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Shannon Carrigan, Millennial Female Assumes Role as Winemaker Partly Due to Innovations in Wine at Plum Hill Vineyards

Posted on May 16, 2019

Gaston, Ore.—February 13, 2019, Shannon Carrigan, age 24, assumed the role of wine maker from RJ Lint at Plum Hill Vineyards. Her wine making skills shined in the releases of the dessert wine, White Lace, made from Schönberger and Schönberger brandy, Orange Wine, 2016 Pinot Gris, a white version of Rose’ and the White Blyss, a white blend. She has also excelled in the production of the 2017 and 2018 vintages of Pinot Noir, not to mention her marketing ideas such as Doggie Day, an annual event reinforcing the dog-friendly nature of the winery.

Shannon joined the Plum Hill Vineyards Crew in August of 2016 as a fresh graduate from California State Poly-Technic University, Pomona. Shannon graduated with Magna Cum Laude Honors with a degree in Agriculture Business with an emphasis in the Animal Industry. After taking a wine studies class at Cal Poly, Shannon’s interest in wine sparked and she started touring and visiting the wine region of Temecula, CA regularly. After experiencing the consumer side of the wine industry, Shannon wanted to learn more and become immersed in the world of wine.

Shannon was not born and raised in Oregon, but her roots run deep in the Oregon soils. Shannon was born and raised in Southern California. Her family owned a 1 acre lot in Malibu, Ca where Shannon received her first pony at age 8 and her first horse at age 10. Along with horses Shannon and her siblings raised chickens, goats, dogs, and cats. At age 11 Shannon’s family moved to Colorado Springs, CO where she then rescued two horses from an Auction ring. She played soccer and traveled the country playing competitively. After graduating high school with honors Shannon took off to California to learn more about agriculture.

Shannon’s love for agriculture all started with her grandparents 70 acre, fescue grass and strawberry farm in Helvetia, OR. Shannon and her family visited the family farm multiple times every year throughout her childhood. In the summers she would learn how the strawberry fields worked from planting to picking. She inherited her passion of farming and love for the land from her late Grandfather, James Morse.

Shannon moved to Oregon with the goal of starting and maintaining a Vineyard and Winery on her family farm to carry on the dreams of her grandparents. She decided the best way to learn about the industry was to “by-doing”. Shannon accepted a position from Plum Hill Vineyards as a Tasting Room Associate. After only two days, owners, Juanita and RJ Lint saw her enthusiasm to learn and grow and decided her skills and drive would be a great fit for the winery and cellar. RJ took “learn-by-doing” to a whole new level when he taught Shannon to drive a tractor. He explained all the different components of the tractor and promptly left for McMinnville, OR leaving her to her own devices to take all 30 picking bins out to the vineyard. Within her first two months RJ had taught Shannon how to work all the grape processing equipment, drive two different types of forklifts and started teaching her all about wine making.

RJ and Juanita Lint have been extremely supportive in creating a wine maker out of Shannon. They have paid for Shannon to attend Chemeketa Community Colleges’ Northwest Wine Studies Program through the Erath Matching Scholarship Fund. Shannon has been given the great opportunity to learn hands on from RJ as well as learn the science behind winemaking along with other winemaking styles from Scott Dwyer and all the staff at Chemeketa.

The relationship between the seasoned RJ and the youngster Shannon was slightly contentious at times especially when she wanted to take his cherished Schönberger and turn it into a white dessert wine. Likewise, her suggestion of destemming the Pinot Gris before pressing to produce an “orange wine” or as the Italians call it, Ramato, landed a big thud at first but in the end, youth won out. “Having the youngest wine maker in the valley has brought some freshness to our wines and made me revisit some of our techniques” said her mentor RJ.

On top of all the winemaking and vineyard work, Shannon has kept true to her degree emphasis in the Animal Industry. She participated in the Teens and Oregon Mustangs 100 day training competition, where each competitor received a wild horse, fresh from the Steens Mountain range and were given 100 days to gentle them and make them willing partners. At the end of the competition the horses were either put up for adoption or kept by their trainers, Shannon chose to keep her horse and named her Pinot. Pinot is now living happily alongside Shannon’s other horse Thunder. Along with her horses Shannon adopted a Second Chance Dog from the Oregon Humane Society in December 2017 and named him Remy. He is now a staple at Plum Hill and is by her side at all times. Shannon and Remy ran in the 2018 Doggie Dash to raise money for the Oregon Humane Society and they plan on keeping up with the tradition. Shannon’s crew of animals that she cares for include 5 chickens, 2 goats, 2 horses, a dog and 2 cats.

Shannon has excelled in the winemaking at Plum Hill as well as helping with marketing and events. She actively participates in all Wine Weekend events including: Thanksgiving weekend, Memorial Day Weekend, North Willamette Wine Trail, and Canines Uncorked. Shannon has also created an event to celebrate Plum Hill being the top dog friendly winery in Oregon. This event is called Plum Hill Doggie Day and features dog themed vendors as well as a rescue.

Shannon cheerfully stated, “I am very grateful the Lints have taken me as part of their winery family and thank them for the education and leadership they have given me.” Shannon is an asset to the Plum Hill family and the owners are proud to have her talent and enthusiasm as part of their team.

Region: Washington
Job Function: Winemaking

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