Carol Shelton attended UC Davis where she originally intended to study poetry. But she quickly caught the winemaking bug, and graduated with a degree in Fermentation Science in 1978. During her studies, she assisted Dr. Ann Noble in developing the UC Davis Aroma Wheel. Shelton also completed significant research on the impact different yeast strains have on the flavors and aromas of wine.
In a recent interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Shelton spoke about her obsession with yeast in the winemaking process when she said, “I’m still known as the yeast queen of the industry. I think of (yeasts) as kids. I feed them and yell at them and hug them. I do all the things a parent would do with a child.”
After earning her diploma from UC Davis, she went to work for Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley’s Oakville wine region followed by time at Saltrams Wines in Australia. In 1980, Shelton landed one of the defining jobs of her career when she went to work for Buena Vista Winery under the legendary Andre Tchelistcheff.
Shelton began working for Sonoma Vineyards in 1981 and became the winemaker for the Windsor Vineyards label in 1991. During this tenure, she made a wide array of wines, but eventually came to realize that Zinfandel was her true passion. “Zinfandel is fruit-forward and uncomplicated. You don’t have to hold it up to some snotty European standard.”
In 2000, she established the Shelton-Mackenzie Wine Company with her husband and business partner, Mitch Mackenzie. Shelton-Mackenzie Wine Company is the parent company of the couple’s wine label, Carol Shelton Wines. Carol Shelton Wines has an annual output of 5,000 cases. Most of this production is single vineyard Zinfandel, though a bit of Syrah, Rose, and dessert wine is also made. Shelton is also the owner of Vincare, a winery consulting company.
Carol Shelton has won many awards and titles over the years, including being named the Bon Appétit/Tchelistcheff Winemaker of the Year in 1993, Jerry Mead’s Winemaker of the Year in 1996, and Dan Berger’s Winemaker of the Year in 1999. She was on the ZAP’s (Zinfandel Advocate Producers) Board of Directors from 1994 to 1998, and has also held top positions at the California Enological Research Association and the UC Davis Trellis Alliance.
Amazingly, she has won the top award at the California State Fair for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. She also won the prestigious Golden Winery Award at the California State Fair in 1996; a highly coveted honor. In 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle named Carol Shelton “Winemaker of the Year.”