It’s actually no surprise to those who know Merry Edwards why she won a James Beard Award for outstanding wine professional.

She never gave up back when the wine world could make women’s lives a living hell.

The founder of Sebastopol’s Merry Edwards Winery first made headlines this year when she was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame at St. Helena’s Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. Edwards has said she believes one reason she was inducted is because she stood up to discrimination and never wavered

“Early on I was a woman who did not give up, even in the face of adversity towards my gender,” she has said. “I have been supportive of all young people coming into the field, but have tried especially hard to support young women …”

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

In honor of her James Beard win, I’m reposting a recent Q&A with the dauntless Merry Edwards.

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. “