Rock Star Winemaker: Jim Shumate
Full spectrum of winery operations comes to Pomar Junction
Josh Petray, VINO
Cellar master, winemaker and Cal Poly lecturer Jim Shumate brought lofty heights to the San Luis Obispo-based college’s Wine and Viticulture Program, implementing a new bottling line for the campus winery — among other notable achievements.
Shumate, Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery's newly appointed winemaker, hopes to bring that same sense of innovation to his winemaking craft as he takes the reins as winemaker for the family-run business.
Having experienced the full spectrum of winery operations while working at Meridian Vineyards in the cellar, lab and winemaking alongside household Paso Robles winemakers like Signe Zoller and Lee Miyamura, Pomar’s new winemaker is adding some steam to the locomotive that is, in and of itself, drawing ongoing attention as a premier wine label in the Paso Robles wine region.
Shumate has worked alongside Chuck Ortman two years before his retirement, experimenting with clonal trials from Santa Barbara in half-ton lots of pinot, to now working alongside industry insider-experts Dana and Matt Merrill.
He's excited to have his first release under the Pomar label available to the public in time for Paso Robles Wine Festival 2012.
“I like to let the vineyard speak for itself, to show what it has to offer,” Shumate said of his winemaking philosophy. “I think the Merrills have done a really great job here — being able to work with the fruit off this vineyard that they tend to and really being able to showcase what their grapes are all about is a huge honor.”
It’s not overstepping it or creating something that isn't there — but allowing the vineyard “to show what it’s worth.”
Shumate, 47, was born in Sacramento and grew up in Glendale before moving to San Diego, and worked in the grocery business for 18-plus years, moving to Paso Robles in 1999.
He moved to the Central Coast to realize a dream: to immerse himself in the wine industry. In addition to working up the ranks and gaining a plethora of experience at Meridian, Shumate is credited with piloting the new campus winery at Cal Poly, co-teaching advanced enology classes, operating and repairing winemaking equipment and implementing a new bottling line for the campus, according to past reports.
When he first got into the business in 1999, and even before, Shumate had a vision for what he wanted to be, where he wanted to be it and the kind of situation he wanted to work in.
It has taken him 13 years to get there, “but this is my ideal situation,” Shumate said.
“I have been waiting for this opportunity. I have been working hard,” he said. “People talk about getting their dream job, or they dream of it but never achieve it. This is what I do.”
Not to mention that he’s developed a bit of a sweet spot in his heart for the ever-challenging pinot noir varietal and is excited to be working with newfound passions including grenache and mouvedre.
Above all else, Shumate is excited to be working alongside the Merrills, working hand-in-hand with a father-son team that's managed one of the area's premier vineyard locations.
“Matt and Dana [Merrill] have taken me in and given me the keys to the store, and it's a great opportunity for me to really put forth my best effort to show what they do out in the vineyard,” Shumate said. “They have been growing grapes for a long time — they know what they’re doing. Now it’s time to highlight what they do with my work. I think it's a great opportunity. I’m very excited about it, and I’m very anxious to get my first wines out there. They don’t have to overanalyze it; they don’t have to have all the descriptors, but as long as it does put a smile on their face or they enjoy it with a meal or just with a glass outside — it’s a great satisfaction. That’s what I aim to do — make something that people will drink and enjoy and be repeat customers for it.”
Shumate is currently living the Central Coast lifestyle with his wife and four stepchildren. He enjoys traveling, rock music and the outdoors.