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Even the dogs on the dock were curious.

They watched Patrick Campbell hoist himself up from his kayak, swivel around to reach for his braces and power himself upright with his arms.

Campbell, the vintner of Laurel Glen winery on Sonoma Mountain, contracted polio at age 5, forcing him to walk with braces and crutches. But that hasn?t made Campbell any less adventuresome, especially when it comes to kayak racing.

?It?s exhilarating,? he said. ?The water is way stronger than you are. ... At a certain point when you?re under control, you are one with the water.?

Campbell is nimble in his slender, racing ?surf ski? ? a type of kayak ? which is 19 feet long and only 16 inches wide. He competes in the San Francisco Bay in the summer rather than in the open ocean in the winter.

?I don?t put myself in crazy situations,? he said. ?That?s for the young guys. But racing is exciting.?

At 62, the hair beneath Campbell?s baseball cap is streaked gray. He?s clad in a navy vest, khaki pants and waterproof, rubber Croc sandals. But what?s most striking about Campbell is his voice ? calm and confident, without complaint.

?I suppose I do feel (contracting polio) is unfair, but there?s not a heck of a lot of good analyzing it,? he said with a smile. ?It?s not as though I was especially singled out and I?ve certainly been more fortunate than most people.?

Campbell, who spent his early years in Baltimore, believes he contracted polio when he was spending a summer in England as a child.

?I was in London and there was an outbreak there.? Campbell said he doesn?t recall much about a hospital stay, but does remember that the polio didn?t prevent him from having a normal childhood.

?I know it seems unbelievable, but I got it young,? he said. ?I was used to it by the time I got to a conscious age. ... It didn?t seem to get in my way.?

No, Campbell couldn?t ride a bike, but he could play baseball.

?I just had a friend run the bases for me,? he said. ?I didn?t really have issues with other kids. It was just the way I was.?

Campbell?s daughter Arya, 30, who works with him at the winery, talks about her dad?s ?amazing strength.?

?He doesn?t seem to experience fear and plows through every challenge head-on and with the confidence to succeed. ... We learned from him we can achieve whatever we set out to do.?

While Campbell?s handicap has never defined him, it may have made him a spiritual seeker of sorts. He got a graduate degree in religion from Harvard University before eventually moving to the Sonoma Mountain Zen Center in 1974.

?It was a stage of life when you had time to reflect,? Campbell said. ?I had gone through the ?60s, and you could act on some of the stuff you thought about in the ?60s.?

At the zen center Campbell met his winemaking fate.

?I saw a 100-year-old Palomino grape vineyard and it really spoke to me,? he said. ?It was beautiful.?

And so it began, Campbell?s grape-growing odyssey.

Campbell became the caretaker of the vineyard and in 1977 he and his wife, Faith, bought the nearly 3-acre Laurel Glen vineyard, now expanded to 28 acres. Today, Campbell is known for his high-profile Laurel Glen cabernet, his moderately priced Counterpoint cabernet and his inexpensive brands, which include Reds and ZaZin, as well as malbec from Argentina.

When it comes to his less expensive brands, Campbell opts for a ?virtual winemaking? model, where he doesn?t own land or buildings.

?It?s less cumbersome and financially it?s less risky. It allows you to move very quickly. ... If it?s not working you can stop it and if it is working you can expand it.?

Campbell said the typical model of winemaking in California is to own a vineyard, then a winery and then a tasting room. But, he said, the people who do this are then tied down to a vintner?s life, with little time for other interests. ?If only by being obstinate, I wanted to do things differently in the wine business.?

Ray Kaufman, co-winemaker of Laural Glen, has worked with Campbell for 23 years and said, ?Patrick is simple and complicated at the same time. ... He is a true renaissance person. He can fix a tractor and he was a musician (playing viola) for the Santa Rosa Symphony. He is an intellectual in farmer?s coveralls.?

Campbell?s foray into winemaking abroad began in Chile in the mid-?90s, and in 1998 he began producing wine from Argentina. Campbell still travels to Argentina five or six times a year, and he said he?s still a hands-on winemaker with all his brands. ?I do all the blending and make all the decisions.?

When people comment about how active Campbell is or what an inspiration he is, he just laughs and smiles.

?I think there are people in my condition who aren?t making the most of what they could be doing, so I?m appreciative of that,? he said. ?But some people watch TV all day and some people do the same thing every day and that?s just not my creative makeup. So I think it?s more a matter of personality rather than any disability.?

Staff Writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 521-5310 or peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com.