Samantha Sheehan

Samantha Sheehan founded POE in 2009 after being inspired by the wines of Burgundy and Champagne. Her goal is to create alluring, vineyard-specific wines with minimal intervention, judicious use of sulfur, and no additives. Ever.

POE produces Champagne-method sparkling wine, rosé, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as a nouveau of Pinot Noir. This wine, like Beaujolais Nouveau, is released on the third Thursday of November. The grapes (from Sonoma’s Olcese vineyard) are whole cluster fermented for seven weeks where they undergo carbonic and malolactic fermentation at the same time. Bottled without sulfur, it is to be consumed by year’s end.

The name “Poe” is inspired by the ravens that populated Samantha’s backyard growing up. Not coincidentally, Hitchcock’s “The Birds” was filmed nearby. You can’t make this stuff up.

POE shares a tasting room in downtown Napa with Farella and Forlorn Hope called Outland.

Photos: Emma K. Morris

Q&A with Samantha Sheehan

Describe the “aha” moment when you first fell in love with wine.

I’ve had many of those moments because I love what I do. One of the first was before I was in the wine industry, while on a trip to Champagne with my brother. We saw a sign for a producer in Cremant (one of the top villages for Chardonnay) that pointed to a house, so we knocked on the door and asked for a tasting in very broken French. The winemaker, who was my age at the time (about 22), let us into the kitchen where his 80-year-old grandmother was cooking a beautiful French stew (it was Fall). He led us through what looked to be a coat closet, down windy stone steps into the cellar and had us listen to the sound of the wines fermenting in the barrels. He then tasted us through his new wines as well as his library vintages. It was amazing. I’ve been wanting to make sparkling wine ever since and began my own in 2013. I should send him a bottle.

Do you have a philosophy of winemaking you strive to share with others?

It is important to make wines you love to drink.

How has the perspective of time changed your approach to wine?

While making my first few vintages, I had a vision for what I wanted those wines to be. But I soon realized to make wines naturally you must allow them to be who they are. It’s like dating a fixer-upper. That never works out!

Who inspires you personally — in wine or any endeavor?

My husband, Michael McDermott. He is a wine label designer and an incredibly talented painter and sculpture. I wish I could paint.

What is the most overrated trend in wine today?

When winemakers make wine they don’t like to drink.

What new winemakers are you most excited about and why?

From the United States, I’m really impressed with Evan Frazier who makes Ferdinand. And I adore Jack & Johanna Roberts and their brand, Keep. From France, I love Etienne Calsac and Yann Bertrand. Those four make stunningly beautiful and interesting wines.

If you weren’t a winemaker what would you be doing?

I would have a restaurant that only serves breakfast and champagne.

What led you to select Nomacorc PlantCorcs?

I started using Nomacorc on my rosé and Ultraviolet after having a few different issues. They were wonderful – no more corked or strangely off-bottles. Beginning this year, I’ve decided to switch all my wines to the Green Line, not just for that reason but because I am trying to reduce my own carbon footprint. For my upcoming bottlings we will use lighter glass made in California to reduce transportation emissions (previously my glass was manufactured in France).

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Reading to my two-year-old before he goes to sleep.

What, if anything, do you leave to chance in the cellar or in life?

Honestly, I don’t believe in leaving anything that you care about to chance. I’ve always loved the quote by Calvin Coolidge: “Those who trust to chance must abide by the results of chance.”