Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Rhone Rangers Swarm Oakland: That Saturday Tasting

The North Coast Rhone Rangers event took place Saturday at Campovida's spacious tasting room in Oakland, and there was a very good turnout, with hundreds of people attending.

More than 15 wineries poured Syrah, Grenache and all other manner of southern France varietals in the beautiful, historic brick building.

Campovida's tasting room is adjacent to The Dock at Linden Street and Linden Street Brewery - both hipster hangouts - and the crowd that came on Saturday was not the crowd you see at the big Rhone Rangers tasting event. There were a lot of younger people and millennials.

From an organic perspective, there was just one winery pouring wines from certified vines and luckily, it's a standout winery, making what I think are by far the best wines from Mendocino's inland areas, bar none. And that's the host of the event itself - Campovida.

About five years ago, Campovida was not the winery it is today. Chilean born winemaker Sebastian Donoso has evolved the wines into standouts both for their quality and freshness. He's also taken the extra step of seeking out organic or Biodynamically grown fruit and making small lots of precious liquids.

Sebastian Donoso, Campovida winemaker, serving forth

It was therefore a great treat to find he was pouring new wines at the event. While I get all woozy over my favorite Campovida offering - the Grenache from Dark Horse Ranch (BD grown on Paul Dolan's family vineyard), I found some new bottles to adore.

First was his rosé - an outstanding wine that makes you take notice and slow down. It's such a beautiful wine, your senses tell you to relax so you can more truly savor it. It's from a grower who Donoso has gotten to at least practice organic farming; let's hope this grower will decide it's something to stick with and get certified so I can put this on the official list.

A note about Donoso's wines: all the reds are made on native yeasts. But most amazingly, all are made on free run juice alone, giving them a fresh, lively, vibrant quality. Of course, it costs more. But the wines are the better for it. 

The Campo di Blanca comes from a vineyard planted to Rhones that's on its way to Demeter Biodynamic certification. A lovely white Rhone blend.

Then a new wine for the Campovida brand - a late harvest Viognier - Innamorarsi. Honeysuckle - yes. And so much more than words could ever say. It comes from the Campovida estate in Hopland, about 2 hours north of Oakland on Highway 101.

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All in all, the wine flowed, with more labels in the back room, and Ridge Wines pouring outside on the welcoming front porch. I hope the wineries were happy - the crowds looked pleased. I heard only one complaint and that was the kind a vintner might like to hear: a lovely Indian couple I sat next to over nibbles of cheese and crackers lamented, "why can't we BUY the wines here?"

Of course, I told them, for Campovida, you could. And they were off.

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