Though the alcohol industry has long been male-dominated, more female-led brands have emerged in recent years to help correct that imbalance. There are the big names, like Kendall Jenner (818 Tequila) and Cameron Diaz (Avaline Wine), which do help move the needle, but for those looking to patronize women-owned wine and spirit companies that are a bit more under the radar, Dallas is lucky to have Bar & Garden.
The organic wine and small-batch spirit shop, which supplies to top Dallas restaurants and is a leader of the Texas natural wine movement, strictly vets all brands to ensure its shelves are free of herbicides, pesticides, or any toxic chemicals. Bar & Garden’s owners, Julie Buckner and Jeff Fritz, are also a remarkable fount of knowledge, welcoming novices and natural wine nerds alike to ask questions as they shop.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Buckner shares the stories behind some of her favorite female-led brands, from tequila and brandy to orange wine. We’ll raise a glass to that.
La Gritona (Jalisco, Mexico)
Julie Buckner of Bar & Garden: Mexico is still very machismo. For women to rise to the top in the tequila world is really outstanding. Melly Barajas has done that. A lot of times tequila can get over aged, especially here in Texas where we love our barrel aging. What’s great about Melly is that she really respectfully ages her brand to let the agave shine. Also her packaging is amazing. She only imports the reposado to the States, so that’s the only one we get. They use 9- or 10-year-old agave, which is much older than most brands.
I won’t name it, but a lot of people drink a certain brand that’s full of additives. It’s not really what tequila should taste like, so when people come in, we have to make sure to explain that it’s going to be a different experience because it’s real.
Mas Que Vinos (Spain)
Buckner: We sell so much of this — it also has a really cute label. The name means “the murderous rabbits.” The rabbits come and wreak havoc every year on the vineyards., so they finally decided to just embrace the pest and make wine.
What’s interesting about this wine is it’s carbonically macerated, which means the fermentation starts before the grape is even pressed. That gives the wine this unmistakable fruit pop.
Ultraviolet Wines (Napa, California)
Buckner: In the ’90s, the wine industry embrace the Robert Parker rating system. It was great for the consumer because they finally had some information to make a decision on what wine to buy. The point system really empowered consumers. Unfortunately, the entire wine world became designed for that palette. So these really big, heavy, overpowering reds became the majority of the market. What’s cool about Sam is that she has such a delicate touch. Her cabernet that sells so well here is restrained and elegant. It really allows the varietal to shine. She’s just a really passionate wine maker.
Sainte Louise Brandy
Buckner: The owner is Jennifer Querbes and she’s just a lovely human being. She went to France and has done her due diligence to create a really quality product at a really affordable price. She came from Tempus Fugit and was an apprentice under that owner for years. He actually helped her create her own brandy. We sell it as an alternative to Hennessy for cocktails.
Buckner: Greek wines are totally on the rise now. We love odd varietals and little known regions. Kir-Yianni is one of our favorites. It’s been family-run for generations, but they hired female winemaker Haroula Spinthiropoulou, who is a total badass. She’s made the vineyard even more hands on. So no mechanical harvesting — they do everything slowly and by hand. It’s more expensive and time consuming, but it really shows. Again, when you’re in Greece, you’re in a more machismo world, so seeing a woman hired in that position is really outstanding.
This is also a “zero-zero” wine. “Natural wine” for a long time didn’t really mean anything. Everyone had their own definition. Writer Alice Feiring has really been at the forefront of the natural natural movement. She came up with the term “zero-zero,” which means zero additives — nothing is done to this wine. “Zero-zero” is basically the new term for “natural.” It is very difficult to create zero-zero wine that is elegant and lovely, and Kir-Yianni has done this. It’s very approachable.
Montenidoli Vernaccia (Tuscany)
Buckner: I’m a red wine drinker, and when I tasted orange wine I was like, what in the world is this? To me, it’s the red wine drinker’s white.
What’s cool about this maker is that she’s 80 years old and has been making wine the exact same way for 60 years now. (She started in her teens.) She has a really old school method and her wine is just stunning. She’s such a craftsman, and you can taste it.