The Road To Zen
Carol Shelton is widely cited as the most awarded winemaker in the United States. She has won countless medals for her wines and has been honored as Winemaker of the Year numerous times. After years of working with some of the industry’s top winemakers and wineries, Carol continues to win awards and accolades for premium Zinfandels produced under her own brand, Carol Shelton Wines.
An Early Start
Carol’s career got an early, and unusual, start. When Carol was six, her mom developed an “identify the scent” game using household herbs and spices. It was the beginning of Carol’s path into the wine industry. It quickly became apparent that Carol not only had a great sense of smell, but she was remarkably adept at figuring out the new smells as the game evolved.
Poetry or Wine?
Entering UC Davis with a penchant for poetry, Carol stumbled upon her true calling when she first entered a wine cellar. The wonderful aroma of wine aging in oak barrels was so enticing that it drew Carol to her life’s work.
Under the tutelage of Ann Noble, the author of the Aroma Wheel, Carol worked hard and threw herself into her enology studies at UC Davis. One of Carol’s projects on yeast strains proved that different strains produce different flavour characteristics in wine. This early knowledge of yeast strains reflects today in the delicious, full-flavored wine Carol produces.
After graduating, Carol worked at renowned cellars and with industry giants like Andre Tchelistcheff and Robert Mondavi. In 1981, Carol began working at mid-sized winery in Sonoma County. During her 19-year stint as winemaker with this winery, Carol had the opportunity to bottle 45 different wines each year, ranging from sparkling to port, with Zinfandel coming up as her favorite wine time and time again.
Zin’s unpretentiousness and range of flavors drew Carol further into the exploration of this varietal. This included making various Zinfandels from different growing regions and allowing the terroir to speak through the wine.
Launching Carol Shelton Wines
In 2000 Carol and her husband Mitch Mackenzie, a former software engineer, launched their own brand – Carol Shelton Wines. Faced with the opportunity to create her own identity and focus on whatever varietals she wanted, Carol chose Zinfandel.
Drawing from the finest Zin appellations throughout California, Carol carefully selects vineyards producing stellar fruit that reflect the terroir of the region. Carol develops close partnerships with each grower to ensure she is kept abreast of the changes in the vineyards and the evolution of the growing season.
Each of Carol’s wines receives its own whimsical, “memorable” name, echoing her love for words and wine. Her Wild Thing Zin denotes that the wine is produced only using the wild yeasts found on organically grown grapes. Karma Zin signifies the wonderful good luck that brought Carol to an incredible 100+ year-old vineyard in Russian River Valley. The appellation of Cucamonga got merged with the “humongous” flavor descriptor for the Monga Zin, and the Rocky Reserve is Carol’s nickname for the wonderful reserve Zin she makes from the Rockpile appellation.
Carol Shelton Wines produces 5000 cases a year, with distribution throughout the U.S. and internationally. With an eye to the future, Carol has added a few non-Zin varietals and is slowly increasing production to meet the demands for her wines.
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