Shannon O’Shaughnessy, self-professed adventurer (and a rare solo female proprietor), recently launched her own brand. (photo by Mariana Calderon)

Decades after helping her family launch their iconic O’Shaughnessy Wine Estate in Napa, Shannon O’Shaughnessy has forged her own path in the wine industry with Aileron Estates. The label’s whimsical paper airplane hints at the name’s derivation. An adrenaline junky and pilot who relentlessly pursues adventure, O’Shaughnessy named Aileron after the hinged surface on the edge of an airplane wing that steadies and guides the plane, symbolizing the dogged pursuit of one’s dreams despite ever present turbulence. 

In addition to her work directly with her family’s winery, O’Shaughnessy spent 25 years in varied facets of the wine business, from distribution to brand consulting—experiences which prepared her to take on the challenge of launching her luxury, limited-production Napa Valley brand. She is one of just a few solo female vintners in the industry.

Her dream began with a small plot, just one acre of organic and dry-farmed Sauvignon Blanc vines on a cool and sprawling Coombsville estate that she purchased in 2014. Now located in her front yard, the vineyard (originally planted by acclaimed consulting winemaker Andy Erickson and his wife, Annie Favia) serves as a daily reminder of her original dream and vision. The wine made from these grapes is concentrated and nuanced.

In 2019, O’Shaughnessy purchased a larger, 20-acre vineyard site at the top of Napa’s Atlas Peak AVA. Just two sites over from the famed Stagecoach Vineyard, her aptly named Altimeter Vineyard consists of 10.2 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon planted on rocky, red soils. The first Cabernet Sauvignon from this vineyard will be the 2018 vintage.

Some of the winery’s handsome, minimalist packaging. (photo courtesy of the winery)

O’Shaughnessy has entrusted Aileron to the world-class winemaking team of Philippe Melka and Maayan Koschitzky of Atelier Melka. Her viticulturalist is John Derr, who helped the O’Shaughnessy family plant their estate vineyard on Howell Mountain back in the 1990s.

Aileron’s inaugural release includes two wines: 185 cases of a 2018 Sauvignon Blanc from the Coombsville Estate, a beautiful expression of spring fruit blossoms and light citrus notes, and 200 cases of a 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Rancho Del Oso vineyard on Howell Mountain. This wine is inky deep and dark, offering black plum as well as ripe blackberry and blueberry notes.

Aileron Estates offers by-appointment-only, fully private tastings at either the Vault in Rutherford or at Brasswood Estate just north of St. Helena.