Winemaker’s Way is a new feature series from Missouri Wines that profiles the people who create wine across our state. The first feature is on Shaun Turnbull, Head Winemaker at Stone Hill Winery.
A native of South Africa, Turnbull wanted a profession where he could be happy and creative, and knew it wasn’t a job behind a desk. When he was finishing high school (or secondary school as its known there) he wasn’t sure what career he wanted to pursue. Growing up in the suburbs of Cape Town, his parents and family enjoyed wine on a regular basis and it was a large part of his culture. He didn’t like wine at the time, but his father suggested Turnbull pursue winemaking, knowing he could be outside and have the creativity to explore a new craft. Turnbull jokes that he found his calling by just “giving it a try.”
Study in a competitive 10-student winemaking program at Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute in South Africa followed. Upon finishing his classroom studies Turnbull spent his final year at the school’s winery, in an intense, hands-on learning experience. The program covered wine production from start to finish.
After graduation, he took a job with Jefferson Vineyards in Virginia. This is where Turnbull became familiar with native American varietals such as Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc and Norton. He also gained a soft spot for vitis labrusca, or fox grapes. The vines are native to eastern North America and are the source of many grape cultivars.
He eventually returned to South Africa and worked for a couple wineries there for a short time, but found himself yearning to the U.S. He headed to Napa Valley and worked for Heitz Cellar for two months.
While there Turnbull regularly checked a wine job listing site and eventually came across an opening for assistant winemaker at Stone Hill Winery in Hermann. He applied and was hired as assistant winemaker in 2005. Read more of Turnbull’s bio here.