Napa Talk Winemakers

Napa Talk with Camille Benitah

From Bordeaux to Napa, Camille has mastered both wine worlds.

” I’ve learned that my practice is not a routine. Wine is not predictable, and you need to be on your guard to adapt to each vintage.”

1. From one wine epicenter to another — tell us the Reader’s Digest version of your journey from Bordeaux to Napa.

These places are 9000km apart, and of course, the climate and soils are different, but what was most surprisingly clear to me was the approach. 

Bordeaux has been making wine for centuries and California is a land of pioneers, barely 150 years into their craft when I first stepped foot here. At first, I expected to copy the style of Bordeaux, but I found that those around me had already made their own way, discovering a style entirely unique to the area.

2. What similarities did you find in your first years?

Cabernet is king in both regions! But it can’t be tamed the same way in each place.

3. You settled at Merus, making cult-favorite styles. What do you consider your greatest achievement with the team there?

Merus is the perfect example of pioneering, started in a garage by a young couple, doing everything it took to reach cult status. By that I mean we got creative and hustled to make the best wine we could—sometimes even MacGyver-ing tools! 

Basically, we started making the wine very simply, fermenting small batches, being very precise with the yeast acclimation, nutrition and temperature, and then pressing gently. We also had a very nice selection of new French oak and had the patience to age it carefully for 20 months. All the details and creativity in the beginning at Merus informed my future ventures, helping me to think more about the details and not settle for a formula.

4. Thinking back to Bordeaux — how did your early years influence your style today?

In Bordeaux, I learned many, many rigorous practices. Most importantly, each vintage demands that you adapt both vineyard and cellar practices. It taught me to focus on my thoughts, creativity, and a little stubbornness at the same time!

5. What lessons have you brought to your own practices as an independent winemaker?

I’ve learned that my practice is not a routine. Wine is not predictable, and you need to be on your guard to adapt to each vintage. 

6. How do you blend the styles of Bordeaux and Napa in your wine?

I only blend to make the best wine possible and I always try to use Bordeaux Varietals (except for Limite!). But overall, I focus on the wine itself and keep it true to its origin. It’s what makes it so good! 

Follow Camille Benitah on Naked Wines

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