When Goethe said "I carry on mental dialogues with the shoots of the grapevine, who reveal to me grand thoughts and to whom I tell wondrous things," his contemporaries scoffed. If Nabor Camarena had been alive back then, he might have smiled at the exaggeration. But not at the fundamental insight.
"Each vine is different, each has its own history, and each has to be treated like an individual," says the vineyard manager at Silver Stag. "Anyone with eyes to see can see that."
Born in Jalisco, Mexico, 50 years ago, Nabor has been in the wine industry for over 30 years as laborer, skilled worker, and now vineyard manager. He was a hard worker who succeeded in high school, but when he graduated he faced a difficult choice.
"I had no money for university," he says. When his brother invited him to come work at the Hyde Vineyard, "I had to decide: stay and try to find the money, or follow my brother north." Finances forced his hand. He came north.
Nabor started at the bottom in Hyde's operation, but he quickly worked his way up by always learning new things about getting the absolute best from the vineyards under his care. He studied vineyard management. He read. He went to seminars. And he listened to Larry Hyde. "I learned a lot from him," Nabor says, and he advanced quickly. "I went up based on knowledge, on what I learned."
In the late 1980s, vineyard management practices started to shift the emphasis from more quantity to higher quality. Nabor learned the techniques to do that and got the chance from Hyde to put them into practice. He sums them up in one word.
"Balance," he says. "Balance is the key. You have to avoid doing too much, doing too little. You prune, thin, trim the canopy, irrigate, trellis — all of it different vine by vine." This is the level of specificity you have to apply to make an elite cabernet. Nabor continues to do the difficult and skillful work that's necessary to achieve that level in the vineyard at Silver Stag.