A woman walks into a bar…
Yes, it’s me and I’d waited a year to do so! What gives? I’d read a boisterous SF Chronicle article last March about the natural wine smackdown, Brumaire, a raucous, sold out fest that spotlights some of the best and brightest natural winemakers from around the globe...and with no knowledge of natural wine at all, this feature made me feel bad that I’d missed out. I knew wine that’s farmed organically or biodynamically and made without adding or removing anything in the ‘cellar’ sounded like my kind of thing. So I made a calendar note and bought tickets before they sold out for the 4th annual event this past weekend in Oakland...
I boned up a little over 2018, following along with Marissa Ross and buying some bottles from Ordinaire, a pretty place with French cafe vibes and the most comprehensive offerings bar none in the Bay Area for au natural wine (and the team behind Brumaire). Mind you, I still have no clue what’s truly going on, so when I showed up at the Starline Social Club I felt pretty intimidated and bewildered because my expertise was rock bottom and the atmosphere was akin to a mosh pit.
It’s a very free flowing event, but I think brouhaha might be a better term, what I envision Burning Man was like in 1993, a bunch of cool people doing their thing...there are two rooms, vendors scattered about and throngs of people holding out their glasses for a pour, and if they're lucky a little chit chat with the maker. Once I started organically jamming myself into tables for tasting after tasting, it all was super chill and fun. While every wine wasn’t for me and some were murkier than others, quite a few really popped and I savored speaking to the purveyors; they all loved what they were doing and there was a deep sense of community. I heard many stories like “friends gave me their excess grapes so we made this” and “a property near me had too many apples so we got a big haul and made cider.” This was a refreshing break from preciousness, legacy and mass market appeal, a few of the traditional hallmarks of the wine trade. You know how I love my let’s not be perfect and make good with what we have soap box, so I was really in my element…
There was a bit of a celebrity appeal for me too, I spotted Marissa Ross, happily meandering about, basking in the glow and glad handing her crew. Actually everyone was, just us tasters and makers enjoying the good life. In the end I couldn’t get to everyone, partly because it was getting more packed by the minute, partly because I was getting buzzed and partly because there was some fried chicken with my name on it at Hopscotch down the street. All in all, it was definitely worth the wait and I know I'll be drinking a lot less sulfites this year...
Some of my faves included:
- La Garagista - Barnard, VT
- Methode Sauvage - Sierra Foothills, CA
- Hardesty Cellars - Arcata, CA
- La Clarine Farm - Sierra Foothills, CA
- Oriol Artigas - Cataluña, Spain
- En Cavale - Contra Costa County, CA
- The Shaking Hand - San Francisco, CA
Photo credit - Bon Appétit