MEET OUR PEOPLE
Shinn & Sons Vineyard Management / Grower
HOW MANY YEARS HAVE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY BEEN FARMING WINEGRAPES?
I’m wrapping up harvest number 16. I’ve been tending ditches and tying grafts since I was a kid but I don’t know if that counts toward my total farming years. My family has been farming since 1852. In the early days, our family farmed mostly wheat and grains. The oldest vineyard block we have on record is Mule Plane, planted in the 1920s.
HOW DID YOU GET IN TO FARMING?
I don’t know… Honestly, I had no desire to farm when I was young. My family has been farming the same ground in this area for almost 150 years. I grew up seeing my dad work crazy weird hours. He would come in at sunrise after sulfuring all night and I would think to myself: that is NUTS! Why would anyone do that?!? I saw the good years and the not so good years. I thought: I am going to get an office job working for a big company as a vice-something-something. So I started down that path and ended up with walls and doors, six bosses, button-up shirts and slacks – a corporate world. It turns out, it was not for me. I decided I wanted to try farming. There was something in me saying I had to try; I could not go my life without trying my hand at farming. I like to think that God put the dirt in my DNA; it just took me a while to acquiesce to it.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR MULE PLANE VINEYARD.
This vineyard sat silent for a LONG time. It was packed for shipping to the mid-west and east coast for a good part of its life. It wasn’t until about four years ago that the movement of winemakers to lighter-style red wines allowed this vineyard to receive its due recognition. Since then, we have sold small lots to at least 12 producers in the Lodi, Napa, and Central Coast areas. This vineyard is a great combination of the age and variety of the vines, sandy loam, and west-side delta climate.
WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT ASPECT OF GROWING WINEGRAPES?
Farming is always changing and presents different challenges every season. Just when I think I got it figured out, it’s different. Labor, weather, markets... it keeps life interesting.
WHAT WOULD PEOPLE BE SURPRISED TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?
Growing up, I had no desire to farm. I planned to work in corporate but found I had a strong dislike for walls and sitting behind a desk.
Pictured: John Shinn and father, Bill Shinn