Finding a connection to home at a recent stay in Napa Valley, California was an unexpected and delightful aspect of a recent trip by Sarah Flannery, one of Northwest Bergen Lifestyle’s photographers. Sarah is always on the hunt for unique story ideas. Even 3,000 miles away, she was able to hand-pick the perfect subject on her trip!
While visiting Crocker & Starr, a favorite winery in St. Helena, California, Sarah stumbled across winemaker, Evyn Cameron, whose roots were established in none other than Wyckoff. We had the opportunity to chat with Evyn and discover her journey from NJ to CA!
Evyn grew up on Annette Court in Wyckoff and attended Montclair Kimberley Academy in Montclair. As a rising soccer athlete, she played Torpedoes and enjoyed meeting local kids on her team.
She later attended Boston University where she played soccer and graduated with a degree in Hospitality. “I loved the food and wine culture,” says Evyn, who was able to enroll in several wine courses while she was there. “Those classes were like a history lesson about wine,” she says. Evyn was soon accepted into a blind tasting course which enabled her to understand the different varieties of grapes, their origins, and their specific flavors.
At first, Evyn didn’t consider a future as a winemaker. “Winemaking—especially in Europe—is very generational. There’s usually a lineage of winemaking history within families. I didn’t have that,” she says.
However, having a mom who worked as a perfumer and a father who collected wines, gave Evyn the foundational knowledge required. “We would share food and wine and discuss their sensory experience,” says Evyn. My family liked to travel, so I had the opportunity to go to different countries and begin to understand the taste and feel of various wines.”
After college, Evyn kicked off her professional career in Manhattan, working at Thomas Keller’s Per Se. However, the pressure of working at a Michelin-starred restaurant was beginning to wear thin. A friend from BU who was living in Napa invited Evyn to visit. “On Christmas Day, 2009, I boarded a plane to Napa Valley. I made contacts and began apprenticing with a winemaker from a small vineyard. I had a passion, and it opened doors for me.”
After a winemaking stint in New Zealand, Evyn continued following her path, eventually achieving the opportunity to work with highly respected winemaker, Pam Starr at Crocker & Starr—and the rest is history.
A typical day for Evyn involves a great deal of labor-intensive work, and tasks are seasonal in nature. At the time of this interview, she was busy with blending trials, a process in which different combinations and vintages are blended together to create the best possible wine for a particular label.
“Winemaking combines so many different creative aspects,” says Evyn. “I like the labor surrounding it, and I enjoy working directly with nature. Each year brings something different—it’s never boring, and I love working both outside and inside, making a product in the vineyard and then bringing it into the winery and making a product from that. “
It's rewarding to see a finished product from its start in the vineyard. I know I’m in the right place, I’m doing what I love!”