Bitten by the Wine Bug

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Shane Finley had been bitten by the wine bug. So, in 2001 he decided to ditch the New York corporate insurance world and try his hand at something different – making wine. After contacting Wells Guthrie at Copain to ask about an opportunity to intern, Shane packed his worldly belongings and headed for California. The mentorship there would lead Shane to work a harvest in Australia, and travel to France to work with Pierre Gaillard in the Northern Rhône. After returning to California, Shane became cellarmaster at Copain, then assistant winemaker at Paul Hobbs, before finally taking his current position in 2006 at Kosta Browne.

As the associate winemaker at Kosta Browne winery, Shane works very closely with Michael Browne making world class Pinot Noir. It would seem, at this point, that he had possibly achieved most of his ambitions in the world of wine. Well, not entirely. It had been a great journey so far, but Shane wanted to begin a personal wine project – a label of his own. Of all the grapes he had worked with thus far, Syrah seemed to speak to him the most. Thus was born Shane Wine Cellars – his family project devoted to producing Syrah. In addition, Shane is making Pinot Noir under the Spell label, as a friends and family venture.

Join us as we talk with Shane about his philosophy and approach to winemaking – as well as his love for both Pinot Noir and Syrah.

For more info on Shane Cellars: www.shanewines.com

Sponsor: Wine Beserker: www.wineberserkers.com

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Show #259
(55:59min 40MB)

8 Responses to “Bitten by the Wine Bug”


  1. 1 Monica Feb 8th, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    Ah, yes…the wine bug. It starts with a simple tasting of some fine wines, soon has you gurgling your root bear to identify the key components and ends up with you throwing everything else aside and pursuing your passion as your vocation. Thanks for the chat – good stuff and is a good spotlight on the folks that make the industry special.

    Cheers,

    Monica
    CellarThief.com

  2. 2 Roland Feb 14th, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Nice interview.The comment made about Rhone wine boxed into some Burgundy has some truth to it.Going back 150 years ago actually which is not that long ago.Hermitage wine from Rhone valley was blended with the top first growths in Bordeaux because the producers in bordeaux wanted more chocolate flavour and longivity in their wine and at that time Hermitage wines were more famous then bordeaux.

    Then Shane’s comments on whole cluster of grapes.It is the reason why producers in burgundy don’t do that and why they are destemming their wine because Pinot Noir is already a very tannic grape and as Pinot Noir ages the wine changes flavour and becomes more earthy anyway.So one does not have to do that when making the wine.The most elegant pinot noirs in the world from Burgundy to America,South Africa in a small appellation called walker bay with producers like Hamilton Russell to New Zealand and even Chile now are destemming because once you really understand the grape variety you will get balance in the wine.I disagree with his comment about alcohol.He said in the interview that he wants balance in the wine,well with high alcohol he will lose that balance.

    Yes even today some french and italian wine are 14 percent but it is like a great artist.You try and will buy the graffiti art work but you will never sale your Van Gogh because it’s timeless and priceless.The great burgundies and bordeaux today still are 12 to 13 percent and that brings balance to the whole wine from fruit,acidity,tannins and body.He talkes about ageing with PN,just look how long burgundies can age and they are destemmed and yes they have tannins but they also use the natural flavour of the grape.Let the grape do it’s own speaking.But time will teach Shane that with Pinot Noir you can’t mess around with it as the grape variety will put you on your place.He is making good wine now but when he starts to destemming his Pinot Noir he will start to make great wine and also understand it more.

    Thanks guys.

    Roland

    Sommelier.

  3. 3 Shane Feb 17th, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Roland-

    Thanks for taking the time to listen to the interview and leave a comment. It’s always nice to hear people’s feedback. I do agree w/more time and experience my views will change….hopefully for the better :-) but at the moment let me make two quick counter-points.

    Whole Cluster – I am no Burgundy expert however I do know that many producers use a significant percentage, if not 100%, of whole cluster. DRC jumps to mind as a producer that uses 100% whole cluster frequently – if not every year. I had dinner w/Aubert de Villaine in Australia (at a pinot conference and whole cluster seemed to be a pleasing element to him). I think many people would argue that DRC is the archetype for pinot noir. I believe Dujac uses quite a bit of whole cluster as well. Maybe rusty can jump in and lend some clarity here?

    As far as the New World, I know of many, many producers that use whole cluster effective. In NZ (Central Otago) Felton Road — one of my favorite pinot producers worldwide – uses quite a bit of whole cluster.

    Alcohol – The number is irrelevant to me. What matter is how the wine tastes. If it’s 12, 13, 14, 15 etc whatever….I don’t make wine by the #s for acidity, tannins, or alcohol….I want to make balanced wines…and I think I can at alcohol levels higher than 13%. Honestly, I pick vineyards where high sugars and thus high alcohols aren’t too much of a concern b/c the vineyards sit in cooler areas that allow the acidity and sugar levels to develop in tandem. I pick when the fruit tastes good. I’d rather have a wine w/a bit too much alcohol than one that tastes like green beans :-)

    Thanks again for listening!

    Cheer, Shane

  4. 4 Roland Feb 18th, 2010 at 7:11 am

    Shane thanks for the comments.I am a sommelier and blogger of podcasts and will change my blog soon to video blogging.Anyway,I travel every year to regions because I believe it is so important for a sommelier to travel and talk with producers.

    I hope you don’t think I am arrogant because I am not,I know the food and wine trade with chefs and sommeliers can be like that but I am very humble.Remember that DRC and Dujac have such a long history and experience and also very special soils and climate for Pinot Noir.It is a debate with PN producers all over the world about destemming and whole cluster.But it is very tricky to get it right and only the experience of making many mistakes have DRC got it right but who also sometimes destem when they think the vintage has not been great to them.I travel through Burgundy every year.Remember when people first drink DRC wines they are not blown away because they don’t like those green flavours and it takes time to understand it.

    DRC look at the vintage every year to see how much whole cluster and how much destemming they use.Depending on the ripeness of the stems, the winemaker will choose the amount of stems, if any, to be included in fermentation. When green, stems can impart vegetal notes and accentuate bitter tannins. However, when used correctly, stems can add complexity to some wine styles. As the stems become more mature and brown, in a process known as lignification, they can contribute structure, weight and texture to certain varietals, most notably those made in a Rhône style.

    Who was the most repected producer in Burgundy for all those years,it was Henri Jayer.He eliminated any material that was rotten or unripe. Only natural yeasts would do, as he thought synthetic ones bred uniformity of taste, and yields were minute. Bunches were completely destalked as he thought the stalks added nothing but bitterness. Then the grapes were left to cold macerate for five days before fermentation.Those are the words of the Pope of Burgundy Henri Jayer.But it’s your choice Shane and you must be your own man in the vineyard.I admire you for taking the chance with PN but remember with PN it’s a life long learning experience,that’s why we all love it.

    About alcohol I just have to disagree with you.I am not baseing all my views on what goes on in France but as a sommelier when I get that big smell of alcohol from the wine it puts me off.Also it puts people off.Again when I speak to producers in france and italy they all say that balance comes from between 12 to 13 percent alcohol and when you go higher it does not become wine anymore.Why did we all and still fall in love with the elegance of Great Grand Gru or even normal good wine from france because it’s balance comes from the right amount of alcohol,fruit,acidity and tannins.No one thing should over power the other.When I serve wine with high alcohol I always have to decant it just to help lower the alcohol level,I should not have to do that.Balance should come from the vineyard itself.

    Thanks again for your respone and I hope to come out to your farm one day.

    Roland

    Sommelier.

  5. 5 JOHN MARTELLY Feb 24th, 2010 at 9:09 am

    I really need a new job. Preferably, in the wine industry. You guys are having way too much fun.

  6. 6 Simon Apr 25th, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    Shane thanks for the comments.I am a sommelier and blogger of podcasts and will change my blog soon to video blogging.Anyway,I travel every year to regions because I believe it is so important for a sommelier to travel and talk with producers.

    I hope you don’t think I am arrogant because I am not,I know the food and wine trade with chefs and sommeliers can be like that but I am very humble.Remember that DRC and Dujac have such a long history and experience and also very special soils and climate for Pinot Noir.It is a debate with PN producers all over the world about destemming and whole cluster.But it is very tricky to get it right and only the experience of making many mistakes have DRC got it right but who also sometimes destem when they think the vintage has not been great to them.I travel through Burgundy every year.Remember when people first drink DRC wines they are not blown away because they don’t like those green flavours and it takes time to understand it.

    DRC look at the vintage every year to see how much whole cluster and how much destemming they use.Depending on the ripeness of the stems, the winemaker will choose the amount of stems, if any, to be included in fermentation. When green, stems can impart vegetal notes and accentuate bitter tannins. However, when used correctly, stems can add complexity to some wine styles. As the stems become more mature and brown, in a process known as lignification, they can contribute structure, weight and texture to certain varietals, most notably those made in a Rhône style.

    Who was the most repected producer in Burgundy for all those years,it was Henri Jayer.He eliminated any material that was rotten or unripe. Only natural yeasts would do, as he thought synthetic ones bred uniformity of taste, and yields were minute. Bunches were completely destalked as he thought the stalks added nothing but bitterness. Then the grapes were left to cold macerate for five days before fermentation.Those are the words of the Pope of Burgundy Henri Jayer.But it’s your choice Shane and you must be your own man in the vineyard.I admire you for taking the chance with PN but remember with PN it’s a life long learning experience,that’s why we all love it.

    About alcohol I just have to disagree with you.I am not baseing all my views on what goes on in France but as a sommelier when I get that big smell of alcohol from the wine it puts me off.Also it puts people off.Again when I speak to producers in france and italy they all say that balance comes from between 12 to 13 percent alcohol and when you go higher it does not become wine anymore.Why did we all and still fall in love with the elegance of Great Grand Gru or even normal good wine from france because it’s balance comes from the right amount of alcohol,fruit,acidity and tannins.No one thing should over power the other.When I serve wine with high alcohol I always have to decant it just to help lower the alcohol level,I should not have to do that.Balance should come from the vineyard itself.

    Thanks again for your respone and I hope to come out to your farm one day.

    Roland

    Sommelier.

  7. 7 Wine2Three Dec 11th, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Really enjoyed this interview! Really inspired by Shane’s globe-trotting go-getting style! :)

  8. 8 www.graperadio.com Apr 22nd, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Bitten by the wine bug.. Corking :)

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GrapeRadio is a wine talk show. Show topics cover issues such as the enjoyment of wine, wine news and industry trends - the hallmark of the show is interviews with world class guest (winemakers, vineyards owners, wine retail / wholesale leaders, restaurateurs and sommeliers). The scope of the show is international so expect to hear many guests from around the world.

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