California winemaker Milla Handley, founder of Handley Winery and a wine pioneer in Mendocino County's Anderson Valley appellation, has died of coronavirus at the age of 68.
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Handley, a pioneer in research on women in wine, died July 25 from complications caused by the coronavirus, according to The Wine Spectator.
In 1975, Handley was one of the first women to graduate with a degree in fermentation science from the University of California, Davis. Seven years later, she became the first woman winemaker in the United States to start a domestic winery of the same name.
Handley was born in San Francisco on August 17, 1951, and after graduating from UC Davis, worked with Richard Arrowood at St. Jean Winery and then as assistant winemaker at Edmee Winery in Mendocino County in 1978.
In 1982, she and her husband, Rex Scott McClellan, founded Handley Winery in the Anderson Valley appellation. Four years later, she planted the first Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer vines on 11 hectares of vineyards.
At the time, there were only six winegrowers in the Mendocino sub-appellation, which was largely an unknown viticultural area.
Handley says of her move to the Anderson Valley appellation: I was fascinated by the possibilities of the appellation. The people here have an independent spirit, and I felt I could go my own way, away from the entrenched culture of winemaking. I want my wines to capture the essence of this extraordinary place.
Handley"s wine labels are inspired by the ancient textiles of the Kuba tribe in Africa, and the décor of her tasting room reflects her love of tribal art.
In 2005, Handley Winery became the first vineyard in the Anderson Valley appellation to be certified as an organic vineyard in California, according to Wine Spectator.
In 2017, Handley relinquished the management of the winery and co-winemaker Randy Schock took over the winemaking duties, with her daughter Lulu McClellan taking over as president of Handley Winery.