In just a few years, Shinn Estate Vineyards has built a reputation for their "green" vineyard practices and quality wines that show off the quality of their fruit.
Before the upcoming 2006 vintage, the wines were made at other wineries — most recently at Wolffer Estate under the watchful eye of winemaker Roman Roth. With harvest 2006, however, Shinn Estate Vineyards' wines will be estate made and bottled — in a renovated barn right next to their rustic tasting room.
They have also hired their first head winemaker, Juan (John) Eduardo Micieli-Martinez, formerly of Pellegrini Vineyards and Premium Wine Group.
It's exciting enough to take over as winemaker for a well-regarded producer, but John is also setting up a brand new winery, working with his new bosses to select, purchase and install all of the new equipment. John told me recently in an email that "the most exciting thing is the responsibility" of being the head winemaker.
How did this Juarez, Mexico native end up as a winemaker on the North Fork? It's a story of baseball, beer and then Barriques.
John's adoptive parents brought him to New York when he was about a year old — but they weren't wine drinkers. "My parents are blue collar people. Wine was never really served at my house growing up." John's childhood interests were pretty basic — "baseball, hockey, fishing and Nintendo."
But after studying biology and psychology at the State University of New York at Binghamton, John decided to have "one last summer job" to learn about wine before moving on to a sales or marketing job in the either the biotechnology or pharmaceutical industry.
That summer job was at Pellegrini Vineyards and John got hooked on wine and the wine industry. His plans quickly changed — but he wasn't in the wine industry for good. At least not yet.
First, he became a brewer — in the local beer industry. While at Pellegrini, he had another job working at John Harvard's Brew House in Lake Grove. The brewer there, Duffy Griffiths, told John that Phil Markowski was looking for an assistant at Southampton Publick House. "I took the info, but was more set on being in the wine industry. I had homebrewed once or twice, but they were hardly drinkable. While I was looking for work in the wine industry I once again was told by Mark Friszolowski (formerly of Pindar) that Southampton Publick House was looking for an assistant. So I applied. It was not my first choice, but in retrospect it was a great one."
But, after learning a lot about "yeast propagation and behavior" and about "the science of blending" from Markowski, John returned to the world of wine, working the much ballyhooed 2001 vintage at Premium Wine Group.
Soon thereafter, Charles Flatt, then the production winemaker for Pellegrini Vineyards decided to leave. When head winemaker Russell Hearn decided to hire Premium Wine Group to handle production services at Pellegrini, John was became the liaison Pellegrini.
John says that he has a lot to thank Hearn for "I am fortunate to have been able to work under him at Pellegrini. I learned many things — but most importantly the need for experimentation."
As harvest approaches later this month, John is busy installing their new winery equipment, including a wine press and crusher/de-stemmer from Italy, a 1500-gallon wood fermentor from France and French Seguin Moreau 1500 gallon wood fermentor, and state-of-the-art equipment from Ontario and South Africa.
Page and Shinn are also working on converting the old farmhouse on their property into a bed and breakfast that is schedule to open in summer 2007. With the winery up and running and the bed and breakfast open, Shinn Estate Vineyards will become the North Fork's premier destination for wine lovers.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that the wines are good too — and some of my favorites.