Field Red” bottle features carignan grapes grown in certified organic vineyards in Mendocino and Contra Costa Counties. Syrah in the blend hails from a dry-farmed vineyard in Solano County. The pour is pretty and pure, with bing cherry, soft red plum, and a delicate acidity that might change minds about what Golden State reds can be.
“With California reds, we are looking for lighter, more sophisticated versions,” Maue explains. She and Chan stay away from “bold, hit-you-in-the-mouth” styles that overdo fruitiness and alcohol. The Farmers Jane red, now in its third vintage, fits the bill. The manager and buyer enjoy introducing this bottle to customers, many of whom stop in for espresso drinks or a pot of tea to share with friends and leave with wine.
The Cambridge duo stock this pour because it’s delicious. But the fact that the winemakers are female makes its story all the more special. “We are women working in a man’s world, too,” says Maue.
Farmers Jane Wine Co. “Field Red” 2013 ($26) is available at Darwin’s Ltd., 148 Mt. Auburn St., Cambridge, 617-354-5233, www.darwinsltd.com