“Artists teach us to see the world with refreshed vision, they force us to ask questions about society, they console us and even enrage us. But, above all, they engage us and remind us of our own role in the world,” says Donna Granata, founder and leader of Focus on the Masters (FOTM), a non-profit, 501(c)(3), art appreciation program that documents, preserves, and presents the lives and works of accomplished contemporary artists, with most of them from here in Ventura County, California.
Recently, FOTM founder Donna Granata led an informal talk with Clos des Amis owners and winemakers Bruce Freeman and Gretel Compton, both who had successful artistic careers before wading into wine. The event included a lively discussion of how they incorporate their artistic creativity in their wine making while we enjoyed three Clos des Amis wines paired with delicious food prepared by Yennyn and Christine Beirne in a beautiful backyard garden setting on a sunny Saturday afternoon in the Ojai Valley.
I experienced an example of Bruce and Gretel’s artistry on a recent November Saturday.
No, Bruce wasn’t pulling prints and Gretel wasn’t doing graphic arts or teaching figure painting.
This was the artistry in the glass, on the plate, in teaching a task, and in creating community. Instead of an art class, this was a “Clos des Amis” or circle of friends gathered at the winery to bottle the Ventura County field blend which is made up of small lots of Malbec, petit verdot, carignan, and other red grapes from the estate as well as other red grapes from vineyards in Ventura County.
While Gretel made and stoked the fire to make paella, Bruce taught us about bottling, and different people tried the various stations: from sterilizing the bottles to filling them to corking them and so on. The machine that attaches the lead was not cooperating, and it took Bruce a bit of time to get the label machine to work right. Some people had joined the enterprise before but for others, this was only their first or second time at the winery.
The wine we were bottling? One barrel of the 2020 Clos des Amis Field Blend. We picked the Malbec, Petit Verdot and other grapes that went into this blend while listening to MusiKaravan– Etienne Gara and YuEun Kim who visited the winery in their vintage red VW bus. Art attracts art!
Read about the finished and bottled but unreleased wine below!
2020 Clos des Amis Field Blend
SRP $26 (currently unreleased)
One barrel = 22 cases
Color: Bright vibrant color, very dense, plum, magenta rim, very deep and dark in color
Aroma: Lots of fruit, cherry, raspberry, a fruit basket of fruit, and a spice rack of spices, sage, mint,
Palate: Blue fruit, dry and chalky texture, eucalyptus, grippy tannins, lots of fruit with a nice tannins and structure.
Pairing: While not my favorite with paella, it works ok. It’d be better with a juicy burger or lamb, and I can testify it was fantastic with a filet mignon with blue cheese!
By the way, if you’re looking for a worthy cause for your end of the year donations, consider Focus on the Masters!
This article is part of a monthly series which I began in January 2019 when I first ventured out to help at Clos des Amis, located on South Mountain above the Santa Clara River in Ventura County. Read more about Clos des Amis and Ventura County wineries and vineyards in this mostly once a monthly series with the oldest posts at the bottom:
- October 2021: Respect the basket press
- September 2021: VC Vineyards are on Chumash Land
- August 2021: Chardonnay Harvest: Ventura County Vineyards August 2021
- July 2021: Blending and Verasion– Ventura County Vineyards and Beyond
- June 2021: Slow Wines, Fast Times: Ventura County Vineyards Growing Great
- May 2021: Chardonnay Day Chardonnays
- April 2021: Rose Bottling at Clos des Amis
- March 2021: Party time? Pinot and Paella
- February 2021: Works of Art: Open That Bottle Night
- January 2021: Clos des Amis VeroTalk planned
- December 2021: Clos des Amis Wine Club
- November 2020: Local Love –wines and vines
- October 2020: Harvest 2020
- September 2020: Music in the Malbec–Harvest 2020
- July 2020: Birds and the Bees and the Zinfandel Trees
- July 2020: Verasion: Heading toward Harvest
- June 2020: ZOOM BOOM
- MAY 2020:BLAME IT ON…
- APRIL 2020: PASSION
- March 2020: Bud Break, Spring Break, Jailbreak, Chavez Break: Ventura County Vineyards Report March 2020
- February 2020: Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh My: New Wood and Old Cars in Ventura County Vineyards
- January 2020: Deadwood
- December: 2019 Going Out with a Chambang!
- November 2019: Dormancy and Syrah
- October 2019: Final Harvest and #MerlotMe
- September 2019 in Ventura County Vineyards: Focus on Grenache
- August 2019: Fogust Harvest — Chardonnay for CHAMBANG!
- July 2019: No Sky July and Verasion
- June 2019: June Gloom and Etiolation
- Ventura County Vineyards: May Gray
- April 2019: Leaf Pulling
- March 2019: Gretel Meys Compton, Clos des Amis co-owner, co-winemaker
- February in Ventura County Vineyards
- January 2019: Pruning