By Jim Clarke
September 2008

George Shinas turns the term “wine judge” on its head. Instead of being at the end point of wine, tasting and evaluating it, he’s in at the very beginning, growing grapes and making wine. Then what’s the “judge” part? Well, that’s his other job; he’s a bona fide justice of the peace (Okay, “Bail Justice” is the Australian title.), in the full-on, Law & Order sense.

However, George is not one of those semi-retired lawyer/doctor types who decide that vineyards would look good 'round their country home. His family has been making wine for eight generations, originally back in Greece: his parents immigrated to Australia in 1952. While his parents set themselves up as restauranteurs, they continued to make wine for private consumption - as did George, until local demand for his wines led him to start bottling them commercially in 2002.

The Shinas vineyards are in Mildura, in the heart of the Murray Darling region. It’s a large, productive wine zone, but not one with the cachet of Barossa or Clare Valley. Nevertheless, it has a Mediterranean climate comfortable for both vines and people; it must have reminded his parents of home when they arrived. As in many Australian wine regions, getting enough water for the vines can be an issue, especially since the last decade has suffered from a still ongoing drought.

Shiraz, Australia’s signature variety, was his first wine; in keeping with his career, it’s named “The Guilty.” In 2005, he added “The Innocent,” a Viognier, and made some Cabernet Sauvignon (“The Verdict”) with grapes from a neighbor’s vineyards. He has no plans to expand operations. I guess if your day job means laying down the law, you want to keep things fun when you leave the courthouse each day.

Current Releases:

Shinas Estate “The Guilty” Shiraz 2005 Full-bodied but firm, with classic black pepper spice garnishing fruit notes of strawberry and cherry as well as touches of mocha. On the palate some smokey notes appear, and the fruit darkens toward blackberry and black cherry. The tannins are smooth and integrated, and those fruit and spice flavors persist well on the finish.

Shinas Estate “The Innocent” Viognier 2006 Full-bodied, round and smooth – almost creamy, but without any Chardonnay-like (i.e. oak-derived) butteriness; this wine never sees new oak, so it’s all about the fruit. Honeysuckle, melon, and peach aromas broaden into apricot, honey, and mango on the palate. Acidity is low – typical for Viognier – but the finish is clean and smooth.

Interview with George Shinas >>

   Published: September 2008