Grapes be Crazy: Why We Love Campovida Winery
written by Jackie Allen, MC monger
photos by Eric Miller, MC meat master
Upon arriving at Campovida Winery, in Hopland, CA, we were greeted with a silly sidewalk sign that made us feel right at home. Our gracious hosts Anna and Gary said they did their best to copy our puns which they love. Aw, shucks!
Queue the wine, the honey made with bees from the grounds, the olive oil made from Campovida olives, and a feast of appetizers. Burrata served on roasted fig leaves with a rhubarb mostarda, grilled zucchini with romesco sauce, home-grown olives, fresh cantaloupe, and a mint & green pea chicken salad. T’was a tasty treat! And all courtesy of Campovida’s nearby Hopland restaurant, La Piazza de Campovida.
We got to listen to Campovida’s winemaker Sebastian, artist, mad scientist, perfectionist, talk about his wines while we tasted them. The Rose of Grenache had floral and grapefruit notes. We tasted a delicious white wine made from an Italian varietal called Arneis that most of us had never heard of, with notes of pear, fennel and anise. And we were all blown away by the smooth and sultry, medium-bodied red called Negromaro that tasted like black pepper and cherry.
Sebastian’s descriptions were insightful. He spoke our cheesy language when explaining that a great Semillon should have contradictions and complexities similar to a good blue cheese, which can be at once nutty and earthy, fruity and sweet, piquant and spicy, and little bit funky. Sebastian’s code of morals for winemaking is stringent, idealistic, and painstakingly executed. He says that he tries to manipulate the wine as little as possible, and he never uses machines for picking the grapes. He only uses grapes from Mendocino County, and of those “only the best fruit.” He ain’t messin around.
Throughout our chat, Anna told us the sweet, slightly envy-inducing, inspiring story of how Campovida came to be. It was initially intended to be a back-to-the-senses gathering place for creative, forward-thinking people to share ideas and projects. The olives, the honey bees, and the grapevines were unexpected but very welcome guests at the table.
Off we went to the garden. Once overgrown and abandoned, save for for the bees, the garden has been lovingly tended by the busy bees of Campovida for years now. They have brought it back to buzzing, teeming, verdant life, the likes of which those of us who can barely keep a tiny windowsill succulent alive can only dream of.
One of our first stops in the garden was the Arc of Learning, where one can see the difference between various different native California grape vines.
We looked on as Sebastian showed us the subtle differences in leaf shapes, surrounded by warm breezes, weeping willows, wild pineapple guavas, and fragrant french lavender. The grapes were our Cosmos and Sebastian, our Neil deGrasse Tyson.
And what garden is complete without a fully stocked wine fridge? Next, we stopped amongst the tendrils and buds to taste a few more of Sebastian’s creations. The sunshine was warm the Campo di Blanca was cool and tart. Just another day at the office…
And then onto the barrels. In a very welcome bout of air conditioning, Sebastian allowed us to taste several reds straight out of the neutral oak barrels before they were finished aging. As Sebastian described the aging process of his red wines we were once again blown away when he told us that sometimes egg whites are added to red wine while it’s aging as a way of rounding out the flavor. The albumin is removed after mellowing harsh tannins and removing impurities. A winemaker’s consommé! Eric’s reaction was simply, “Grapes are crazy.”
After that it was bocce ball, picnicking, more wine, cheese (of course), and lazing in the shade on the grass till the cows came home, and by cows I mean, tipsy, sunburnt cheesemongers who gorged themselves on burrata and Viognier. A quick stop in Healdsburg for ice-cream (there’s no such thing as too much dairy) and we were back in the city, safe and sound, day-hungover and useless, party favors of lavender oil, olive oil, and honey in hand.
We haven’t looked at our Campovida wines the same since. Each bottle really contains the flavors of a magical place. We’ve seen how the wine is made and, boy is it sweet.
Thank you, Campovida, for reminding us how good life can be. Y’all make wine something to nerd out about.
Cheese and love,
Jackie & the MC team