Adamo Winery blossoming under Shauna White’s tutelage

October 27, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Adamo wine is being beautifully crafted by history and the future.

Mario Adamo, co-founder of the Hockley Valley Resort, was born in Italy, and dreamt of starting a winery in Hockley Valley, where so many people in the business said it could never work. So, in 2011, he and his friend, Frank, hand-planted 37 rows of grape vines.

Shauna White, now winemaker and vineyard manager at the Adamo Winery, has come there via a long road, largely through the New World of wine-making.

Raised in Kelowna, British Columbia, Ms. White spent all her childhood summers in the vineyards of her grandmother. When she was going to Okanagan University, studying sciences and playing basketball, her grandmother asked her what she wanted to do.

“Study science and play basketball – be a sports physio or something,” she answered.

“No,” her grandmother said. “You should be making wine. Go and talk to your Aunt Ann.”

Ms. White’s Aunt Ann is Ann Sperling, now Director of Winemaking and Viticulture for Southbrook Winery, in the Niagara region.

At the time of her conversation with her niece, Shauna, she was running Sperling vineyards in Kelowna with an interest in organic and biodynamic wine growing.

Ms. Sperling agreed with her grandmother: Ms. White had spent her entire  youth in the vineyards – it was her first love and choice for a career.

We were seated upstairs in the beautiful new building that houses the whole of production, sales and hospitality at Adamo Winery, beside a wall of windows, overlooking the main vineyard. We were talking about Ms. White’s fascinating journey  to her present post in the wine-making adventure that is Adamo Winery.

“At that time, 2003, I switched out of science and went into the viniculture program offered by Okanagan University,” Ms. White related. “And I soon knew: ‘This is what I should be doing.’  [Next,] the Niagara College in the Winery Viticulture Technician Program, dictates that between the first and second year, you have do a practical.”

A couple of conversations between colleagues on either side of the ocean and Ms. White “went to Chablis in France – to the winery Domaine La Roche, in July, 2006. Then, I came back and finished my courses in 2006.”

Needing to gain experience, Ms. White went to Oregon to work in a winery there and,  “one of the girls invited me to Australia to the Brokenwood Winery in the Hunter Valley. There they grow the Semillon and Shiraz which are hot climate grapes.”

Ms. White found the heat didn’t suit her and she was soon back to Ontario, where she joined Le Clos Jordanne, with winemaker, Thomas Bachelder. Some of the best Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays came from this acclaimed winery but it shut down in 2012.

“I was restless and missed the travelling,” Ms. White admitted. “I went to Mt. Difficulty in New Zealand just for the harvest. They grow Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling.”

When she returned again to Ontario, she remarked, “It was my aunt’s turn to talk to me – ‘You need to have stability even though I know you love to travel.’”

She “started at Ravine Winery (established 1857) in St David’s. They grow organic, biodynamic grapes.”

She worked with them for five years, becoming the assistant wine maker in 2009 and, in 2011, Ms. White was promoted to winemaker.

By 2013, she was ready to go home to Okanagan. There she began working at the Road 13 Winery, a medium-sized winery at 30,00 cases a year. She was hired on as Associate Winemaker.

Said Ms. White, “I was always in the vineyard, tasting the grapes. I have an attachment to the land where the grapes are produced. I was in charge of the biodynamic program on my own instruction to myself.”

After ten months, “I reached out to friends and said, ‘Hey, I’m  looking for ‘something, a boutique vineyard…’ ”

In 2014, the Adamos were looking for a vineyard manager. Ms. White sent them her resume from Okanagan, after which she was visiting her boyfriend in Ontario.

“We were on Lake Simcoe ice fishing,” she explained. “I was just going to go from there to the airport, when Julie [Adamo-Cass] called me.”

Instead of the airport, she came to Hockley to meet with Julie and John Paul Adamo. “Then I returned to B.C. A couple of weeks later, I got the job offer but I stayed with Road 13 two more months until April to help with the plants in the spring.”

Thus, Shauna White started with the Adamo Winery on April 20, 2014.

“It’s a later start here,” she commented, “the vines were still buried. Jonas Newman from Hinterland Winery in Prince Edward County was consulting by telephone at the time.”

She said, “When I started there were only six acres planted. We planted another six acres, more winter hardy vines. We had to make sure the varieties can handle the stress. In 2015, Thai workers came over to help and they were marvellous. In 2016, more workers came, a new assistant came  from a winery in Serbia with a very nice resume.

“They follow an organic protocol here.”

There is a lab technician who tests the elements of the wine.

To help the vines survive the winters, there are geotextile blankets under which some of the crop is kept while as much as half of it is buried  and revived in the spring.

Living now in Meaford, about an hour’s drive from Hockley,  “I love coming to work and I love going home,” Ms. White commented contentedly. “I’m staying here.”

Her ambitions? “I want to see what it means to make wine in Hockley Valley. The most important thing is balance – balance in the wine – balance in the grapes. Since I’ve been here, every year is so different it’s hard to see what ‘s an average year. There isn’t a pattern in Ontario but it helps having the experience of living through all that before.”

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