Our new line of canned Slate Valley Ciders represents a very important step in the projected growth of our company, and we invested much time and resources in its creation and execution. Lots of years of planting and planning, and we understood that this cider needed to be truly exceptional to not only find footing in an increasingly crowded cider market, but to bring a justified price point that would model profitability all the way back to the orchard, paying sustainable prices for the high quality fruit we are growing just for this purpose.
Among the most important decisions we made was to bring Shea in to the process of developing and refining these ciders. Working with Shea this year has fundamentally improved our processes and techniques, from juice to cellar, and brought all of his years of experience and research to bear on our project. Shea has been teaching us how to study our ciders with care and focus. All of that, I expected. What I didn't anticipate was that he has also expanded our notions about what cider could be, how we could find qualities we didn't know we had, how to elevate our expectations and unlock potential. And finally, our work with Shea has given us the tools and techniques to refine our ciders to meet these new expectations.
Thanks to Shea, I’m more confident than at any time in this process that we have created something truly special that will find a solid position in the cider world.
I look forward to our continued collaboration.
Dan Wilson - Slyboro Ciderhouse & Slate Valley Ciders (Granville, NY)
I want to share with you some recent results for our ciders in the GLINTCAP competition, which is the largest and most international cider-only competition in the world. There were 1050 entries this year and the judges included some noteworthy cider-makers from Europe, North America, and New Zealand. I am sharing these results with you because I think your recent visit and suggestions for improving our ciders were a significant factor of our success in this competition! Black Diamond had the highest percentage of gold and silver medals of any commercial cidery in this year’s event. Thanks for helping us do so well in this important cider competition! - Cheers!
Ian Merwin - Black Diamond Farm & Cider LLC (Trumansburg, NY)
We've been experts in apples and cider for over 40 years - but hard cider is a new venture for us. Shea has been instrumental in helping us learn the nuances of creating hard cider. He is focused, professional and creative. As an expert in yeast - he has shown us the importance of blending to develop a well balanced, yet complex finished product. We found his sensory panels exciting and eye opening when developing new blends!
Mike & Cathy Barsotti - North Canyon Cider Co (Camino, CA)
I have worked with Shea Comfort for over one year now. He is an invaluable mentor to our new start-up winery. Not only were his yeast recommendations "SPOT ON" for our 2017 harvest varietals, I find him to be an endless source of knowledge on all aspects of wine production from harvest, crush, fermentations, press, barrel management, improvement of wines as they age, cold and heat stabilization, filtering, and bottling. I consider myself very fortunate and to have Shea's expertise available by phone, email or site visit when needed.
Sonia Baron - Bom Vinho! Vineyard & Winery (Fair Play, CA)
When we decided to move our business into berry wine production and later into cider, we needed to find a consultant to help us scale up to the commercial level. After researching for professional wine consultants, we picked "The Yeast Whisperer" and it turned out to be the perfect fit for us and our winery. In the beginning, Shea asked us what we wanted to accomplish, which was to create the best fruit wines in the State of Alaska, and he helped us reach our goal. Shea's superior skills and vast knowledge has helped make our winery the success it is. We have won international awards on our fruit wines, but the real testimony is our local customers who keep coming back because they love our wine and cider. If you are looking for one of the best, well rounded, and focused wine consultants to help you with any stage of wine making, then the Yeast Whisperer should be your consultant.
Brian & Laurie Olson - Alaska Berries Winery (Soldotna, AK)
I have been using Shea’s consulting services for the past several years; first as a home winemaker, and then after I opened my own commercial winery. Shea has taught me the nuances of winemaking, which have allowed me to craft not just good wines, but great wines. I have won numerous awards utilizing techniques I learned from Shea, most recently winning a Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco Wine Chronicle. If you’re new to winemaking, or have years of experience, you won’t be disappointed from Shea’s guidance.
Steve Bernal - Malibu Ridge (Malibu, CA)
Shea has been a great help to our winery the past few years. His expertise has help us craft award winning wines from our cold climate hybrid vineyard. I would recommend Shea to any fellow wine maker.
Richard Parry - Fox Fire Farms Winery (Ignacio, CO)
Just wanted to give you an update. I am really glad I followed your advice. Very smooth and the acidity makes it shine. Way better than anything I have made before. Really really impressed. Thank you again. I did not think it was possible for a dry mead to taste so good!
Caleb Schwengler - Grey Owl Meadery (Alder Flats, AB Canada)
I've been growing my own fruit and making wine on my own for years, but I never really felt in control of things until I started working with Shea. Under Shea's tutelage, I've starting improving my winemaking even before I harvest my grapes; getting advice from him about how to know when to pick, how to adjust the must and of course help on yeast and MaloLactic starter selection. Thanks to Shea I've started measuring more carefully, adjusting more deliberately and blending more creatively. Shea doesn't do it for me - but knowing that's he's there as a backstop, gives me the confidence to be a better wine maker.
Mark Randolph (Santa Cruz Mts, CA)
If you want to get your wine making to a new level, meet with Shea, you will compact into a few hours the results of his decade or more of trials with every aspect of winemaking. This experience is not to be missed, brings lots of note paper.
Dan Boykin - Tuba Cellars (Concord, CA)
I've worked with Shea on and off for 6 years and he is currently helping us as the consulting Winemaker for our production of Olin Wines. He has an unrivaled passion for flavor, that is definitely reflected in his wine making style... its all about the flavor. He is not hung up on tradition nor obsessed with innovation which allows him to make decisions based purely on what will make the best wine. I consider his palate his biggest skill followed by his relentless pursuit of answers to any questions that come up. He is an encyclopedia of knowledge about winemaking and possesses an amazing attention to detail which will become apparent in your first five minutes of conversation. You will definitely enjoy working with Shea.
Olin Schultz - Olin Wines (Concord, CA)
As a winemaker, at any level, it is important to have as much experience, knowledge and resources as possible. Wine from season to season cannot be made simply by a standard recipe. An important part of my "tool kit" is Shea Comfort. Easy to use, available for simple discussions and idea interaction, or can be used to build a complete wine profile. Helpful in repairing wine faults, yeast selections, enhancements, filtering and most other topics. Useful from crush to bottle. Put Shea Comfort in your tool box. Batteries not included.
Scott Brown - Bent Metal Winery (Grass Valley, CA)
I can tell you that even in the hour you spent with me, reviewing the setup in my shed, I learned many subtleties of the winemaking process that aren't easy to find in any of my winemaking books, if they exist at all, but you showed me how to apply them to my specific setup. Things like how to actually clean then sterilize equipment, to the most important thing about tasting the wine throughout the process, and not just relying on 'the numbers'.
Ed Buchanan (Oakland, CA)
When I compare the Pinot Noir that I made on my own to the one that you helped me craft from the start, the differences are phenomenal. Mine seems flat and uninviting and our new one has the qualities that you’d expect from a fine Burgundy – I couldn’t be more pleased.
Eric Haila (Longmont, CO)
For the past several years we have had the great pleasure of working with Shea to prefect our winemaking skills. After twelve vintages we now consider ourselves experienced winemakers however we still rely on Shea to guide us through critical steps in the fermentation process and to correct any problems that might develop during aging. His knowledge of and passion
for winemaking are truly unique. He knows just how to make wine yeast happy and therefore our wines have turn out much better with him than without him. From the vineyard to the bottle he can do it all. As far as we are concerned Shea Comfort is the MVP of winemaking. You don't need to call anybody else.
Bill Cotton (Los Gatos, CA)
Shea knows his stuff and, most importantly, he knows how to help me with MY wine. Books and the Internet can only give generic info and I’ve found that every wine is unique so the books and Internet leave me with having to do a lot of guesswork. Shea takes the guesswork out of my winemaking. I know I will be a better winemaker because of the help I get from Shea.
Bruce Schwarze (San Rafael, CA)
Shea has become an invaluable winemaking resource, whether he is explaining the underlying chemistry, helping me appreciate the flavor nuances in my wine or teaching me improved cellar practices. I have learned an incredible amount working with him. Whether it's with emails, short calls or onsite consultations, he is always available when I need help. He has really improved my winemaking.
Dave Rey - Reliez Valley Vineyards (Lafayette, CA)
We began our home wine making hobby twenty years ago and felt we had reached a plateau in the quality of our wine produced. We had a number of questions related to improving the quality of our wines and had not been successful in finding the answers. We then hired Shea Comfort primarily because we felt he fit a niche unavailable to us before, he had the experience to bridge the gap between large volumes of wine and carboy production. We were very impressed by his knowledgeable and immediate response to all our wine questions. With the knowledge we gained from Shea's consultation we renewed our enthusiasm in producing quality wine. In retrospect this was the best money we have spent.
Jim Hilgendorf - J.R. Cellars (Napa, CA)
The thought of being a simple home winemaker and making contact with a seasoned professional was anxiety provoking to say the least. My fears however quickly evaporated in the first five minutes of talking to Shea. He meets you at your level in your development as a winemaker. He wants to assist you, not critique your skills. He is a wealth of information and even in a short consultation can disseminate a wealth of information that will guide you through of whatever stage of the process you are in. His passion for winemaking is infectious and he gives you a level of confidence in the process that is invaluable. If friends and family drink your wine because of the novelty and not because of the quality, it's time to take your skill to the next level. An investment in a consultation is far more valuable than any piece of equipment.
Joe McCellistrem, Ph.D. (Carson City, NV)
What we covered was not in any of the books I have read and now I know exactly what I need to do during fermentation to improve this years wine. In addition, Shea showed me how to improve the wine I already had in barrels through a guided tasting trial. Really helpful and my eyes were opened to a whole new world of winemaking possibilities. I am very happy.
Frank Sousa (Gilroy, CA)
Shea Comfort has been the largest single help, advice & information source I have encountered in my several years + of wine making. He has been the most efficient man in getting the answers to my questions & also explaining why. He has raised the quality of all my wines and has even saved a couple from the drain pipe. He is well worth the money & I will gladly continue to hire & pay him so I can continue to use his knowledge & consulting. Working with Shea has definitely made my winemaking hobby more of a pleasure. His most difficult accomplishment: making me & my wines look great to my wife & friends! Hire him, use him & get much better wines much easier.
Gus DeFalco (Newport Beach, CA)
I've been an avid home winemaker for several years and have a small backyard vineyard. I'd taken classes ad UC Davis and I've made some really good wine but felt I had plateaued. I knew that my grapes have more in them but I hadn't been able to figure out how to bring it out. Then I met Shea. Through the yeast and bacteria pairings and blending trials, I learned a lot that that I never found in books, classes, or my own trials. The knowledge I gained from Shea has given me an ability to take it up a level and get the mouthfeel, nuanced flavors, and finish that I'd been seeking. He really is the yeast whisperer.
John Napieralski (Hayward, CA)
Shea has been a wine saviour for us. He is very competent, disciplined, and dependable.
Richard & Connie Holmberg - San Kri Seth Winery (Clayton, CA)
I am an amateur home winemaker; I have a backyard vineyard in a tract home development. I have read books and spoke to industry folk here and there on how to home-make wine for the last five years and found it to be challenging at times as there are so many details that available resources cannot address. I hesitated on hiring a consultant as I consider this a hobby for me. However, I've realized that as I progress in my winemaking skills, I need the level of comfort and missing details that will improve the quality of my wines. I first used Shea this year as a wine consultant and have been pleased with his knowledge and responsiveness. I look forward to learning more from him and becoming an experienced winemaker!
Claudia Gemberling (Brentwood, CA)
Shea is extremely professional, knowledgeable and patient with this novice winemaker of 10 years. He has helped me over the years take my wines from good to great! I have been very happy with his work and I would not hesitate to recommend him to others.
Todd Anderson - Devil Mountain Vineyard (Alamo, CA)
After my first year of winemaking resulted in mediocre wine I decided to consult an expert to walk me through the various stages of winemaking. Shea was not only able to guide me through those stages but was instrumental in helping me deal with unexpected situations that are inevitable in the winemaking process. Shea’s knowledge and passion for teaching winemaking has made me a better winemaker and of course the wine is better too!
Joe Race (Akron, OH)