Garage winemaker-turned-pro wins gold at San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition thanks to Angels

Jan 28, 2016, 10:00 ET from

NAPA, Calif., Jan. 28, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Early on, fast-growing online wine company took a chance on Tom Shula, a talented amateur winemaker who made amazing wines in his garage. That gamble paid off handsomely last week when Shula's rich, complex Merlot won gold in the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, joining esteemed brands like Beaulieu Vineyards (BV), Grgich Hills Estates and Cakebread Cellars in the winners' circle.

Shula was one of's original Angels, the crowd-funders who invest in winemakers in exchange for affordable access to fine wines and first dibs on new releases. When got wind of Shula's winemaking projects, it raised money via his fellow Angels to allow Shula to work with the legendary Pickberry Vineyard, paired him with industry veteran Jim Olsen and provided free space at the company's Angel-funded winery.

The result is a late-ripening red from the Sonoma Mountain that features the same pure, dark fruit and terroir-driven approach to winemaking that made Pickberry such a famous vineyard in Ravenswood's wine. Shula's fellow Angels clearly enjoy his contribution to the cellar, with nearly 90% reporting that they'd buy it again. And now the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition judges have added their professional stamp of approval, rating it a gold medal winner in its category. Since less than a quarter of the 7,100-plus entrants earn a bronze medal in the competition, an amateur earning the gold is a truly astounding feat. 

"Working with a seasoned pro like Jim at a state-of-the-art winery to produce wine under my own label is truly a dream come true," Shula said. "I'm grateful to my fellow Angels for making it all possible, and I'm incredibly honored to win the gold at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition."

"This shows Angels are discovering talent, and the establishment is catching up and recognizing that they're really, really good," said Matt Parish, chief winemaker / wine officer, Naked Wines International.

About is an online wine company that helps everyday wine lovers drink like the rich and famous. They do this by crowd-funding winemakers. Over 200,000 customers called Angels invest directly in winemakers by setting aside $40 per month, all of which goes toward their next purchase. The company invests these funds in top-tier winemakers around the world to make wine exclusively for