Shea A.J. Comfort, Consultant-Winemaker
Working With You To Improve Your Wines and Spirits!

About Shea A.J. Comfort
Shea’s long-standing fascination with fermentation can be traced
back to the day he
received a homebrew kit from the local
ew supply shop as a birthday gift. That first experience of tasting the grains, smelling the malt during the boil, noticing how the pungent, floral spice of the hops helped to bring everything into balance, not to mention the final transformation by the yeast over the next seven days in that carboy was very compelling (and delicious!).

In the following months several more batches were brewed using that same recipe. Curious, he began changing only the yeast to see what impact it would have. He was amazed at how dramatically different these “same” beers were turning out, and most importantly he was continuously surprised at the variety of unique flavours that each individual strain produced.

To further explore this, Shea set up a series of mead experiments, this time using wine yeast, which were carried out in two separate groups: one round used the same strain of yeast in several different varietals of honey; and the other used several different yeast strains in the same honey base. Again, the individual impact of each yeast turned out to be striking and varied. What was also becoming apparent was that there was not just a single strain that could be considered the “best.” Each had interesting and potentially useful characteristics.

By this time, Shea had formed a friendship with the folks at who, as chance
would have it, were just about to develop the wine side of their business. In June 2000, they asked him if he wanted to help them do just that and he agreed. As a result, over the next four years Shea was given the opportunity to conduct intensive research on various winemaking methods, with a focus on yeast, oak, and MLB pairings, along with enzymes, structuring elements and oxygen. Making up to forty different lots a season provided an invaluable education and the results opened his eyes as to what was truly possible with winemaking as a whole. When he wasn’t tending his research, Shea created and taught a comprehensive amateur winemaking program, educated the company staff, and produced several technical “how-to” and informational documents. He also expanded the in-house inventory with the goal of allowing amateurs equal access to professional, current state-of-the-art winemaking knowledge and products.

It was also during this time that Shea was fortunate enough to be introduced to the represen
tatives from Lallemand who were interested in his experiments. At the end of an afternoon of tasting, Shea was contracted to create both yeast and MLF samples to help illustrate the differences between various strains in the same wine for educational comparisons. These trials, which began in 2001 and continue to the present, have been used by Lallemand’s in-house staff as well as at various winemaker seminars both in America and throughout Europe. This connection also provided the invaluable resource of being in direct contact with the very people who were responsible for creating the products he was using, along with giving him access to the most current technical winemaking research.

In July 2004, Shea accepted the position of head winemaker for a local winery start up that featured an annual production of 2000 to 5000 cases. The winery was built around his winemaking style, focusing on a great attention to detail, along with multiple strains of yeast and ML being used for each varietal. In addition to continuing his experiments for Lallemand, Shea continued to work with balancing musts and further refined his approach to structuring wine in the fermentation.

After two seasons, Shea parted ways with the winery and in 2007 became the head-winemak
er for Olin Wines, where he remains to the present.

In addition to his work at Olin Wines, he is now applying all of his unique experience to his wor
k as a full-time, independent winemaking consultant.

* * *

Before becoming a winemaker, Shea spent six years in Paris, France where he earned BA's in the History of Art and Philosophy as well as played duduk with a traditional Armenian orchestra.  He also spent several long periods in Hungary, the last being a six-month period dancing with a folk dance troupe and traveling to Transylvania with his then girlfriend and now wife Leslie. 

In addition to his passion for winemaking, Shea plays Armenian and Balkan traditional music, with an emphasis on the Armenian duduk as well as Greek style clarinet. A native English speaker, he is fluent in French and has a working knowledge of Spanish and Hungarian.