Evan Sung

The New York restaurant will only serve wines from women-helmed estates.

August 24, 2017

Chef Amanda Cohen’s delightfully oddball vegetarian hotspot, Dirt Candy, made waves this month with the announcement it would relaunch as a tasting menu-only restaurant, and now another major switch-up is coming—Dirt Candy’s wine list will only feature wines made by women.

Lauren Friel, the NYC restaurant’s consulting wine director, put together a list of roughly 50 diversely-priced wines, all of which come from “estates where women are at the helm—whether they’re the winemaker, the vineyard manager or the owner,” she says. The list will roll out on September 5, the same day the restaurant reopens with the new concept.

“If there was ever a time to do an all-female wine list, it’s now,” says Friel, who just finalized the list. “We all have an individual responsibility to support underrepresented parts of society. But we can’t be ideological about everything—it also really just fit our concept.”

Friel cites Cohen, the mastermind behind the Lower East Side restaurant and its many iterations, as her inspiration. “Amanda has been a lady warrior in the industry for a long time,” she says. “She’s always been vocal about standing up for women in the industry. A lot of the people in management positions in her kitchen are female. It just made sense.” In some ways, Friel sees herself as picking up the torch from Anita Lo's Annisa, which also had an all-female wine list (though recently closed.)

The new list, which features wines from the $40 to $130 range, offers reds, whites, sherries, vermouths and ciders and showcases bottles from some of the top women in the industry, including Noëlla Morantin (Loire Valley), Martha Stoumen (Northern California) and Cathy Corison (Napa Valley.) Friel wanted to feature winemakers who are breaking boundaries, but also those who are long-established “standard-bearers.”

“It’s a relatively small list, so no one is on there that I’m not jazzed about,” she says. In addition to just really, really liking all the wines, Friel is determined to help give women in wine the respect they deserve. Traveling around the country as a wine consultant, she often finds herself having to go above and beyond to prove her credentials, expertise and abilities to people who don’t immediately take her seriously, presumably because she’s a woman.

“And that’s just on the service side of things—the playing field is even more uneven in the production side of wine,” she says. “It’s changing, though, particularly in California; there are a lot of really wonderful female producers.”

At the end of the day, though, the wines are tasty, and that’s what matters the most. In a recent interview with Forbes, Cohen characterized the women-first list as somewhat of an accident.

“We just choose the best wineries that we can find,” she said. “I can’t help it if so many of them are run by women. That’s a problem that men should look at.”