2015 Winemasters

Discover the brilliant individuals behind the Wine and Food Festival event. Find out how these people have honed their craft into an art.


winemaster-joe-sheblJoe Shebl

Renwood Winery

Joe came onto the Amador County winemaking scene in 1999 and has become one of the region’s most sought-after winemakers. Before rejoining Renwood for the third time in 2013 as director of winemaking and general manager, he worked for a number of renowned wineries where he honed his skills and cultivated a reputation as an innovative winemaker with a passion and enthusiasm that are contagious. Joe’s first job at Renwood was a harvest position. By the time he completed his degree in biology and chemistry at Sacramento State University, he had caught the winemaking bug, and his career took off in the cellar at Renwood where he has held every production position since.

Renwood Winery is known for Zinfandel. Originally established in 1993, they became part of a privately held, family-owned, international portfolio of wineries that includes properties in Argentina, Uruguay, the Bordeaux region of France and Tuscany in Italy. This international flavor gives Joe an amazing opportunity to share ideas and concepts on winemaking and vineyard management with colleagues from around the globe, including renowned winemakers Carlos Pulenta of Argentina and Alberto Antonini of Italy.

The Renwood vineyard, located on the hills behind the winery, is predominantly planted with the Grandpere clone of Zinfandel in both head-trained and trellised vines. The slope of the vineyard has shallow soils with good drainage, which are optimal for Zinfandel. Renwood also grows Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Barbera and Alicante, which can be found in some of their Grandpere Zinfandel blends. The old-vine Zinfandel tradition continues to thrive at Renwood with select vineyard sites that feature old-vine, dry-farmed, head-pruned Zinfandel. Each source is specially selected to highlight unique soils, elevations, exposure and vine material. The estate-grown grapes are also supplemented by fruit sourced from premier Amador County vineyards, and Renwood winemakers work with these growers and recommend viticulture practices which result in the highest-quality fruit.

Joe’s focus remains squarely on handcrafting zesty and opulent Zinfandels as well as a few specialty varietals from the Amador County region. Joe’s ability to blend the science of winemaking with the art of the craft has made him an expert in producing Zinfandel and Barbera, and his wines are continually acclaimed for their powerful fruit, finesse and silky smooth mouth feel.

Joe also serves on the board of directors for the Amador Vintners Association, where he strives to bring greater recognition for area wines and the region as a wine-enthusiast destination.


winemaster-tyler-tennysonTyler Tennyson

Gordon Estate

Tyler Tennyson grew up on the Kitsap Peninsula, just a ferry-boat ride away from Seattle, and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Geography from the University of Washington in 2004. After graduation, he settled in Seattle and began his career in commercial real estate. At the same time, he also began traveling to some of the world’s premier wine destinations, making wine on his own at home and even taking some winemaking classes at South Seattle 
Community College.

Eastern Washington quickly revealed itself as the place for him to make his way into the wine industry, and in the fall of 2009, Tyler and his wife, Chelsea, packed up and moved to Walla Walla, where he enrolled at the Center for Enology and Viticulture.

During his winemaking studies, Tyler had the privilege of working for Dusted Valley, where he experienced first hand what it really takes to craft world class wine. Upon graduating, he moved on to become the assistant winemaker for Seven Hills Winery, where he honed his skills and appreciation for small-lot, vineyard-designate wines and began to understand the importance of nuance in winemaking.

Tyler says, “Simply put, I love Washington wine. I’m proud to have learned from some of the most innovative winemakers in the state and to be among the Washington wine community, where so many understand the value in guiding a wine through the cellar with minimal intervention in order to showcase the vineyard, varietal and vintage. I believe that the diversity in climate and varied soil types make Washington wines some of the most intriguing wines in the world – each with their own story and distinct sense of place. With a rich 30-year history, Gordon Estate is truly a pioneer in Washington wine, and I couldn’t be more excited to have found my home as a winemaker here.”

Gordon Estate is located in the heart of the Columbia Valley. In 1980, Jeff Gordon, along with his wife, Vicki, and brother, Bill, decided to plant wine grapes on a sagebrush-covered slope overlooking the Snake River in southeastern Washington’s Columbia Valley. In 1985, he released his first small lot of Chardonnay wine produced from their estate vines, and today the Gordon Estate brand is growing in both production and acclaim. They take great pride in being the oldest estate winery in Washington by using only estate-grown grapes in making their superb, hand-crafted wines.

Tyler lives in the heart of Washington wine country with his wife, Chelsea, and their two children, Oliver and Charlotte. Outside of wine, Tyler enjoys kicking back with friends and family, fly fishing, skiing and all things Husky football.