VIEWS: 3 PAGES: 1 POSTED ON: 2/24/2012
Wine Industry Executive Proﬁle: Clay Shannon BY JEFF QUACKENBUSH Mr. Shannon plans to eventually produce STAFF REPORTER 250,000 cases a year. He plans to continue selling CLEARLAKE OAKS – Clay Shannon’s love grapes to a select number among his 40 winery cus- of the outdoors has made him a big believer in Lake tomers. County. Now he’s helping to lead a growing effort It’s getting to the point where Shannon Ridge by county growers and vintners to make the lake a will require a winery facility. At the moment, senior sought-after ﬁne-wine experience. winemaking consultant Marco DiGiulio and Direc- He ﬁrst became enamored with the rust-red dirt, tor of Production Mike Wood make the smaller-lot rattlesnakes, brush and coyotes of the area about labels at Bin to Bottle in Napa, larger lots at Francis two decades ago while establishing the vineyard Ford Coppola Presents Rosso & Bianco in Geyser- program for the Napa-based Sutter Home brand on ville and in-between labels across Clear Lake at 4,000 acres in the Central Valley and Lake County. Wildhurst Vineyards. From 70 acres of vines on an 80-acre Lake As chairman of the Lake County Winegrape County ranch in the High Valley appellation a de- Commission and a member of the boards of the cade ago, Mr. Shannon, his wife, Margarita, 45, and newly formed Lake County Winery Association partners gradually amassed 1,300 acres of property and the Clear Lake Community Foundation, Mr. CLAY SHANNON Title: President in the county and have planted just more than 700 Shannon has been working toward creating more Company: Shannon Ridge Winery & Vine- acres of vineyards. He met his wife, a St. Helena demand and value for local winegrapes and wine yards, Shannon Ranches Inc.; P.O. Box 2037, native, when both worked at Sutter Home, now by increasing public awareness of Lake County as Clearlake Oaks 95423; 707-998-9656; www. called Trinchero Family Estates. a name for quality wine. shannonridge.com They have about 8 percent of the 8,300 planted Projects include advertising campaigns, road- Age: 46 winegrape acreage in Lake County, according to way signage to the dozen and a half wineries in the Residence: Clearlake Oaks the 2007 state Grape Crop Acreage Report. Com- county so far and improving the lake itself as well Family: three daughters, ages 21, 20 and 11, paratively, Napa County has 46,000 acres of vines, as the towns ringing it. and one son, 13 Sonoma County 58,000 and Mendocino County “People need to get up to this lake and look Professional background: Fairﬁeld Homes; 17,000. around,” he said, noting the need for more hotels partner, Shannon Bros. Custom Farming; direc- Many of the Shannon Ridge vineyards started and restaurants. tor of vineyard operations, Sutter Home Winery; with preplant contracts from other early believers Last year, Shannon Ridge set up a small tast- president, Shannon Ranches Inc. and Shannon in Lake County: Jackson Family Wines, which ing room in Clearlake Oaks on the eastern shore of Ridge Winery & Vineyards started in the county and now is based in Santa the lake and this year added picnic facilities and a Education: Healdsburg High School Rosa; Beringer in St. Helena; Kenwood Vineyards demonstration vineyard. Industry’s greatest challenge: “Imports. As an in Sonoma Valley; and Robert Mondavi Winery in Earlier this month, Shannon Ridge acquired the industry we need to think out of the box and not Oakville. 240-acre Rolling Knolls vineyard in Lower Lake. always about protecting our own space. Now However, most of the large preplant contracts The grapes will go into select wines, and the prop- is the perfect time to be getting out there and exporting.” expired in 2005 and 2006 amidst a global surplus erty is being enhanced with picnic tables overlook- of wine and the two largest California winegrape ing wetlands, hiking trails and rock walls instead Toughest business decision: “Growing the company and taking the responsibility for more harvests ever, including large North Coast tonnage of deer fences. Cottages on the property will be mouths to feed.” increases for cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon used for entertaining the trade and special custom- Favorite wine pioneer: “Fred Franzia, founder blanc – Lake County’s primary varieties. ers, and the old walnut dehydrator building will be of Bronco Wine Co. He is a true farmer, is truly On top of that, three-quarters of the grapes remodeled for a tasting room. all about America and supports family business.” grown in the county have been going to Napa and Mr. Shannon wants visitors to have an Old Last book read: “Cowboy Ethics” by James Sonoma wineries for brands that only until recently World wine region experience in Lake County. Yet, Owen and David Stoecklein have been increasingly noting Lake County sourc- a new wine experience is the draw of Lake County Employees: 35 full-time, 200 seasonal ing. wines, be they cabs from the Red Hills appellation “We were not going to see this perceived value on the southwest shore or exceptional warm-cli- in grapes go to hell, so we started a wine brand,” he mate sauvignon blanc. a year after leaving Sutter Home as director of vine- said. In fact, he loves the rustic American life of yard operations and a short-lived stint in almond The ﬁrst grapes went into the Shannon Ridge ranching, farming, watching wildlife, boating and growing. The company reached 1,200 employees Winery & Vineyards brand in 2002, and 1,500 cas- conﬁrming deals with a handshake rather than mul- at one point but now has about 250. es were released in 2004. After ﬁts and starts, the tiple draft documents. Born in Santa Rosa, Mr. Shannon came to farm- brand started picking up sales momentum the fol- He lives on a working ranch with 80 head of ing from homebuilding in 1981. He was working lowing year following accolades from reviewers, sheep that control weeds in the vineyards and sur- for Fairﬁeld Homes on the Oakmont community in but annual production was still just 2,000 cases. rounding land, plus horses, a registered bull and east Santa Rosa when high interest rates brought That grew to 14,000 cases in 2006, 43,000 cases plans for raising grass-fed lamb. work to a standstill. last year and an estimated 60,000 cases this year. Mr. Shannon’s other business is Shannon He started Shannon Bros. Custom Farming and Retail prices range from $16 a bottle for sauvignon Ranches Inc., a labor contractor and machine har- built the business to a couple hundred acres under blanc to $24 for chardonnay to $30 for the rare vester for vineyards mostly in the northern half of management, but the margins were so thin he had Rhone variety roussanne. the Central Valley. He started that company in 1994 to take the job at Sutter Home in 1985.
"Wine Industry Executive Profile Clay Shannon"