Shea Wine Cellars
Shea Vineyard is owned by Dick Shea. It is a
200 acre vineyards in Yamhill County of the WIllamette Valley in Oregon.
Shea sells grapes to some of Oregon's best wineries, and the vineyard
has a reputation for producing some of the best pinot noirs in the world,
from such winemakers as Ken Wright and Mike Etzel of Beaux Freres.
While Mike Etzel of Belles Soeurs praises Shea’s vineyard management, Shea says the vintners deserve some of the credit. “There’s a bit of competition among the producers,” he says. “No one wants to make the weakest wine.”
for Shea, and good for consumers.
137 planted; 85 producing
If you'd like to try some wine
from the Shea Vineyard, here's a list of available wines:
In the October 2002 issue of Wine Enthusiast, the magazine lists five vineyards across the US that it calls the best of the Us's sources for Pinot noir grapes. The Shea Vineyard was named one of these five "Gran Crus".
Produced by winemakers Michael Stevenson (Panther Creek and Setevnson Barr), Ken Wright (Ken Wright Cellars), and Patty Green (Patricia Green Cellars), the Shea Wine Cellar's production is today rather small. But just has he has developed his vineyard, so Dick Shea plans to grow his winemaking activities.
Shea Wine Cellar's 99 Pinot Noir is delicious, one of the best we've had. It's a sensuous, big wine, full of red and black berry fruit, with a wonderful nose. Scents of vanilla, violets, and roses intermingle with warm marionberry and raspberry notes. An undercurrent of game and clean saddle leather shows as the wine opens.
The 99 Pinot Noir has flavors that change constantly as the wine opens, reflecting its youth. It starts as a big, fat, juicy wine, but opens in the mouth and with air to a complex, multilayed wine with quick shifts from blackberry, currant, black cherry, cinnamon, anise, licorice, toffee, and butter. Gamey barnyard flavors show with several hours exposure to air.
Shea Wine Cellars makes incredible wine. We are so proud to be able to offer Dick Shea's wonderful Pinot Noir 99.
from Shea Stadium
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 wine 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.
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.
"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.
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.
you'd like to try some wines made from the Shea Vineyard, here's a list
of available wines:
by Cole Danehower,
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.
"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.
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 Calfinornia'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.
"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.
For your tasting pleasure and interest, seek out Shea Vineyard designated wines from any of the following producers:
Shea Wine Cellars
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Cole Danehower on
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