From left to right: Audrey Gambino, Villa Milagro Vineyards, Julie Doninni, Auburn Road Vineyards and Regina Villari, Villari Vineyards.

At our debut Meet the Winemakers event held at Auburn Road
Vineyards in Pilesgrove, NJ on May 9, 2017 we profiled the Women of New Jersey
wine, Julie Doninni of Auburn Road Vineyards, Dr. Audrey Gambino of Villa
Milagro Vineyards and Regina Villari of Villari Vineyards.  These three female winemakers are carrying on
a tradition in the state that Mimi LaFollette Summerskill first pioneered in
the 1980s.

According to her Wikipedia listing, Mimi with her husband,
John Summerskill, founded LaFollette Vineyard in the Belle Mead section of
Montgomery Township, New Jersey. They produced a Seyval blanc in the winery
they built on their 30-acre  vineyard just north of Princeton, New
Jersey. Their LaFollette brand was a local favorite and the annual grape
harvest was featured in the November 15, 1989, issue of Wine Spectator.  Mimi was also a political activist and during
the 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton spent a day at the LaFollette
Vineyard discussing political strategy with 14 Democratic governors and their

Each of the current Women of New Jersey wine each come from
varied backgrounds as well. Doninni and her husband Scott and their partners
purchased their vineyard in 2004 with the vineyard opening to the public in

Audrey Gambino holds a doctoral degree in nutrition and wine
making credential both from the University of California.  That background and her early days growing up
on a farm helped her dive into her wine making profession.  She is author of numerous books, a former
television show host and one of the most quoted nutritionists in the

Here Audrey discusses how she contemplates how to blend her wines.

Regina Villari is just four years removed from earning her
communications degree from Villanova University. Her father offered Regina and
her brother Joe an opportunity to repurpose the family farm in Sewell, NJ into
a vineyard and that has been the focus of the family. Regina took viticulture courses
at UC Davis and completed her Viticulture and Enology training in 2015. Here she and Julie talk about things they took away from their viticulture training.

Julie notes that you need to always motivate yourself and
challenge yourself as a winemaker to do better. She remembers attending a
festival in town and selling three of Auburn Road’s wines.  “It was the first time selling wine and people
were buying it.” recalled Doninni. “I couldn’t believe it!”

Why do women succeed in winemaking?  Julie thinks it’s because they have patience.

© 2024 Garden State Wine Growers Association Supported in part by a grant from the NJ Department of State, Division of Travel and Tourism
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