Meet Our Winemakers: Part 1
At Shannon Ridge, we have a dynamic and talented female winemaking team. Our team is tasked with crafting wines for our entire family of wines, 15 wine brands in total.
Joy Merrilees heads up this team as the Director of Winemaking & Production with Molly Wingo, Associate Winemaker, and Anna Bassett, Assistant Winemaker. Joy’s varied experience and determination to work through any challenges make her an ideal leader. Here are 15 things to know about Joy and her winemaking experience.
1. Where were you raised?
Right here in Lake County by my hippy parents at the end of a long dirt road.
2. When and how did you get into wine?
I did an exchange program in New Zealand to add landscape design to my horticulture degree. I had many friends taking enology courses at Lincoln University. I started sneaking into classes with them and realized wine was so much more interesting than landscape. When I finished college, I started working in the vineyards in New Zealand. Funny, I grew up in wine country, but had to move 7,000 miles away to notice it.
3. Who has been your biggest inspiration in the wine industry?
I have a long list of inspirational people in the wine industry. I just try to learn something from every one of them. They all approach wine from different angles and it pushes me to think outside the box.
4. What is it like being part of a female winemaking team?
It’s great being part of a female winemaking team. The organization and team effort are amazing. It’s unreal what we can get accomplished in a week.
5. Where have you worked before Shannon Ridge?
I spent 10 years working under Jed Steele and traveled the world working in New Zealand – Marlborough and Central Otago, as well as Western Australia and Oregon.
6. What do you enjoy most about making wine?
I love logistics, and the rush of harvest, but probably the best part is calling the pick. The entire vintage hangs on that one decision. You just hope you’ve got it right.
7. What is your general winemaking philosophy?
Starting with great grape sourcing is the key, and the rest is winemaking to push those grapes to be their most expressive. Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing.
8. What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker, and how do you overcome that challenge?
Keeping all the balls in the air. Managing a crew, keeping up with production needs, paperwork, and still trying to make the best wine possible. How do I manage? Breathe and go for a run.
9. What is your favorite varietal? To drink? To make?
Sauvignon Blanc – I love to drink it and making it is so fun because it’s distinct and expresses its terroir so strongly. It’s also the first wine in the bottle of each vintage, it sets the stage for the whole year.
10. Favorite food and wine pairing?
The ones that come unexpectedly. I don’t believe in food and wine rules.
11. What are you most excited to do as the Director of Winemaking and Production at Shannon Ridge in the future? What is your biggest goal in your winemaking career that you’re still trying to achieve?
I’m most excited to release our new high-end brand, Ovis Cabernet. It’s been two years in the making, and we get to share them late this year. My biggest goal is to make top quality wines so that Lake County can get recognition for the quality of fruit we grow here. I’m tired of hearing that we have value-driven wines. I want to hear Lake County has amazing wines!
12. What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
Working harvest in Oregon, we did pigéage à pied (stomping grapes with your feet) on all tank fermentations. My feet were stained worse than my hands that harvest.
13. What are the ways you create a more sustainable lifestyle in your day-to-day winemaking?
Putting smart and fun people around me. Building a great team makes the day-to-day grind so much easier. No one person can do all of this on her own.
14. What was your best day working at Shannon Ridge? What made it your favorite Shannon Ridge Winery memory?
The day we moved into our own winery. Making wine at other facilities is difficult. This gives us the ability to be more dynamic, hands-on, and increase our quality even further.
15. What piece of advice would you give a woman at the start of her winemaking career?
Listen carefully, and don’t be afraid to speak up.
Shannon Ridge’s female winemaking team create all of Shannon Ridge Family of Wines brands. Stay tuned for part 2 and 3 of our series as we discover more about the team and what makes them so dynamic!
Learn More about Shannon Ridge Family of Wine
Take in our spectacular panoramic vineyard vistas while enjoying one of our award-winning wines at one of our two tasting rooms. Open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.