Coffee Conversations: Shelia Nicholas of Anam Cara Cellars

Coffee Conversations: Shelia Nicholas of Anam Cara Cellars
I know, I’m way, way, way overdue for one of these! I will give you two this month. It’s Coffee Conversations. Today’s guest is someone I’ve admired for quite some time now. 
Her name is Sheila Nicholas and she is the co-owner, with her husband Nick, of Anam Cara Cellars in Newberg, OR. Shelia and Nick are amazing people and I am honored to give you a small insight into this amazing lady. This is one of my favorite interviews thus far. I think you will love it! 

Q. What is your coffee drink of choice?
I would say plain, with milk- preferably warm
milk. I don’t like flavored coffees; I don’t like shots of hazelnut in there or
anything. No peppermint lattes or pumpkin spice stuff. I like plain lattes- and
I’m trying to be good- so my daughter Heather who is vegan- turned me on to soy
lattes- which is good. 
Q. So, what’s your story? How did you end up here?
Oh Lord, How much time do you have? Well let’s
see. Going back about a 100 years I met Nick in London- we got married in
Boston 33 years ago and then we ended up in the Napa Valley. My background in London was PR and there I had done a little
work with Irish distillers and food/wine in France, but really not knowing
what I was doing- I was just a kid. So in Napa we had pizza parlors. They were
the regular mom and pop places. No fancy brick ovens- it was a deck oven. We
had loads of cheese, gobs of pepperoni- it was terribly good. We were very
lucky to trade with a lot of the wineries. At Harvest we would trade wine for
pizza- so that was good- we had a huge collection of cabernets. Working
with ones’ husband in the restaurant industry is…difficult- especially when
it’s fast paced like that. It came to a point where I said, “okay I quit
or I quit.” I lucked out I drew back on my PR experience and was very
fortunate to find a job in Napa working with wineries! There were a lot of
double takes, like I would go meet with my new clients and they would say,
“aren’t you the pizza lady?” Then that job lead to another job in
PR with a high end firm which had international clients also specializing in
wine. I got to travel around the world a little bit and ended up meeting
amazing winemakers- I mean cult wine makers- super cool people- I got to taste wines
that were just phenomenal. One day I thought, “you know what…I can do
this- we could do this.” I had just enough knowledge to be dangerous, so
I said, “let’s look around and see what’s out there.” We didn’t have $300,000 to buy
an acre of cabernet in the Napa Valley and I had some people in Oregon who I
worked with. I came up here and I thought you know what “these are good people-
it’s gorgeous- its just a lovely environment.” The wine community up here
is barn none fabulous. We support each other. We are all very open with advice
and sharing knowledge. The food is amazing. So we stumbled upon this amazing
property- about 70 acres and we slowly have been transforming it to vineyards.
We’ve done it all from scratch- no more pizza parlors. I buy mine now. But I
miss my pizzas- they were big, beautiful, greasy pizzas. So we planted the
vineyard in 2001 and our first vintage was 2003 but we don’t count that- made a
lot of mistakes. ’04 was our first commercial vintage and we opened this
tasting room in 2010.
Q. Who is your role model and why?
 I want
to say one of my idols is Susan Sokol Blosser. She did it the same way I
did- from soup to nuts. Planted the vineyard, worked it- and hard work and its
not as glamorous as people think it is. She is normal haha and she is smart and
she cares. You know, when I grow up I want to be just like her.
I might also say, my father in law. He has been
dead for ten years, but he left home during the depression hopped on a train
and from absolutely nothing, I mean nothing, managed to raise three outstanding
sons. He was married for 60 years. He worked really hard, everybody loved him.
He was a great fisherman and he would do anything for his family. He was always
big into surprises too. He would build things out of wood. He would build
playhouses you could go in! With shelves and curtains and all that. Really
sweet guy, never a bad word for anyone. He was just awesome. Even when he died,
he was very peaceful surrounded by his family. The day I got married, he took
me aside and said, “We love you.” He would be one of my heroes.
Q. Who is your celebrity crush
Kiefer Sutherland and the one that makes me go
wobbly is Colin Firth. If Colin Firth walked in I would melt. If Kiefer
Sutherland came in I could at least have a conversation.
Q. If you had a time machine that only worked
once, where in history or the future are you going?
I’ve always wanted to go on a yacht and sail it
myself and have long journeys around the world. So, in the future I’d want to
win the lottery and do that.
Q. What are your favorite activities to do in your
free time?
Anything that is quiet. I like to garden. I
like to go on walks with my dogs. (She has two, 1 German Shorthair Pointer and
1 is a terrier/dingo/corgi mix (you need a smart dog to live in the vineyard).
I love to listen to the birds- get some piece and quiet. If I have any time I
like to play golf, although I’m not any good- I do know when to pick up. One of
my nicest memories is skiing right as the slope was closing so I was only of
the only people and it was amazing. 
Q. What is your proudest achievement?
My kids are amazing, but I think there is
something incredibly personal about making wine that still gives me the chills
you know. You put a stick in the ground and ultimately you create something
that gives people pleasure and it’s legal. (ha) And now here I am talking to
you, I would have never met you otherwise. Isn’t that amazing? Very rewarding
and personal.
Q. Your house is burning down, what three items do
you grab?
 I have a very old metal file tin, quite
small and it opens up and it has folders in it. It’s probably 60 years old. In
it are some of the last letters my father wrote to me. Just a few things like
my first credit card and some other memories that I like looking at. My AGA
cast iron stove. I LOVE.
Q. What are your vices?
I try to do too many things at once- so I kinda
spin everything at once and I don’t get them all finished when I would like. I
am hard to understand because my mind works so quickly so it’s hard to
delegate. I tend to also crash after that; there is no easing into it- I just
fall asleep. Also prosciutto, I eat more prosciutto and fresh crab than anyone
I know. I am just a bottomless pit for crab.
Q. What was the best thing to happen to you this
Well little things make me happy, someone I
work with on a committee sent me an email about how much they valued what I did
as a colleague and a friend. The fact that you contacted me is kinda cool too,
you know? Seeing the daffodils come out.
 Q. What’s in your fridge?
Umm my fridge, well wine. Chilled chardonnay.
Some left over dinner from last night. Eggs are another vice (real eggs). There
is quite a few ingredients that I’ve meant to do something with. There is a
really nice pot of pear and cranberry jam and pinot noir jelly created by my
fiend at Chehalem Valley B&B. She comes and picks some of my grapes and makes
Q. You can invite 8 people to a dinner party. Who
is on your list? And who is your first alternate guest?
So other than Kiefer Sutherland and Colin
Firth, um Freddie Mercury for sure he’d be interesting. Nick (Husband), Mark
and Heather (her kids), I think Margret Thatcher, I might invite a couple
people in the wine industry. Rollin Soles from Argyle he is very interesting.
Harry Peterson-Nedry from Chehalem Wines, he is another one of my favorites.
Maybe one of my heroes, but don’t tell anyone that. Lastly, probably Meryl
Q. Describe yourself in 3 words
Hardworking, over achieving, slightly squidgy.
I really need to work out more but its so boring.
Q. What is one of your best qualities?
I listen. I don’t mind teaching people. I am
patient with people who care and genuinely want to know more about something. I
remember sitting next to someone at a wine dinner once. He said, to me,
“The wine maker is describing this wine as buttery. How do you get butter
in the chardonnay?” I started laughing and I looked and him and he was
serious! That was a pivotal moment for me. I realized, of course people think
that. We say to people this is oak-ey, butter-y, caramel, and blackberries so I
could see why. But you don’t actually put those things in the wine, and after I realized that people genuinely don’t
know and I like to teach those people more about wine and what I do. I take it
as a personal mission to teach them about wine. I know people who came back
years later and said, “I was just starting out and you helped me- thank you for
lifting the veil and explaining this in a normal way.” I think everyone also has
a right of passage to work in the restaurant industry because that’s tough.
Q. What is your favorite meal/ dish?
I like roast chicken with gravy- I love gravy.
Q. What is one piece of advice/ quote that you try
to live by? Or your favorite.
Don’t hurt anyone, meaning don’t be rude, don’t
be unnecessary. You don’t gain anything out of it. That won’t make you
powerful, it shows what an idiot you are. You never know who will walk into
your life.

And you know making wine is a legacy, it’s been
done for hundreds of thousands of years. So the fact that we are able to
continue that is an honor.
Thanks for reading! Don’t you just love her? Let me tell you the wine is PHENOMENAL. You need to get to Newberg and try this. Tell them Rachel the blogger sent you! 
306 N Main Street

Newberg, Oregon 97132
Hours: 11:00am-5:00pm
January and February: Thursday
to Sunday only, or by
March to December: Daily

Phone: (503) 537-9150
Love, Rachel xo


  1. August 5, 2014 / 8:03 pm

    I love all the unique questions you posted that really brought out some interesting stories and tidbits! I think it's been more than a year since I visited Anam Cara, this is a reminder to check them out again!

  2. August 5, 2014 / 8:03 pm

    This is an amazing interview – My husband and I are definitely going to have to check out Anam Cara Cellars now that we are Oregonians!

  3. August 5, 2014 / 8:06 pm

    what a fun post! Colin Firth makes me go wobbly too… sigh.

  4. August 6, 2014 / 2:19 am

    What an amazing place and story! Must be such a labor of love to run a place like that!

  5. August 6, 2014 / 8:05 am

    What unorthodox questions. Loved the approach to this interview.

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