Long-time Washington grower and winemaker Shane Collins has been named winemaker at Fielding Hills Winery in Chelan, Washington. Collins will start the position June 26th.
“We’re thrilled,” says Karen Wade, who founded Fielding Hills with her husband Mike in 2000. “We wanted someone who had a history of being a decision-making winemaker and someone who had viticultural experience. It was a plus to have worked with Washington fruit. Shane checks all of those boxes.”
Collins grew up in Manson, Washington on a 50-acre apple orchard. His background as a fourth generation orchardist was particularly appealing to the Wades. The couple owns Columbia Fruit Packers, an apple and cherry business started by Mike’s grandfather in 1946.
Collins received a degree in communications from Washington State University in 2004. As the Lake Chelan area started to emerge as a wine region, he decided to learn about the industry, attending Walla Walla Community College’s enology and viticulture program from 2005 to 2007.
“I fell in love with small-lot, estate winemaking,” Collins says. “Growing grapes, tasting wines, and seeing how what you did in the field translated into the texture and complexities of the wines.”
After graduating from the program, Collins returned to the Lake Chelan area in 2007, working at Tsillan Cellars, where he would ultimately become winemaker. In 2017, Collins was hired by Rocky Pond Winery in what is now the Rocky Reach appellation south of Chelan.
Collins initially served as both grower and winemaker. He subsequently became director of viticulture and vineyard relations when the winery hired Elizabeth Keyser as winemaker in 2022. However, Collins’ time away from winemaking last year made him realize how much he loved it.
“When it was my first harvest of not being on the wine side but I was still delivering grapes, I just knew that my heart was winemaking primarily,” Collins says.
Mike and Karen Wade started Fielding Hills in a way that few in Washington have, from the ground up. In 1998, the family planted Riverbend Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope. The site has 23 planted acres. The winery also has a second site, Riverview, on the Wahluke Slope that is approximately 10 acres, as well as a third property, Monument Vineyard, in Chelan, surrounding the winery’s tasting room.
Mike Wade made his first 400 cases of wine in 2000, working in an old apple packing shed by the family’s home in Wenatchee. The wines received immediate praise and high scores. In 2014, Fielding Hills opened a tasting room and production facility in Chelan. (Read a 2015 Edible Seattle article about the Wades and the founding of the winery.) Tyler Armour joined the winemaking team at that time, leaving in 2022.
David Rosenthal, former white winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle, consulted for the winery while the Wades searched for a new winemaker. (Rosenthal formally announced opening his consulting company earlier this month.) Interest in the position was high.
“We had a huge amount of applications from all over the world,” says Wade.
Of note, in addition to experience in Walla Walla Valley, Yakima Valley, Lake Chelan, and Rocky Reach, Collins has previously worked with Riverbend Vineyard fruit. Tsillan made fruit from the vineyard in 2007 and 2008.
While Collins is excited to get back into winemaking, Wade is equally excited to bring his viticultural experience to bear at the winery’s vineyards.
“Everybody wants to keep doing better,” she says. “We’re just really excited to have Shane to step in and increase the quality.”
Fielding Hills makes approximately 3,000 cases of wine annually.
Images courtesy of Fielding Hills.