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Wine Lady: the 3 ladies of Italian wine in the USA

Wine Lady: the 3 ladies of Italian wine in the USA

Wine Lady: a title for Monica Larner, Karin O’Keefe, and Alison Napjus, tasters of Italian wines for Robert Parker-Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator



By Donatella Cinelli Colombini

If the American wine market is not entirely dominated by women, but we are nearly there. Let me introduce you to 3 different Wine Lady, the women who taste Italian wines for the main USA wine magazines. They are great experts, young, intelligent, open and hard workers as they work without rest.  Monica Larner, Kerin O’Keefe, Alison Napjus are the ones who give the ratings to the Italian wines for the most influential magazines on the American market Robert Parker-Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast and  Wine Spectator. Their ratings open the doors to Canadian monopolies and get wines into the wine lists of the most exclusive restaurants; they also help wineries in starting rapports with new importers. In other words they help in launching towards success.

Let’s get to know these three wine women better




Monica Larner is from California but lives in Rome. She comes from a family where wine and cinema cohabit and it was during filming of the TV series “World War II” that she arrived in Italy in 1983. Her life continued between the family winery in the Ballard Canyon in Santa Barbara (California) and journalism that she studied in the universities of Boston and New York. In her professional life there are some experiences with daily newspapers such as La Repubblica and The Herald Tribune, the AIS sommelier course, many books on Italy and an immense photo archive of about 50.000 images.In 2003 she was nominated Italian wine taster for Wine Enthusiast and that was the beginning of a very intense activity of trips and tastings that transformed here into a real

Alison- Napjus-Wine-Lady

Alison- Napjus-Wine-Lady

talent scout for the emerging wine regions of Italy. An impressive ability to work, courage in studying new territories and autochthonous varieties, together with an exceptional competence, a cheerful personality and absolute honesty, rapidly brought here the respect of the whole Italian wine world, and got her many awards too. In 2013 she become taster of Italian wines for The Wine Advocate and her charming storytelling about wineries, vineyards, and bottles continues of the yellowy pages by Robert Parker the most feared and powerful wine report. Following Monica on her Facebook page is so much fun because she describes her life with humour and she also makes fun of herself.




In 2013 Kerin took over from Monica Larner at Wine Enthusiast, as previously she had been at another prestigious magazine, Decanter in the UK. For Kerin too the past is divided between USA and Italy, she has a degree in literature from the Universities of Massachusetts and  East Anglia and a long stay in Montalcino from which are born two books: Franco Biondi Santi. Il gentleman del Brunello and Brunello



di Montalcino – Understanding and Appreciating One of Italy’s Greatest Wines. A similar story to Monica’s in the wine world with a sommelier diploma and a keen interest in autochthonous varieties.

Great defender of wine regions and of their special characters she has contributes to the return to more traditional characters for Brunello and then she has launched the idea of sub zones of the Montalcino area. Courageous in maintaining her opinion, even when awkward, Kerin O’Keefe says what she thinks in a moderate and professional way and never backing off even in front of criticism, like when her article regarding Supertuscans  “Rebels without a cause? The demise of Super-Tuscans” created an international controversy reaching as far as the New York Times.





Alison Napjus is the one I know least among the three, and the only one who has to divide the tasting of Italian wines with another wine critic, Bruce Sanderson. He takes care of Piedmont and Tuscany while Alison tastes also the bottles from Alsace, Beaujolais and Champagne. Alison Napjus is a “pure taster” as her past is less connected to journalism with respect to the other two colleagues. She studied at the Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration that proudly states << We are the World’s Most Adventurous Business School. Our mission is to create and disseminate knowledge about hospitality management through teaching, research, industry relations, and service>> .

After an experience in the world of restaurants in New York, Alison arrived in 2000, at Wine Spectator where she worked as taster first and then in 2012 was promoted to senior editor. She also forms new members of staff and organizes the blind tastings. Alison Napjus’ style is moderate and very technical where she privileges wine making information rather than narrative.


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