Shauna White doesn’t pull punches when it comes to making great wines. Like any good winemaker will tell you, it comes down to more than just the label, or the process. Working on the rolling hills of Hockley Valley, this outlier winery is gaining traction for their award winning and modern natural wines, and under Shauna’s guidance, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As Adamo Estate Winery’s head winemaker, Shauna has big plans for these 17+ acres nestled near Orangeville.

“If the grape doesn’t taste good, the wine won’t taste good. The numbers can all be there, you can do all the tests, but the numbers don’t tell you what the flavour is. You want the tannin structure, the right extraction, so you’ll end up with a bold wine when you finish.”

Winemaker Shauna White

Cultivating an emerging winery region is no small feat. Shauna joined Adamo Estate Winery in 2014, bringing her years of experience in BC, Australia, Oregon, Chablis and New Zealand to Ontario. But looking back at how Shauna got her start, this wasn’t always the plan. If you asked her what her future job would be as a child, she was hedging bets on getting into sports medicine, and then Grandma intervened. You see, Shauna comes from a family of winemakers, and her grandmother’s intuition paid off. After taking some courses in Kelowna, Shauna made the jump to Niagara College to continue her studies.

Natural wines are a big portion of Shauna’s offering, which launched in 2017. While the folklore around Mario Adamo continues to swirl, with his suitcase in hand coming from Italy to start a new life at just 18, his legacy is now in Shauna’s trained hands. And with investments like the 2016 build out of the state-of-the-art tank and barrel room and palatial dining room for hosting her regular Wine Maker’s Dinners, where the old world practices that Mario held near and dear are on full display. Six course meals allow not only in the delectable wines to shine, but the food as well, with house-cured meats and old-world Italian flair adding to the aura of every event.

adamo winery

Killer wines include the 2015 Foxcroft Wild Ferment Chardonnay– which won several notable awards, as did the 2016 Blanc de Blanc Traditional Method Sparkling Wine. Unoaked Chardonnay is a stand-out best seller, and their Orange wines tend to fly off the shelves. Trendy Pét-nat wines prove Shauna’s diverse methods to wine making, and her dedication to the craft.

“My favourite part of the process is tasting! And the harvest itself is during when we’re crushing and pressing, that’s the best part.”

Winemaker Shauna White

The recognition is well-deserved. Shauna is not only passionate about the process of what goes into a good wine, but she’s constantly pushing the boundaries of what Ontario wines are known for. Her next feat? VQA-esque Ice Wines, or as they are commonly called, “special select late harvest“…for those not in Niagara region proper.

Thank you to Shauna and Adamo Estate Winery for sharing her wisdom and experience- give her a follow @shaunabonna16 and keep track of her new releases @adamoestatewinery.

Next up in the Ladies First series, we speak with Chef Nuit Regular, from Pai, Sukothai and Kiin.

Interview may be edited for clarity and length. All photos by Libby Roach.