Away from the Main Road and Sound Avenue wineries, on rural Oregon Road, Shinn’s tasting room is housed in a grey weathered wood building that seems rustic. However, the wines, the service, and their philosophy are all quite up to date.
We went there with two small distractions, ages five and two, so my notes are somewhat less detailed than usual, but we enjoyed our visit anyway, highlighted by a nice dish of mixed nuts we ordered, and a small plate of crackers for the little ones we had not (Shinn asks that you not bring in outside food, and has a small menu of their own.). The resident doggie also came in for a bit of attention. As we entered, a server asked that one member of our party of four adults not do a tasting, in order to supervise the little ones, but we managed to slip her some sips as we sat at a comfortable table for six.
The last time we came here, also in the winter, it was deserted, but this time it was Presidents’ Weekend and the weather was unseasonably warm, and quite a few people were there. As a result, we learned that they have an additional tasting area in amongst the stainless-steel vats where they could accommodate the overflow crowd. When we arrived, there were even some hardy souls sitting outside on their pretty patio area.
The first sight you have of the winery is, appropriately enough, the tall windmill which, along with solar panels, provides power to the winery and the attached farmhouse inn. The owners are very ecologically conscious, and use the “biodynamic” method to grow their grapes, which you can read about on their web site. Even the dishes used for their snacks are “compostable” and “made from fallen leaves.”
A tasting includes any four wines from their menu for $15. The three of us made some diverse choices, and we ended up not tasting the wines in the perfect order (as all wineries specify on their menus), so I’ll just list them in the order in which I tasted mine and theirs! Fortunately, the first thing they put on our table was a nice big bottle of water and some cups, so I was able to cleanse my palate between tastes. We also tasted their apple brandy and grappa, about which more later.
- 2016 Coalescence $16
I started with their white blend, a steel-fermented mixture of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and riesling. The first time I had it I loved it, the second time not so much, but I guess the third time’s the charm, because this time I really enjoyed it. It is a pleasantly dry white with nice minerality but also a touch of fruity sweetness, most likely from the riesling. We bought a bottle.
- 2010 Sparkling Brut $40
Our guest opted to start his tasting with this, and given that he has toured the Champagne region of France, I was quite impressed that he liked this. He said it was like a traditional blanc de blanc, and both toasty and juicy—but not worth the price.
- 2014 Estate Merlot $26
My husband chose to do all reds, and started with their merlot, which he said would be “okay with spaghetti.” It is dry, and, he noted, does not have much fruit.
- 2016 First Fruit $22
Although this is made from sauvignon blanc grapes, it definitely has a cat pee smell, but also some green apple aromas. Fortunately, it tastes like green apple, and again is dry and a bit tart.
- 2013 Wild Boar Doe $32
Yes, this is a Bordeaux-style blend of “all five red varietals we grow”—that is, merlot, petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and malbec. I’m not sure who ordered this one (I think I was distracted by being asked to admire a “Water Wow” creation.), but we agreed that it definitely has a raspberry smell and is very dry with lots of tannins. We decided that if one bought it, one should cellar it for a few years.
- 2013 Haven $35
I chose this one from the list of “small production” whites, and it is a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon grapes, kept on the skins overnight and then barrel fermented and aged. As a result, it has a lovely golden color and a taste of vanilla and toast and caramel. It’s a bit too sweet for me, though I liked it, and I would order it if I was having a spicy dish.
- 2014 Cabernet Franc $38
Our guest was so taken with this wine that he bought a bottle to give as a gift to a friend. It has lots of tannins and some vegetal notes. My notes say broccoli! He said it was not earthy, and would benefit from some aging. My husband also had this one, and said it would be good with lamb, maybe like the delicious marinated lamb roast from Eight Hands Farm we had Sunday night.
- 2014 Nine Barrels $32
They make—you guessed it—nine barrels of this wine, which is their reserve merlot. My husband said it was “not that interesting,” and ventured the opinion that their winemaking was rather “tame.”
- 2015 Pinot Blanc $35
For my final taste, I chose another from the “small production” list, a wine that is aged for 11 months in neutral oak barrels. It has a nice aroma with some vanilla, and is a smooth, pleasant wine with no rough edges.
- Julius Drover Apple Brandy $55
Shinn has their own distillery where they make several different liquors. The apple brandy is made from local apples and is aged for four years. A very small taste is $7, but really, you wouldn’t want too much, as the alcohol hits you right away. 80 proof! It tastes very like brandy, and not much like apples, but our guest is making a small study of apple brandies and bought a bottle. Julius Drover, by the way, refers to the owner’s grandfather, who was a farmer/bootlegger during Prohibition.
- Shinn shine, Grappa $47 for 375 ml.
So the brandy was 80 proof, but this is 122 proof! One of us described it as rubbing alcohol poured through grape skins. It is powerful.
Reasons to visit: You want to get away from the main road wineries and try somewhere intimate and laid back; you’re interested in their liquors (in addition to the above, they make an eau de vie and another brandy); the Coalescence, the Cabernet Franc, the Sparkling Brut, the Haven; you want to support their earth-friendly philosophy.