Often described as a “master blender” and “female wine pioneer” from the Willamette Valley, Lynn Penner-Ash and her husband blessed Oregon and the entire wine world with their famous Penner-Ash Wine Cellars in 1998. As a woman playing in the top leagues alongside renowned winemakers like David Lett and Dick Ponzi, Lynn’s wine-making accomplishments truly make her stand out.
Lynn Penner-Ash is synonymous with world-class and exquisite wines. She has worked with notable winemakers like Kate Ayres to produce exquisite wines. The Penner-Ash winery, under her watch, has forged successful alliances with her Willamette counterparts to solidify her presence and influence in Oregon winemaking as well as the place of women in the wine industry.
The list of Willamette Valley vineyards collaborating with Penner-Ash wine cellar includes the Bramble Hill Vineyard, Bella Vida Vineyard in Dundee Hills, Yamhill-Carlton’s Shea Vineyard, and Zena Crown Vineyard sitting gracefully in Eola-Amity Hills. These are some of Oregon’s most distinguished vineyards, known for their unique Pinot Noir terroir, wine characteristics, flavors, and textures.
Willamette female wine pioneer making a difference in wine
Like virtually all of her male counterparts and pioneers, Lynn also attended the University of California, Davis, where she initially majored in viticulture before veering and attaining a degree in enology. Lynn worked at several vineyards and cellars, including Domaine Chandon and the famous Stag’s leap cellars, before moving to Chateau St. Jean in the early 1980s.
When Lynn joined Rex Hills Vineyards, she was among the first female winemakers rocking the wine industry in the region. She worked with Rex until she left to start Penner-Ash. Penner-Ash Wine Cellars made Pinot and Syrah in small quantities until 2005 when they decided to go full throttle with the brand. She served in several leadership positions, including participating actively in the Oregon Pinot Noir camp as a director and the International Pinot Noir Celebration. In addition, Lynn Penner-Ash was also looked upon as a mentor to many upcoming winemakers in the Willamette Valley.
Turning the tides with Penner-Ash Wine Cellars
As a kid, Lynn frequently traveled with her family due to their military background. They spent ample time in France and Germany, where wine was a common sight at dinner. According to accounts from interviews, Lynn struggled to build a career in the wine industry as a woman. She always had a good eye for vineyards and wineries — and her passion propelled her to make the decision to create the Penner-Ash Wine cellars.
Armed with degrees in viticulture and fermentation science, and having interned at keynote vineyards, Lynn Penner-Ash wasn’t going to step on the brakes in her pursuit to creating some of the best wines in Oregon. Over the course of her career, she was an enologist at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and a winemaker at Hawkcrest and Rex Hill Vineyards.
Her wealth of knowledge and practical experience in leadership positions contributed to her establishment as the first female winemaker in Oregon. Lynn’s eye for detail and her understanding of wines enabled her to run a successful consultancy. From 125 cases during its first production run in 1998, the Penner-Ash winery has grown to produce over 14,000 cases of beautifully-crafted Pinot Noir wines as of 2015.
The winery sources its grapes from top-trusted vineyards across different regions — according to Lynn Penner-Ash, it’s a blend of other grapes that gives her wines their distinct taste and feel. For example, while the grapes from Yamhill Carlton offer noticeable tannins, spiciness, and a darker structure, their Dundee Hills counterparts offer a texture suitable for the mid-palate. According to Lynn, she puts these fruits together and turns them into a balanced blend of something unique, which explains why every vintage carrying the Penner-Ash wine label is nothing short of world-class quality.
Penner-Ash’s inclination to Pinot Noir is an open secret as at least 80% of her vineyard is covered in Pinot Noir. When asked what her favorite grape is, she said, “she wouldn’t be in Oregon if it weren’t for her love for Pinot.” Besides her Pinot, Lynn has also revealed that she has an attachment to Champagne. Outside of winemaking tasting, Lynn loves climbing — she has faced Mountain Everest and Mount Kilimanjaro head-on.
On this day in history
April 9, 1780 —Don Luis del Aliso, a French-born Californian winemaker, was born on this date. He was among the first commercial winemakers in California and the first to import European Vitis vinifera into the United States.
November 24, 1713 — Junipero Serra, a Spanish Roman Catholic priest, became the first saint canonized in the United States. He directed Franciscan missionaries to plant California’s first vineyard in 1779. He was born on this day in 1713 and died on August 28, 1784.
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