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The founder of Sebastopol’s Merry Edwards Winery said she thinks the main reason she was inducted into this year’s Vintners Hall of Fame is because “I never gave up, even in the face of adversity towards my gender.”

The induction ceremony was Monday at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena. The other inductees this year are wine critic Robert Parker Jr. of the Wine Advocate and the late Cesar Chavez, a labor activist for Latino farm workers, as well as the late author Frank Schoonmaker.

Edwards opened her winery in 2008 and produces highly sought-after pinot noir and sauvignon blanc. (www.merryedwards.com)

The vintner has good company in the Vintners Hall of Fame with other high-profile women. Carole Meredith, an American grape geneticist, was inducted in 2009 and winemaker Zelma Long, in 2010.

Here’s a Q&A with the dauntless Merry Edwards:

Q: What do you feel is the number one reason you were inducted to the Vintners Hall of Fame?

Edwards: “This is hard to know. However, the honor has made me very reflective about my history. Early on I was a woman who did not give up, even in the face of adversity towards my gender. I have been supportive of all young people coming into the field, but have tried especially hard to support young women. I also created the methodology and did the research which resulted in lead capsules no longer being used on wine bottles. This was such a big deal that I was not allowed to publish my research (funded by the Wine Institute) for an entire year due to its impact on the wine industry.”

Q: What do you feel has been your biggest contribution to the world of wine?

Edwards: “Perhaps my most important contribution was introducing and championing the concept of the importance of clonal selection on wine quality to California winegrowers. When the massive replanting began in the 1980′s here in America, following the failure of the AxR rootstock, the clonal landscape was revolutionized.”

Q: What has been your biggest contribution specifically to our Northern California Wine Country?

Edwards:  “I have designated Russian River Valley as the epicenter for pinot noir and have been a tireless promoter of Sonoma County wines, especially those from my home appellation, the Russian River Valley.”

Q: What has been the biggest challenge in being a woman winemaker? Edwards: “Once I got past the discrimination of the first few years, and showed I just wasn’t going to go away, I think integrating children into my career was perhaps my largest challenge. I could not have done this without the support of my extended family and my early bosses at Matanzas Creek.”

Q: What has been the most gratifying part of being a winemaker?

Edwards:  “… The most gratifying part has been realizing that my life-in-wine has made a contribution to and has had an impact on improving the quality of wine in America. “

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