I admire pretty much all people who have made the wine industry their lifework, but I have a special place in my heart for those who give up careers in other, sometime lucrative, fields to take the big jump.
With an English degree from the Virginia Military Institute and the start of a career in the insurance industry in New York City. Shane fell for wine big time and chucked it all in 2001 to work harvest at Copain Wines in Santa Rosa. He then did the same at Torbreck in Australia’s Barossa Valley followed by an internship at Domaine Pierre Gaillard in the Northern Rhone Valley of France.
In 2003, Shane returned to Copain, becoming Cellar Master at Copain Custom Crush, where he had the opportunity to work with clients such as Carlisle and Pisoni. He then moved on to Paul Hobbs Winery, followed by Kosta Browne. Since 2012, he has been winemaker at Lynmar Estate.
All that being said, my first contact with Shane happened just as the first vintage  of his own label, Shane Wines, was about to come out. Back then, before Facebook had taken over our lives, I spent time on certain wine message boards. They seemed to be the best places to find out the current buzz about new winemakers. And that was where I heard about Shane. I signed up for his mailing list and have been ordering from him since.
But, we had never met in person, although we almost did at least once. This time, I was determined to make it happen. So we drove up to Alysian Winery where he is making his own wines as well as for certain clients.
Shane’s first releases were Syrahs [including a Rose of Syrah], and they were delicious, living up to the buzz that had been created on the message boards. In 2009 he released a Pinot Noir. Although Pinot Noir is not always my favorite grape, in this case I bought the “winemaker” and not the “varietal” and was happy I did. The Pinot was every bit as rich and flavorful as Shane’s Syrahs. In fact, I recently shared a bottle of Shane’s 2010 Pinot Noir with an avowed Pinot-hater and, well, he loved it.
I asked Shane about his approach to Pinot Noir and this is what he had to say: “I think I’ve been able to create more fruit forward pinots with careful vineyard management (yields, leafing, cluster spacing, etc.), clonal and soil selection, whole cluster fermentation (adding texture and getting a aromatic lift from the carbonic maceration), use of lighter toast oak that respects the fruit and adds mid palate depth, and use of minimal punchdowns with mid ferment pump overs or sparging with oxygen.” [Yes, I had to look up “sparging”.]
Shane developed his love for Syrah in California and Australia, but really fine-tuned it in the Rhone Valley at Gaillard, spending a lot of time not only in the winery and working in the vineyard but also with the Gaillard family. For me his Syrahs are excellent representations of that grape and his Pinots are perfect for this Syrah lover.
Tasting some wines still in barrel, I would say that the best is yet to come. We tasted both 2014 and recently picked 2015 Syrahs as well as three different 2014 Pinots and all were tasting great.
Besides being Lynmar’s full time winemaker and making Shane Wines in his spare time, Shane is consulting winemaker for other select wineries. One of his clients is Thirty-Seven Wines, which I discovered at a recent Family Winemakers event. He is also working with Dan Kosta and Emeril Lagasse on their AldenAlli project.
You can occasionally find Shane wines on restaurant lists, but I highly recommend you sign up for this one.
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. Michael is also Vice President of Eve Bushman Consulting (fka Eve’s Wine 101 Consulting) http://evebushmanconsulting.com/ and President of MCP Financial. Michael can be contacted at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org