Two California Winemakers Host an Unforgettable Dinner Melding Culture and Flavor
It's a crisp autumn night in Santa Barbara County, and Mireia Taribó and Tara Gomez have brought together family and close friends for a harvest celebration in the vineyard. The two winemakers, who are also married, have nestled a table among the vines at Hayes Ranch; local flowers provide bursts of color. Gomez's parents and brother are here, along with cousins and friends, and the Hayes family, who owns the ranch. While the two women put finishing touches on the first course (canapés of whipped goat cheese and quail eggs on crisp crackers, see recipe opposite), the guests sip wine from Camins 2 Dreams, Taribó and Gomez's winery.
Taribó and Gomez are known for their outdoor dinners during harvest season. With the Pacific Ocean in the distance, it's a beautiful setting, but there is also a pesky afternoon breeze making it challenging to cook outside. Even so, the wind's chilly side is part of what drew them to make wine in these hills. In 2019, they launched their joint winemaking project, Camins 2 Dreams. (Camins, from Taribó's native Catalan, means routes, paths, or ways.) The wines they make are energetic and mouthwatering, full of intense flavor, and they come entirely from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, where vineyards are marked by that constant wind and coastal influence.
"The cool weather means we're able to grow the varieties we like here," Gomez says. "It helps retain their freshness." The ocean wind keeps temperatures low, helping preserve vibrancy in the grapes and making the resulting wines particularly well-suited to the food she and Taribó love to cook.
"In Spain, wine is food. You have wine with all your meals," Taribó says. "So we try to make wines that are really food-friendly." Taribó grew up in Catalonia, in northeastern Spain, but she's lived in Santa Barbara County since 2014, when she and Gomez married.
To honor this year's harvest, the couple pairs their mouthwatering Grüner Veltliner and floral, savory Syrah with a series of dishes that take advantage of the abundant local produce. The main course is inspired by Taribó's homeland, but instead of a typical paella, she makes a variation characteristic of Catalonia, fideuà, in which slowly sautéed squid and shrimp nestle into a bed of short, thin noodles rather than rice. The noodles soak up the seafood stock as they cook, their flavor intensifying as they crisp on the bottom of the pan, just as rice in a standard paella would. Taribó grew up on fideuà; tonight, it represents a bringing together of her Catalonia heritage with that of Gomez's people.
Gomez belongs to the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, who are native to the rolling hills of this region. She was raised with the tribe's traditional perspective of gathering foods naturally found in the area, including those of the lakes, rivers, and nearby ocean. This evening's meal incorporates many of those Chumash ingredients (see "The Chumash Kitchen," below), with elderberries and hummingbird sage mixed into a green salad and pine nuts garnishing a tart with a crust dotted with toasted chia seeds. Gomez makes her goat cheese canapés with flour from ground acorns; polenta crackers work well as a substitute.
For Taribó and Gomez, cooking together in the vineyard means centering both of their cultures; theirs is a community of sharing. The two women met in 2006, when Taribó was working the harvest at J. Lohr winery in Paso Robles and Gomez was heading up the winery's lab. At the time, Gomez also had Kalawashaq' Wine Cellars, making her own wines early in the mornings and late at night between shifts at J. Lohr. A few weeks into harvest, Taribó started helping. Soon, the two became friends, and when it was time for Taribó to return to Spain, she invited Gomez to accompany her. Thus began an annual tradition: Gomez would visit Taribó to travel the wine regions of Europe, and Taribó would visit Gomez to check out wineries in the United States. In the midst of their travels, they fell in love. Then, Gomez found herself presented with an incredible opportunity.
In 2010, she helped the Santa Ynez Band launch the country's first fully Native American-owned winery, Kitá. The tribe had just purchased one of Santa Barbara's most respected vineyards, Camp 4 (originally planted by the late actor and vintner Fess Parker), and Gomez became her tribe's first winemaker. She has since been recognized by the California State Legislature as the nation's first Native American winemaker, and Kitá has been recognized as the first winery to be fully owned and run by a tribe.
At that time, Taribó was working for a small winery in Spain's Pyrenees, Castell d'Encus, using grapes grown in rocky, high-elevation vineyards; she made some of the wines in ancient stone vats that were hewn into the hillsides by Spanish monks in the Middle Ages. That experience became an inspiration for her. "The winemaking I was doing in Spain is what I try to do here at Camins 2 Dreams," Taribó says. "I try to be really delicate and respectful of the grapes and the wine."
That mindset dovetails with Gomez's perspective. "Growing up, I was taught the importance of balance. We gravitate to vineyards where we are able to find these connections and share that same respect." And making wine together has fulfilled a long-term dream for her and Taribó. "We've always wanted to start a project of our own," she says. "Mireia wasn't sure it was the right time yet, but I just asked her, 'Is there ever a right moment?'"
Wines of Dreams
Mireia Taribó and Tara Gomez's Camins 2 Dreams wines are made in very small amounts, and the best place to purchase them is directly from the winery. Visit camins2dreams.com for more information.
2020 Camins 2 Dreams Spear Vineyards Grüner Veltlinerpét-Nat ($45)
A playful and mouthwatering sparkling wine that's bursting with fresh citrus and stone-fruit flavors, surprising depth, and refreshing length
2020 Camins 2 Dreams Spear Vineyards Grüner Veltliner ($30)
Notes of peaches and nectarines sprinkled with fresh-squeezed citrus deliver a still white wine that is mouth-quenching, fresh, and satisfying, with a creamy mouthfeel
2019 Camins 2 Dreams Rosé of Syrah ($25)
With a bit more amplitude and body than a typical rosé, this wine combines savory flavor with notes of spiced melon and juicy red fruits. It's mouthwatering, with just enough structure to make it a perfect accompaniment to almost any meal.
2018 Camins 2 Dreams Spear Vineyards Syrah ($42)
Aromatics of violet and lavender saunter from the glass in this Syrah, delivering a palate of dark, ripe berries mixed with white pepper and seared meats. There is length and succulent tannin for versatility at the table.
2018 Camins 2 Dreams Zotovich Vineyard Syrah ($46)
This Syrah is both elegant and substantial—succulent, delicious, and refreshing. Violet perfume, notes of black currant, and the lightest crack of black pepper bring a full palate of flavor, as well as a silken mouthfeel. Drink this wine now, or hold it for a few years of aging.
The Chumash Kitchen
Harvested then dried and lightly cured, acorns are traditionally ground into a fine meal using a mortar and pestle. A slow, careful water bath reduces the tannins in the resulting powder. Acorn flour has a mild, sweet, nutty flavor and is typically used to make small cakes or biscuits.
Used either whole or ground, pine nuts are an important nutrient source while also bringing a rich, crunchy element to any dish. The tribe gathers them during the warmer months and stores them for use throughout the year. While pine nuts can be used raw, toasting them adds another layer of flavor.
Elderberries, considered a medicinal plant, grow wild in the region. Used either whole (as in this Mission Fig, Elderberry, and Mixed Greens Salad) or crushed, they're lightly fragrant and offer a hint of sweetness.
More fragrant and less bitter than other types of sage, hummingbird sage is native to the cool coastal parts of Santa Barbara County. The Chumash chop the leaves into salad dressings, tear them straight into salads, or add them to other fresh dishes for a vibrant, perfumed note.