Since 1875 the Sinton (once Sinsheimer) family has been ranching the rolling, oak filled hills and cultivating the valleys of San Luis Obispo County. In 1972, nearly 75 years after acquiring the 5000+ acre Canyon Ranch, we planted our first grape vines and formally started Shell Creek Vineyards. The name of the vineyard comes from a seasonal creek that runs through the property, carrying small pieces of fossilized shells that are found farther upstream on the ranch. Jim started the vineyard with his nephew, Tom Sinton, in order to diversify from the cattle ranch
James and Norma Sinton built their home on the Canyon Ranch in 1940 and were joined by their son, Steve and his wife Jane in 1978. Jane has actively overseen the vineyard for over 30 years. Steve’s sisters, Patricia and Gail and their husbands, Hayes and Don (respectively), are also actively involved in the family business. Steve and Jane’s son, Daniel, and his wife, Megan, moved to the ranch in 2013 to carry on the family tradition, while their daughter, Julie and her husband, Brian Pruniski, help with marketing and financial advice.
Jane grew up in Grand Junction Colorado and went on to the University of Colorado where she met her husband Steve. They were married in 1971 and moved to Davis, CA where she finished her B.A. in Sociology/Psychology in 1974. She went on to get her M.A. in Criminal Justice from Sacramento State University in 1976. Having grown up with a mother who was an agricultural extension agent and a grandfather who farmed peaches, she was no stranger to agriculture. When she and Steve moved to the ranch she became interested in the vineyard and began as the Marketing Director in 1980 for the vineyard. Over the years she has established long term relationships and sold to major wineries such as David Bruce, Benziger, Beringer, Meridian, Bogle, Castoro, Ursa, and more.
Steve grew up on the ranch, working cattle and learning about the land. He attended the very small local schools in Shandon, before going to Stanford, where he earned a B.A. in History. He continued his education at the University of Colorado school of law, receiving his J.D. in 1972 and completing the California Bar later that year. Following a brief stint in the army, Steve worked for five years as an attorney for the California Department of Water Resources in Sacramento before returning with Jane to the ranch. In addition to a water and environmental law practice for fifteen more years, Steve historically concentrated more on the cattle operations with his parents, Jim and Norma, but has become more focused on managing the harvest and farming practices, while Jane concentrates on the year-round aspects of sales of grapes and wine.
In addition to the ranch and vineyard, both Steve and Jane have been highly active in the nonprofit world. In 1997 Steve was asked by the California Cattlemen’s Association to help start the California Rangeland Trust (www.rangelandtrust.org). Steve served as its first Chair and remained on the board of directors until being termed out in 2011. The trust has now placed conservation easements on over a quarter of a million acres of rangeland, assuring us all that these ranches will continue to provide food, open spaces and wildlife habitat.
Jane was the founding chair of the local San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation which is a charitable trust that has built an endowment through which it has made grants of several million dollars to local nonprofits. Having termed out on the Board of Directors, she remains active through a marketing and outreach committee. See sloccf.org
Daniel, who grew up on the ranch and went to school in Shandon, a small rural school 15 miles away, went on to Stanford University in 1998 and graduated in history in 2002. Daniel pursued an interest in non-profits by serving as the Director of Development for the Ronald McDonald House in San Diego. Daniel’s wife Megan worked in fund development for Scripps Hospital and more recently at Cal Poly since they moved back to the SLO community in 2011. Since 2012, Daniel has been overseeing the vineyard, ranch, and wine company. Daniel and Megan have two small children.
Growing up in the nearby town of Shandon and no stranger to agriculture, Dan came to us first as a bin loader at nights during harvest. He helped with the operation for 10 years before we asked him to be our vineyard manager. With us now for over 13 years, Dan Parsley has been the hands-on vineyard manager, making sure the grapes have proper pruning, watering and crop levels. He spends many late nights and early mornings each year frost protecting the grapes and harvesting. He has strived to improve our sustainability scores, paying attention to the new techniques and innovations for managing a vineyard.
Assistant Vineyard Manager
Jose, who celebrated his 25th year with us in 2015, came to us as a “jack of all trades”. Jose grew up in Mexico on a ranch doing everything. When he came to us he not only knew how to handle the cattle on the ranch, but he could fix anything, whether it was a bad transmission or a part needing to be welded. Jose and his assistant, Aurelio, handle all the spraying and cultivating of the grapes, in addition to driving the harvester, sometimes spending 8-10 hours during the night getting the grapes off to the wineries.