Experienced Winemaker Steve Bell Establishes Campana Ranch Winery
With more than 40 years of background in the industry, the winemaker is already winning awards.
By Rachel LaFranchi, Farm News Editor, Photo by Rachel LaFranchi
Published April 1, 2015
“You can only make great wine from great grapes,” said Steve Bell, owner and winemaker of Campana Ranch Winery.
Bell started his winery in 2011, but he wasn’t new to the wine industry. He’s been making wine since 1980 and has extensive experience in the industry. After working for Charles Krug and Freemark Abbey, Bell started as a Vineyard Manager for Beringer Vineyards in 1990 where he worked until 2009. Between 2009 and 2011, Bell was a private vineyard consultant, but this ended when he and his wife, Sher, made the decision to open their own winery.
“I’ve always loved wine, but it’s a fluke how I got into the wine industry,” said Bell. As a forestry major at Chico State, Bell took a small wine appreciation class and volunteered during crush season for his professor. He stayed on to do small tours for her and quickly knew an agriculture major suited him better.
Bell’s winery is small, only producing 750 cases per year. He grows one and a half acres of pinot noir and purchases the rest of his grapes from the Duttons, Robert Young and Chuck McCoy.
“I’m totally hands on,” said Bell, “I grow the grapes, I harvest the grapes and I bring in the grapes – my viticultural background shows me which vineyards produce the best grapes.”
His small winery has already made a mark on the industry. Bell recently entered seven wines in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, five of which were bronze medal winners. He also entered wine in the Cabernet Shootout where he received two gold medals and one silver.
Bell believes that the quality of the grapes is a strong determinant in the quality of the wine. Of his winemaking techniques Bell said, “I use as little manipulation of the wines as possible by starting out with the best grapes.”
In addition to making wine, Bell is an accomplished blacksmith. He creates gates and artwork, and he custom made the wood and iron doors outside his winery. He also teaches blacksmithing classes on Wednesday nights. Sher is a professional horse trainer, and Bell enjoys helping his wife with her business as well.
The winery, blacksmithing and horse training are all combined in Campana Ranch’s intricate logo that combines a horseshoe and grapevine. Campana is Spanish for Bell, something he was often called when working in the vineyards. To Bell, Campana just sounded right as a business name.
Bell is comfortable with the size his winery is now, and knowing that expansion would mean moving to a different property, he doesn’t see the size changing. For the Bells, the near future holds a tasting room where the public can visit by appointment.
“I’ve been doing this since 1977, and I love it,” Bell said. “I love the industry, I love the people and it’s just fantastic. I don’t think many people can say they’ve been involved with their passion for so many years. I don’t think I’ll ever retire from this.”
Campana Ranch Winery’s 2012 wines are available on their website, campanaranchwines.com and at their winery.