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Shea 2002 Pinots are Stunning!
12/03

Back in January of 2003, Dick Shea, owner of Shea Vineyard and Shea Wine Cellars, and Sam Tannahill, his winemaker, were kind enough to show us their then in barrel 2002 Pinot noirs and we were super impressed. Sam, as winemaker at Archery Summit, had always made super rich, highly complex Pinot noirs, but this was the first time we'd tried his wines out of the Archery context. They were stunning back in January, and now that they have been released, we can say that they have only improved.

The grapes for these wines come from sections of the Shea Vineyard that were previously sold to other wineries. As Dick Shea has taken back some of his best vineyard sections, the wines from his own winery are rapidly ascending to the ranks of Oregon's best. And in Sam Tannahill, as with Patty Green last year, he has chosen one of the region's best winemakers.

Sam uses several techniques that bring out the nuances of Pinot noir, including fermenting the grapes in wooden barrels, a technique notoriously hard to control, temperature wise. His meticulous cleanliness and precise management of the wine pay off in simply succulent Pinots.

 

 

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The Wines

The Shea Block 23 2002 $48 is loaded with sweet, jammy berry and cherry fruit, richly expansive and textured with layers of candy-like fruit. The nose has hints of roasted meat, sweet jammy fruit, toasty oak, cassis, and blackberry. The finish is hedonistic, rich, huge, reminiscent of the Archery Summit Arcus Estate Pinot noir in complexity, richness, and style.

The Shea Block 32 2002 $48 starts with a glorious bouquet of violets, cherries, red raspberry, and hints of flinty minerals. It is a Mohammed Ali of a wine- a big powerful wine, but light on its feet, with the balance and complexity to support its massive body. The strongly built backbone of this wine is encircled by dusty blackberry, cassis, and black cherry fruit, with hints of violet, rose, and Asian Five Spice in the mid palate. The finish is extremely long, sending hints of cassis, tar, smoky oak, blackberry creme, and bramble for minutes after swallowing. It is drinking beautifully now, but hints of tightness in the inner core call for patience. This wine will drink best, with proper cellaring, in 8-12 years.

The Shea Estate Pinot noir 02 $35 is a supple and elegant wine, with deep hints of smoke and toast on the nose, and mocha/char notes in the flavors of blackberry, black plum, dark cherry, and minerals. A long finish is ripe and appealing.

The Shea "Homer" 2002 $60, available exclusively to Avalon's Reserve Pinot noir Club, is nothing short of remarkable. A dark black purple garnet color is coupled with a nose full of black cherry, jammy blackberry, cassis, Asian spices, complex spice and floral notes, violet, rose, a long, textured finish with creaminess and body. Opulent, yet with good acidity for cellaring, and the constantly changing, highly pleasant sensation of different scents and flavors that lingers in the finish. Yow! Just a wonderful wine.

The Shea Chardonnay 02 $28.00 shows Sam's abilities extend well beyond Pinot noir. This classic Chardonnay has the acid balance to support its rich flavors. Its intense flavors and scents of tropical fruits are supported by a graceful structure and ripe acidity. This wine shows how good Chardonnay can be, when balance is not sacrificed to please the palate that does not want acidity. Ageable, this wine could benefit from 3-6 years of cellaring and will reward the patient with a unique taste experience.


Shea 2002 wines


 

A "Homer" from Shea Stadium
Tasting Tour with vineyard owner
Shea, winemaker Tannahill shows fabulous wines

By Christina Kelly
Avalon Editor/Writer
12/02

If you haven't tasted any wines from Shea Wine Cellars, now is the time. As Austin Powers would say, "Yeah Baby!"

The popularity of this winery is only going to increase and, Au contraire, you won't be able to resist it.

After a tasting tour this week with owner Dick Shea and winemaker Sam Tannahill, I say put on your sunglasses mamma cause the future is bright and the wine, both in the bottle and in the barrel is smashing.

For the previous six years, Tannahill crafted premium Pinot Noir at Archery Summit, drawing high praise and very high wine scores. But Tannahill wanted to make his own style of wine, using less oak and allowing the taste of the vineyard to shine through.

Dick Shea grew grapes for more than ten years on a 200-acre estate in Yamhill County, supplying some of the best winemakers with fruit, including Ken Wright Cellars, Beaux Freres, Patricia Green Cellars, Westrey Wine Company, Panther Creek Cellars, Raptor Ridge and St. Innocent. About 140 acres produce grapes, although 50 acres are young vines.

Map of Shea Vineyard with the Winery's Own Sections in Red

In 1996, Shea decided to start his own winery, and asked some of the state's top winemakers to help in the process. ("They were all friends, producing wines from my fruit, so why not?" Shea says) He started out with Michael Stevenson, winemaker from Panther Creek, who produced Block 21 in 1998. In 1999, Stevenson produce a Chardonnay for Shea and Ken Wright crafted the Pinot Noir.

By 2001, David Autrey, from Westrey, produced the Chardonnay. Stevenson produced one block of Pinot Noir and Patty Green produced another vineyard block.

"We signed Patty to a two year contract and were very pleased with her style of wines," said Shea. "Then we learned that Sam Tannahill was available and decided to go with a full-time winemaker-our own employee."

The team of Shea and Tannahill clicked. For Tannahill, the opportunity to put his own signature on wine he produced was important to both of them.

"There is consistency now," said Tannahill, referring to all the previous Shea wines with different winemakers. "If there is one thing I bring, it is consistency. The style will be consistent."

Although Tannahill and Patty Green "are more alike than different" in their winemaking style, Tannahill says he will add a little more structure and tannins to his wines. He describes the Patty Green wines as a little softer, but lovely.

About 30 percent of the 2002 wine, still in barrels, is the work of Patty Green. Tannahill produced the reminder.

Shea says he has great respect for Green and Tannahill and believes them to be similar in style.

"If I had to compare Sam's style of winemaking, I'd say it's similar to Patty's, but they both have their differences," Shea said. "The wine shows through the vineyard, and that's what we were looking for. We didn't want a lot of new oak."

The hit of Shea's offerings is the 2001 Pinot Noir "Homer." This the finest Pinot produced by Shea for the 2001 vintage, blending the vineyard's six best barrels. Shea, a big baseball fan, said the winery "hit a home run" with the '01 Homer, and thus, the name. He also conceded that his wife says he sometimes acts like Homer Simpson.

There are a tremedous number of different blocks of Shea vineyard from which Dick has wines made. In fact, when Patty Green produced the Homer blend, she had a huge room of Shea barrels in a specially built annex of her winery and called the area "Shea Stadium."

If you really want a big Pinot Noir that coats your tongue and fills your mouth with big fruit, Homer is it. During this week's tasting, I sadly had to spit out the Homer, thinking it was a sin to allow such a wine to leave my mouth without reaching my tummy.

Besides the Homer, I tasted the Shea Vineyards 2000 Pinot Noir, the '01 Block 32 and the '01 Block 23. All of those vintages were bottled. The great news is the barrel tasting of the 2002 versions showed that next year's releases are as good or better.

Block 32 has succulent fruit and hints of mocha. My notes show that the finish lasted a very long time. Although drinkable now, I'd cellar that puppy for a couple years and stun your mouth with the elegance and finesse this wine will exhibit.

Patty Green made Block 23 and it is quite the showcase. All I could think of was classy, with a multitude of layers rising on the palette for new discoveries after each sip.

This is a winery coming into its own, after a plethora of hands at the helm. Now that Shea has his own winemaker, and that winemaker has the green light, the future is bright indeed.


 

The Single Vineyard Mystique: Shea Vineyards

by Cole Danehower,
Oregon Wine Report
12/02

One of the most characteristic traits of the great Pinot noir grape is its ability to show terroir-the taste of the place from which it came. And one of the most characteristic traits of Oregon's wine industry is the proliferation of single vineyard bottlings-winemakers celebrate and consumers cherish the individualistic wines made from specific local vineyards.

Perhaps the most recognized of Oregon's single vineyard terroirs is Shea Vineyard in Yamhill County. With 11 different wineries producing single-vineyard designated wines from Shea Vineyard, consumers have a unique opportunity to see how the taste of terroir may or may not differ from winemaker to winemaker.

The Land

"I sort of feel we have our own mini-viticultural area here," says Dick Shea as he walks among the summer vine growth in one of his blocks. And it is true that with elevations ranging from 400-ft. to a bit over 600-ft, and topography that offers numerous rolling southerly and easterly exposures, the vineyard does have its own microclimate-which seems to translate into a developing Shea terroir.

The first plantings at what was to become Shea Vineyard took place in 1989 with Pommard Pinot noir vines placed in the ground on their own roots. Since then Dick has planted additional acreage of different Pinot noir clones, along with some Chardonnay and Pinot gris. In 1995, however, the first traces of phyloxera were detected in the vineyard, and a long -term program of replanting began, to be finished in the nest few years.

The Fruit

What attracts so many winemakers to Shea Vineyard is the quality of the fruit they receive. According to Ken Wright, of Ken Wright Cellars, he likes Shea Vineyard grapes because "it has a great combination of red, blue, and black fruits." For Ken, the fruit also has "good sharpness and clarity of character." Mike Etzel, of Beaux Freres, also likes what he gets from Shea Vineyard. "The fruit is very focused in the red tones," he says, "and has great concentration and flavor."

Manfred Krankl, owner and winemaker at California's boutique winery Sine Qua Non, is the only out-of-state purchaser of Shea Vineyard fruit. "It's a very good site," he says of the site, "and has great terroir." For Manfred, the way the vineyard is managed is key to achieving the quality of fruit he receives. "I think the most important aspect of a great wine is how the vineyard is treated, who is handling the vines, and how dedicated they are and what they put into the vineyard." And for Sine Qua Non, Shea Vineyard's Pinot noir is the only source for the best of the varietal.

The Wines

"I know people with better palates than mine who can identify Shea Vineyard wines in blind tastings," says Dick. "Some winemakers are even beginning to see characteristics of 'vine age' from blocks that were planted in the early 1990s."

With 11 different wineries making wine from Dick Shea's grapes, there is bound to be a certain unique thread of "Shea-ness" in the wines. And yet, with some of Oregon's finest winemakers putting their own stamp on the fruit from Shea Vineyard, there are abound also to be differences.

Among the similarities, many tasters have detected a consistent floral character in Shea Vineyard-designated wines. Also, a certain dark red fruit character that seems unusually clear, often with a hint of spice, is detectable. And yet, when tasted together, the wines from each winemaker often show very different characters: some are heavier in style, others more delicate; some display a compelling velvety texture, others a kind of assertive and almost rough fruitiness.

And since 1996, Dick Shea himself has gone into the winemaking business, perhaps seeing if his winemakers can put an even more distinctive stamp on the Shea fruit. Produced by well-respected winemakers Michael Stevenson (Panther Creek Cellars), Ken Wright (Ken Wright Cellars), and soon Patty Green (Patricia Green Cellars), the Shea Wine Cellars label is today rather small. Even so, early bottlings have already become a kind of cult-classic collectible, eagerly sought by Shea aficionados.

Taste for Yourself

The best way to begin understanding Oregon's evolving terroir is to choose a site-we definitely recommend Shea Vineyard-and taste as many wines from that site as possible. If possible, include different vintages and different winemakers in order to begin tracing how the various characters in the wine change depending upon year and maker.

If you find any 1998 bottles of Shea Vineyard from any of the producers below, you can expect lush and ripe fruit flavors wrapped in a soft texture. If you can find 1999 releases, they will likely be slightly more structured, very aromatic, and with a tart fruitiness that will no doubt last for many years of cellaring. 2000 and now, 2001 vintages have shown rich and complex flavors and an increasing sense of terroir.

For your tasting pleasure and interest, seek out Shea Vineyard designated wines from any of the following producers:

Shea Wine Cellars
Ken Wright Cellars
Beaux Freres
Raptor Ridge
Patricia Green Cellars
Sine Qua Non
Westrey Wine Company
Panther Creek Cellars
Stevenson-Barrie
Lion Valley
St. Innocent