“Wine adds a smile to friendship and a spark to love,” says Italian novelist, journalist, poet and short-story writer Edmondo de Amicis (October 21 1846 – March 11 1908.
Nowhere is this more true than at Camins 2 Dreams, which we learned last weekend on a winery visit “off the beaten path” with wife and wife winemakers Tara Gomez and Mireia Taribó.
I’d been wanting to meet up with Tara Gomez for an interview for a few years to discuss Kita, the Chumash owned winery where Tara, who is Chumash, works as winemaker (see part 2 for more about Kita and our visit there that afternoon).
But then when I learned about Camins 2 Dream, I was even more motivated to get together with Tara and her wife Mireia.
So Sue and I loaded up my vw van with picnic goodies, and we headed up the coast on a sparkling still clear winter day with views of the Channel Islands playing peak a boo along the 101 from Ventura through Santa Barbara to the Gaviota Pass where we headed inland taking Highway 1 through the rolling hills toward Lompoc. Usually, this time of year the hills would be green with patches of purple lupine and orange poppies. But this year we are still in drought mode, with very little rain in our part of coastal California while just two hours north they were inundated and received 85% of their season’s rain in just a few days.
We’re grateful for gentle, intermittent rain in these parts: following the 2017 Thomas Fire, early January torrential rains made the mud flow so much it was several feet deep in the freeway. And our region really is a coastal chaparral desert.
Our Mediterranean climate makes certain areas of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties ideal for growing grapes for fine wine. While we might get some serious May Gray and June Gloom, generally the fog burns off in the afternoon and wind blows the fog away. This is particularly true of Lompoc, home to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, and close to the Sta Rita Hills AVA, famous for cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, my favorites.
But Tara and Mireia aren’t hanging their hats of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which they point out have saturated the market; instead they are going for “the underdogs” as they put it: “more of the grapes we appreciate and we want to make” — less famous varieties like the Gruner Veltiner they greet us with.
They are also going off the beaten path to source grapes grown by small family producers who respect the land using organic, biodynamic, and sustainably certified farming practices. While Tara and Mireia are not doing the vineyard work themselves, “we work closely with them,” says Tara. They make the call for when the grapes are ready to be picked and sorted by hand– then stomped by foot. They use the natural yeast that come in with the grapes, then they use neutral barrels. Everything they do is done as gently and naturally as possible– from no-pumps gravity flow to hand bottling their unfined and unfiltered wines which results in less bottle shock.
“We’re so small we’re involved in every aspect,” says Tara. As natural winemakers, “we can’t add anything” — so the grapes must be chosen and handled with care from beginning to end– and they need great fruit to start with. “We try to look for vineyards that have the philosophy and core values we have.”
“We’re trying to find other vineyards off the beaten path but with similar values we have with respect for the land and the farming part of it,” says Tara. Camins means path in Catalan, Mireia’s native language, and Camins 2 Dream is “the path to our dreams making wine together,” Mireia says.
So what’s the path to follow for a woman winemaker from Spain to meet a Chumash woman winemaker from California?
The two met in 2006 at J Lohr in the California’s Central Coast where Tara was working as a winemaker and Mireia came from Spain to intern.
“When we met in 2006 at J Lohr we were just friends,” says Mireia. “I was an intern. We hung out a lot together and she would take me after work to help her make wine and she was teaching me a lot too. I invited her to Spain and she came to visit and we were traveling back and forth.”
Both women grew up fascinated by wine, and both pursued degrees in chemistry: Tara at Cal State Fresno in Enology and for Mireia in Chemistry at the University of Barcelona, followed by a Bachelor of Science degree in Enology at the University of Rovira and Virgili.
When that harvest finished, Mireia returned to Spain and in 2008 she accepted a harvest position at Castell d’Encus, a start-up winery in the Pyrenees Mountains of Spain where she worked as winemaker until 2014 while she also went back to school to earn her Masters in Enology, Viticulture, and Marketing of Wine.
Tara worked for several wineries and started her own label Kalawashaq’ Wine Cellars, named for the village where her Chumash ancestors once lived, using Paso Robles fruit from her friend and mentor Larry Gomez. Tara left J Lohr to work two harvests at Castell d’Encus where Mireia was the winemaker. By 2010 when Tara returned to California, her Chumash Tribe had purchased Camp 4 Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley and she started Kitá Wines, where she is winemaker.
Wine definitely added a smile to their friendship, and over the years, as they traveled the world of wine together, it sparked their love not just for wine but for each other. “She would come and we would visit all of Europe, and we’d visit the wine regions,” says Mireia. They tasted and talked about a lot of wine along the way as well.
“When we visit her family we’ll visit a wine region,” says Tara. “We always focus on a varietal we want to learn about.” Of course now that Tara works full-time with Kita, Mireia helps there, and they have their own winery, it’s harder to get away, but they had planned to go study graciano when the pandemic hit and scuttled their trip. They made graciano in 2020 anyway, 20 gallons from a new small vineyard with young vines that are just beginning to produce fruit.
“Through out all those paths and routes, it took us on the path to our dreams,” says Mireia.
They’ve been married for 12 years now, and a few years ago, Mireia and Tara founded Camins 2 Dreams, born out of their shared love for wine, winemaking and each other. Their first commercial vintage was in 2017 with 25 cases. Transcendence was originally in the building and they asked if they could make those two barrels. But that winery needed more room and moved across the way. This was a sign, they say, that they were on the right path even though “It’s never the right time,” says Tara. With such a large empty building, already built out with a tasting room, it didn’t come cheap. “It was the hardest decision we ever made our life investment, says Tara, “You’re either two feet in or two feet out!”
“We’re lucky that both our parents, our families have helped us a lot,” says Mireia. As winemakers, they are very hands-on (and foot stomping!): Definitely hands and palates on: “We really taste really often,” says Mireia. “We both have a chemistry background,” says Mireia, “We probably do more checking and analysis than most winemakers. When the grapes come in, where you are to macerate longer, bacteria growth. A lot of our decisions aren’t just based on flavor and taste but chemistry.”
“We probably go overboard on that,” says Tara talking about testing with a laugh.
Right now they make about 500 cases but they have plenty of room to expand to a couple thousand. “It will all depend but I don’t think we’ll go that big. Slow start just getting our brand out there, our name out there,” says Tara. In addition to the tasting room and online, their wines are an “Amy Atwood selection.” They have a wine club, and with the pandemic, they’ve been doing virtual tastings which they really enjoy.
“We’re doing a lot of virtual tasting events; we have a tasting kit with two ounce pours,” Mireia says. “We’ve been working with a lot of corporations that have reached out to us to make events. And it’s kept us busy.”
“That’s really helped us,” concurs Tara. “That’s the thing with this pandemic, you have to think outside the box on how to reach your audience. We were like we’ve got to think of something.”
“Virtual tastings are here to stay,” opines Mireia. “It’s fun and it’s not that often you get to taste with the winemaker. Tasting with your friends, not just anyone in the tasting room. It’s working really good for us.”
What else is on the path for the future of Camins 2 Dreams? They’re both keeping busy with Camins 2 Dreams, plus Kita has Tara full time and Mireia as needed. At Camins 2 Dreams, Mireia handles the finances and day to day business. “We’re also doing consulting; we’re really busy!”
In what little spare time they have, since they can’t travel, they are enjoying being at home in Lompoc where they have plenty of nature around them. “With the pandemic, we travel in our backyard. We’ve been camping in the backyard. We set up the tent and the BBQ. We use the house for the shower and the fridge. It’s really fun.” They enjoy hiking with their dogs, biking, and for Tara, “I love being out in nature; I love to go fishing too.” She enjoys going to nearby Lake Cachuma and out on the ocean. They play boardgames together instead of watching TV because it’s more relaxing.
At some point they’ll return to Spain to retire in a small village in the foothills near the mountains surrounded by open space and a lake where Mireia owns some property near her parents.
Camins 2 Dream Gruner Veltliner
(purchased with 15% industry discount)
Tart, bright, acidic.
According to Mireia, as the couple traveled the world tasting they were taken by Gruner Veltliner and they thought it would be an interesting wine to make in StaRita Hills. “We thought the varietal has great potential,” says Tara. “We’re trying to uplift that.” They’re also looking for wines to make from smaller vineyards like this one.
For our picnic, we paired the wine with oysters (terrific) and a ceasar salad from Industrial Eats, where the rich dressing tamed the wine right down. It worked well with the prosciutto telagio arugula pizza too.
That evening, I loved it with another oyster, this one with a slice of avocado. It handled the richness of the seared fresh scallop as well.
This is definitely a food wine!
Camins 2 Dream Rose of Syrah
This rose is made in the saignee method from the Syrah of all three 2019 vineyards Zotovich, Spear, and Sebastiani. It’s basically the juice that is bleeding off from the sorting table so there’s no skin contact but it has a lot of color because “our Syrahs are really big, dark.” They collect all the juice that they can and ferment it with stainless steel aging for 6 months.
On the nose, it has floral perfume, fennel, and licorice. The wine offers nice acidity but a lot of texture and it’s heavy on the palate. Plenty of there there to pair with food! Try it with barbacoa tacos on a summer day!
NV Red Blend of Syrah
Tara and Mireia love the wines of the Northern Rhone and find that the Sea Rita Hills offers a similar climate: it’s the coolest in the area they say. This wine blends the three vineyards of Syrah they work with as well as two vintages and they offer it at an affordable and popular price point to introduce people to their wines. This wine is crazy good but sold out.
This is a wine you can enjoy slightly chilled with or without food. Think about fried chicken or even salmon sushi!
Next we tasted three vineyard vintages comparing two sites and two years. Amazing how different the two sites are when they are only a mile apart.
2018 Spear Vineyard Syrah
(purchased with 15% industry discount)
Lots of fruit and pepper, big flavor, lots of acidity but on the lighter side for Syrah.
2018 Zotovich Vineyard Syrah
Much more pepper and spice, more meaty, less fruit. Big body, bold finish.
We also tasted the 2017 Zotovich— impressive for their first wine but certainly not their first rodeo! The vintage had tiny powerful berries bringing lots of acidity.
Stay tuned for more wines from this dynamic wife and wife winemaking duo with a focus on Kita! Also more pairings from our picnic and from home!
Want to meet more BIPOC winemakers and winery owners? This month the Wine Pairing Weekend group of wine writers have several to share with you! You can also check out the hashtag #WinePW on twitter.
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- The Many Talents of John Legend on A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Family and Wine Go Together for These Black-owned Businesses from My Full Wine Glass
- Black-Eyed Peas with Collard Greens and Maison Noir OPP by Cooking Chat
- Where’s Linus Sauvignon Blanc with a Shaved Vegetable Salad, Crostini, and Scallops on Cauliflower Rice Risotto on Crushed Grape Chronicles
- A Taste of Theopolis Vineyards from ENOFYLZ
- Pairing Crab Legs with Carmen Stevens’ Sauvignon Blanc by Our Good Life
- Meet Cheramie Law: Black, Female, and Founder of Texas’ Cheramie Wine from The Corkscrew Concierge
- Sipping Wines from the McBride Sisters Black Girl Magic Line by Avvinare
- Camins 2 Dreams: When a Chumash Winemaker Meets a Spanish One And Sparks Fly from Gwendolyn Alley, Wine Predator
- And here on Somm’s Table, I’m sharing An Inauguration Day Toast with Bodkin The Fearless Blanc de Blanc and Cauliflower Curry