Two Hot Years for Shea Wine Cellars
Shea Vineyard dates to 1989, one of the first vineyards planted to Pinot Noir in the now esteemed viticultural
area known as the Yamhill-Carlton District AVA of the Willamette Valley. Shea Vineyard is now surrounded by
many premier Pinot Noir plantings including those of Willakenzie, Patricia Green, Penner-Ash and Beaux
Freres. The vineyard today consists of 200 hillside acres of which 135 acres are planted to Pinot Noir and 5
acres to Chardonnay. The vineyard faces south and is divided into two hills, named East and West, separated
by a valley containing native plants and trees. The soil found at Shea Vineyard is characterized by shallow
sedimentary Willakenzie topsoil with underlying fractured sandstone subsoil. The Pinot Noir plantings are
divided into 33 blocks, consisting of numbered blocks 2 to 14, 19 to 27, 30 to 33 and named blocks North,
South, Oak Lane, Back, Dierdre’s (formerly 28 and 29), Michael’s (formerly 16) and The Terrace. See the map
below for reference.
The original plantings of Pommard and Wädenswil clones were on their own roots and inevitably, phylloxera
afflicted the vines and planned replanting progressed through 2005. The newer plantings include Dijon clones
114, 115, 777 and 828. Grapes from this distinguished site are highly sought after by many of Oregon’s top
wineries. Since 1996, Dick Shea has had his own label, Shea Wine Cellars. There have been several different
winemakers to date, but the wines have been consistently excellent displaying a dark red and black fruit
character, earthiness and a substantial structure now recognized as typical for the Yamhill-Carlton district. The
Shea Wine Cellars Pinot Noirs are designated as Estate ( a blend of several blocks), block-designates which
vary from year to year, and a special reserve wine labeled “Homer.” Dick Shea is a baseball fan but in no way
connected to Shea Stadium in New York. Dick’s spouse, Deirdre, often compares Dick to Homer Simpson so
the name “Homer” has a dual meaning. This cuvée us from the best barrels in the cellar and is the most
voluptuous of the lineup, needing several years to reach its prime drinking window.
I recently sampled Shea Wine Cellars Pinot Noirs from two very warm recent vintages in Oregon: 2003 and
2006. My reviews are very flattering and deservedly so. The 2003 vintage Pinot Noirs are not for the timid.
They are all big wines, darkly colored and intensely flavored. Some wines show overripe fruit with port and
prune features. The 2006 vintage is more appealing to me with better acidity and less roasted fruit flavors.
Shea Wine Cellars Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay are sold to an enthusiastic mailing list at
www.sheawinecellars.com and a limited number of retailers including Avalon Wine in Corvallis
(www.avalonwine.com). The winery and vineyard are not open to public. 503-241-6527.
2006 Shea Wine Cellars Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Chardonnay
14.5% alc., 381 cases,
$35. Shea Vineyard blocks 4, 21, and 31. Cropped at 2.19 tons per acre. Dijon 76,
548 and 95 clones. 100% barrel fermented, 100% MLF. Aged 10 months in 13% new
and 87% previously filled Burgundian oak barrels.
This Chardonnay has the charm
of a barrel fermented Chardonnay without the over-the-top oak and butter treatment.
Delicate yellow color. Fresh and lively flavors of citrus fruits, pears and vanilla with
an undercurrent of minerality and a refreshing finish that makes you want to reach for
2006 Shea Wine Cellars Estate Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.25% alc., 2,500
cases, $45. Fruit for this wine is sourced from the entire vineyard (blocks
5,7,13,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,28,29,32 and Oak) and includes several Dijon clones
and Pommard and Wädenwsil clones. Cropped at 2.21 tons per acre. 4% whole
cluster. Aged 10 months in 49% new and 51% previously filled Burgundian barrels.
A dark fruited wine showing black cherries and black raspberries with a subtle vein of
oak, dry herbs and toast running through. Firm in structure, soft in texture with
supple tannins. Not as interesting as the other 2006 Pinot Noirs but still very decent.
2006 Shea Wine Cellars East Hill Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 320 cases, $52. From block 7, , 13 and Oak. Cropped at 2.33 tons per
acre. Clones are Wädenswil (25%)and Dijon 114, 115 and 777 (75%). 2%
whole cluster with a high amount of whole berries. Aged 10 months in 63%
new and 37% previously filled Burgundian oak barrels.
Assertive scents of
red and black berries, spice, oak and a little good barnyard. Mouth-coating
red and black fruits which fill the mid palate with pleasure. Thoroughly
refreshing due to bright acidity and a touch of citrus zest on the persistent finish.
Vivid, elegant and perfectly harmonious.
2006 Shea Wine Cellars Pommard Clone Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.75% alc., 246 cases, $52. Vineyard blocks 32, 33 and 34. Cropped at
2.04 tons per acre. 4% whole cluster. Aged 10 months in 55% new and 45%
previously filled Burgundian oak barrels.
Dark red raspberries, herbs and a
little barnyard on the slightly reserved nose. Rich deep red stone fruits are
lushly flavored and lifted with oak spice. Velvety in the mouth with moderate
wooly tannins and a dry finish. Very tasty.
2006 Shea Wine Cellars Wädenswil Clone Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 236 cases, $52.Shea Vineyard blocks 25, 28 and 29. Cropped at 1.98 tons per
acre. 14% whole cluster. Aged 10 months in 43% new and 57% previously filled
Burgundian oak barrels.
Brooding dark fruits on the nose annotated with dark
chocolate, herbs and a whiff of heat. A big wine that is still somewhat closed with
the fruit submerged in a prodigious structure. Noticeable roundness and a velvety
mouth feel from the alcohol. Still has some tannins to shed. Hold on to this one for
3 to 5 years.
2006 Shea Wine Cellars Homer Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
253 cases, $75. Blocks 7, 32, 25, 28 and 24, Wädenswil and Pommard
clones cropped at 2.17 tons per acre. 15% whole cluster with a high amount
of whole berries. Aged in 82% new French oak. Ten of the finest barrels in the
Surprisingly forward for a Homer bottling. Lovely aromas of dark fruits
with hints of floral perfume, roasted nuts, and oak. Red plums and dark
berries are dense and plush on the palate. Very smooth with polished tannins.
Remarkable lift of berry aromas on the lithe and endless finish. A Pinot to envy.
2003 Shea Wine Cellars Estate Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
The aromas are ripe and fruity
featuring black raspberries, black cherries, black currants with a slightly roasted or cooked profile. Dense and
chewy dark fruits are almost Syrah-like. The texture is silky and the fuzzy tannins are soft and unobtrusive. A
victim of the warm vintage.
2003 Shea Wine Cellars Block 23 Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 275 cases, $48. From
3.2 acres planted in 1990. Self-rooted, non-irrigated Pommard clone that is part of the original Shea
The nose shows the typical “Sheaness” aromas of black cherries, violets and
earthiness. Generous compliment of dark cherries and strawberries which persist on the endless finish.
The texture is pure silk. Still showing plenty of dry tannins and will last several more years. Best wine
of the 2003 lineup and much better than a bottle of the same wine tasted last year.
2003 Shea Wine Cellars Homer Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 145 cases, $65. Composed of the
finest barrels in the cellar. Dijon clone 115 and Wädenswil.
Reserved aromas of cherries and fresh berries
with hints of herbs, oak and funk. Meaty fruit flavors are brooding. A touch of smoke and oak adds interest.
Moderate tannins and a touch of heat surface at the close.
Just for the heck of it I blended the 2006 Pommard and 2006 Wädenswil Pinot Noirs in a 50/50 proportion. The
result was quite appealing. Dark and fruity with some brown sugar notes, very smooth in texture with a clean
finish. I preferred this over the Wädenswil clone bottled alone.
The 2007 vintage Shea Wine Cellars Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay have just been released. Autumn rains
arrived early in 2007 but the grapes at Shea Vineyard ripen early and most of the fruit was ripe and picked
before the onset of rain. In 2007 there are five Pinot Noirs: Estate ($45, 4,075 cases), East Hill ($55, 340
cases), Pommard Clone ($55, 290 cases), Block 33 (a new wine from Shea Wine Cellars, $64, 97 cases) and
Homer ($82, 333 cases). The Chardonnay is sensibly priced ($35, 367 cases).