Shalini Sekhar

Shalini Sekhar

Neely (Winemaker)

Ottavino Wines (Winemaker & Owner)

Waits-Mast Family Cellars (Consulting Winemaker)

Shalini Sekhar fell in love with wine after her first sip of 1995 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape after completing a Master’s degree in Music Performance from New York University in 2004. As a “Jersey girl,” she never imagined this love affair with wine would turn into a career. Indeed, she spent a year as a music teacher at pre-college and college levels before relocating to California in 2005.

There, she began working in a tasting room to pass the time while searching for a teaching job, but soon realized that her passion for wine was pushing her to pursue a full-time career in the wine business. After two years of managing a tasting room, she jumped headfirst into her first harvest at Rosenblum Cellars. Realizing she loved winemaking, Shalini returned to school to join the post-baccalaureate enology program for one year at California State University, Fresno.

Returning to the Bay Area, Shalini worked harvests in the cellar and laboratory at Stags Leap Wine Cellars and William Selyem, the latter being where she honed her skills at making premium Pinot Noir. Her next step was a venture into the custom-crush business at Copain Custom Crush (now Punchdown Cellars) in 2011 as the cellar master running day-to-day cellar operations for over 40 wineries.

Shalini had stints at Bluxome Street Winery and ROAR wines in San Francisco. At ROAR, she crafted wines for Waits-Mast Family Cellars, Furthermore Pinot Noir, Neely Wine, and several smaller brands; she continues to make wines for Waits-Mast Family Cellars and Neely as part of her current wine-related activities. She also has her own company, Ottavino, which provides a variety of wine-related services. Ottavino is in homage to her former life as a musician, as it is the Italian term for the piccolo, which was her main instrument; it also alludes to her specialization in small wineries.

Shalini was named Winemaker of the Year at the San Francisco International Wine Competition in 2015 for her work with Furthermore. In 2019, she was designated a “Winemaker to Watch” by the San Francisco Chronicle. She is also a candidate for the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Diploma.