Parents, daughter work together at Larkmead Vineyards in Calistoga
Napa Valley Register
May 15, 2019
Jimmy Hayes, JBH Photo
In 1993, Kate Solari Baker and Cam Baker’s 110-acre purchase of Larkmead Vineyards in Calistoga AVA called for the revision of the property in relation to the climate. Two years later, Kate and Cam found the perfect hire close to home, Ann Baker (M.L.A ‘95), their daughter who spent summers at the vineyard and is a CED graduate of the Master of Landscape Architecture program.
“I love this landscape that I grew up with,” Ann Baker said. “My readings in historical ecology, a field that focuses on humans and their interaction with the natural environment over time, have taught me that the Napa Valley has this incredible fertility. For years, farming practices harvested that fertility. Now we’re putting that fertility back into the soil. Things are starting to work together naturally.”
“During and after school, I got a job in Golden Gate Park doing erosion control and restoration of natural areas,” Baker said.
The experience taught her how to preserve Larkmead, beginning in the late 1990s until today.
Early projects required Baker to replace over 1000 dead, infectious vines with native plants near the waterways of Larkmead, and remake the banks of the Napa River to improve erosion control.
In 2005, Baker began the Selby Creek restoration project with key neighbors Laurie and Tom Shelton and Chris Johnson.
“We organized 13 neighbors into a larger project called Selby Creek Watershed Partners. We restored the reach of Selby Creek along the valley floor for steelhead habitat and native plant species. Ornithologists gave us direction on how to improve bird habitats,” Baker said.
In that same year, Baker’s parents added onto the vineyards with tasting room gardens and a winery landscape, specially designed by their daughter.
“When Cam and I built the winery in 2005, it was very important to us that the garden reflects our philosophy and our location, where we are in the valley,” said Kate Solari Baker. “We wanted to use native plants. Ann was clearly well informed about that. I love working with her. It was lovely to have a family member participate in the business.”
Today, Larkmead continues to strive to be as eco-friendly and biologically efficient as possible. Efforts have included water conservation, incorporation of native grasses within the property, and plant insectaries, vegetation for beneficial insects that prey on crop pests. Now, the vineyard is moving toward organic certification, and the vines are thriving without harmful pesticides and herbicides, according to Ann Baker.
“One of the nice things for me professionally… is that I’ve been able to engage with this landscape for over 25 years. My family’s really given me the leeway to experiment with a lot of things,” she said.
Read on for an in-depth look at the legacy blooming out of Larkmead Vineyards.