Rooted in Cherished Memories and Serendipity
Bordering Selby Creek and the Silverado Trail, CAMi Vineyards is a small and arid three-acre patch of land that founder Laurie Shelton describes as “a slice of heaven.”
She explained, “Paul Saviez farmed our vineyard back in the ’90s and scored Merlot cuttings from the acclaimed Three Palms Vineyard. In 2006, it became clear that our Cabernet needed to be replante and we went for the highest quality fruit from the 337 Clone.”
Small clusters of tiny, intense berries produce a big, full-bodied flavor for a Bordeaux-style, bright-fruited Merlot. And while these Cab vines don’t produce a lot of fruit, Shelton pointed out that they do contribute “softer, more feminine tannins.” Once again, in 2020, some of the best grapes go into a very small production of two single-vineyard estate wines of 100% Merlot and 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Production was just under 200 cases of the 2016 CAMi flagship estate red blend of 53% Merlot and 47% Cabernet Sauvignon.
“It’s really nice that people are giving Merlot another look. Putting ‘Sideways’ behind us, we appreciate that this grape is now getting its well-deserved consideration and recognition,” said Shelton.
Looking back 20 years, when Tom and Laurie Shelton purchased the property, they were naturally delighted that renowned viticulturist David Abreu proclaimed it to be “real Cabernet dirt.” The name of the winery was inspired by a serendipitous visit by friends from Montreal and her daughter, Camille. At the time, an expectant Laurie settled on the name with its French pronunciation named for her daughter and the vineyard. It was a dozen years and Tom’s untimely passing before, in the spirit of healing and cherishing memories, CAMi’s inaugural vintage appeared in 2013. Eye- catching wine labels feature poetry—a stanza from Robert Frost’s “October” and an original tribute to his father from artist son Trevor Mansfield—whose evocative photography also graces the labels.
“For the grapes’ sake, if they were all, Whose leaves already are burnt with frost, Whose clustered fruit must else be lost, For the grapes’ sake along the wall” — Robert Frost
Coincidentally, Laurie Shelton recalled how by earnestly asking around in wine circles, the collaboration with winemaker John Giannini was another lucky stroke. A one-time encounter when Giannini was the sous-chef at the now-closed Terra Restaurant in St. Helena led to a re-intro- duction to John in his winemaker role. Giannini’s noninterventionist winemaking philosophy that celebrates the style of land where the grapes are grown aligned with Laurie’s vision and is supported through guidance by top-caliber viticultural farming veterans, Davie Piña, Justin Leigon, and Jose Luis.
Come for a taste. Pull up a chair at one of the outdoor bistro tables to taste CAMi wines in downtown Calistoga. Right across from Copperfield’s Books, the attractive tasting room / gallery with rotating art shows, including some of Shelton’s expressionist works, is also pouring a bit of estate- grown olive oil later in the season.
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Article By: Laurie Jo Miller Farr