Tara Gomez and Mireia Taribò Are Blending Diversity and Culture Into Natural Winemaking in Santa Rita HillsVinePair
Tara Gomez and Mireia Taribò are partner winemakers for the boutique winery Camins 2 Dreams in Santa Barbara County, Calif. Partners in wine and in life, this couple makes natural wine from grapes sourced in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA — using anything but the traditional Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Gomez, a Chumash Indigenous Native American, and Catalonian-born Taribò, are like polar opposites, both possessing a myriad of knowledge and winemaking skills that together create a perfectly balanced equation. Married in 2014, the couple met in California while working at J. Lohr Winery in Paso Robles. Soon afterward, they moved to Spain to make wine at Castell d’Encus before returning to the hills of Sta. Rita, Calif., to start their own label, Camins 2 Dreams. Sourcing grapes that are unusual for the region — Syrah and Grüner Vetliner, along with Gamay, Carignan and Albariño this year — the couple decided to go against the grain to create unique wines they love, which are available in their tasting room in Lompoc, Calif.
Although only on their fourth vintage, these women are already investing in their community with a commitment to uplifting others through mentorship and partnering with local groups such as the Hue Society, Bâtonnage, and Speed Rack.
In the following interview, winemakers Tara and Mireia sat down with VinePair to discuss making natural wine while creating community in the Sta Rita Hills of Santa Barbara and beyond.
1. Both of you have had successful careers as winemakers prior to starting Camins 2 Dreams. What made you decide to start a wine label together?
TG: It’s always been a dream for us to do something on our own. We didn’t want to be working for somebody else forever. We wanted to do something for ourselves, and it allows us to experiment with different varieties.
MT: When you have your own winery, you can interpret how you want your wine to be without anybody telling you what to do. It’s riskier but it’s also more fun.
2. What varieties are you working with currently, and where are you making them?
MT: That’s what we have in the market and what we make the most of. Last year, we also started with Grenache and Graciano [available to our] wine club only. All still wine, but we do have a Pét-Nat of Grüner.
TG: As far as the vineyards, we focus on Sta. Rita Hills. We work with one vineyard, “Christy and Wise,” that is just outside of the Sta.Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County, but a really cool vineyard: biodynamic, sandy soil, head-trained vines, really pretty. We source our Graciano from there. We also source from Zotovich and Spear for our Syrah, which is more of a clay loam-dominant soil.
3. Working as a couple was a big decision! How does working with your spouse change the way that you approach winemaking?
TG: With our own label, we are able to experiment with different varieties that I wasn’t able to do before on my own (Kalawashaq’ was Tara’s first wine label) . We have a shared mission: We both like the same style of wine, so we made what we wanted to make from the beginning, and we also share the same philosophy of winemaking.
MT: Well, starting two different wine labels would be difficult! We have a shared vision, we like the same style of wine, and we share the same view of winemaking. But also, there’s compromise. Like, if I say I want to make a certain wine and she’s not sure, then we will say, “You choose one, and I choose one.”
TG: For me that’s Carignan. I’ve always wanted to make Carignan as a single-variety wine. And finally, this year I’m going to do it. At my other winery, I’ve had to make it as a blend, but I always wanted to make 100 percent Carignan. Here at Camins, we both enjoy the same varieties and fresher wines with higher acidity, so we have the freedom to choose what we make.
4. Is there anything that either of you would have approached differently on your own?
MT: I don’t think there’s anything I would’ve done differently. I don’t think I would change anything. If anything, it’s nice to have a sounding board for someone to bounce ideas off of.
TG: To be quite honest with you, I’m really enjoying this moment with Camins 2 Dreams because with Kita it was always just me, and here it’s the both of us.
MT: Even though you are really specific down to the line on the floor!
Mireia points down to a grid outline on the floor measured to optimize barrel spacing. Both laugh.
TG: Mireia is just a go-getter and wants to get things done, but I am thinking about something to the point of overthinking, then I plan it out, and then I think about it again before finally making a decision.
5. Clearly, you work well to balance each other out. Even the name, Camins 2 Dreams, in both English and Spanish is like a balanced equation. Both the name and label design of your wine seems very personal. Can you tell us the story behind it?
MT: So “Camins” means “path” in my language, Catalan, which is spoken in the northeast part of Spain. It represents the path to our dreams. I came from Spain to do an internship at J. Lohr winery where I met Tara back in 2006. Afterwards, I went back to Spain, and I invited her over and we were going back and forth for over eight years. Throughout this time, we visited many wine regions and tasted wines everywhere, so I always say that all these paths we took led us to our dream winery. And here we are! Hence, Camins 2 Dreams.
TG: The label design depicts a vine tree in a circular shape representing the world, because we come from different parts of the world. The roots are deep and represent the deep roots we have, and are showcasing the vineyards and soil on the land we are making our wines from. In the middle, there is a yin and yang, symbolic of the balance that we have between each other as well as the balance within the wine. We balance each other pretty well.
5. You both have very unique cultural backgrounds. Does this influence your wine making choices at all?
MT: The reason we chose natural winemaking and minimal intervention is because of where we come from. In Tara’s culture, you want to respect the land; and me, coming from Spain, I’m used to drinking natural wine. I learned to make wine this way. So, we make low-intervention, natural-style wines that are lighter and more food-friendly because in Spain, our wine is meant to be enjoyed with food. That’s what I’m used to drinking and that’s what I want to make.
In Spain, we didn’t add anything to the wine, so here it is the same, other than about 20 ppm sulfur before bottling; we use wild yeasts and no finning, no filtering. My family was making wine just for home consumption. It’s a very small vineyard and we don’t sell it. I think my great-grandfather planted the vines, so maybe 30 years ago. But I remember when I was a kid, we would just go pick the grapes, foot-stomp them, put the wine in a barrel, and that was it. I grew up like that; you get what you get from the vineyard and try to make the best out of it.
TG: And I learned about this with you, Mireia, I always wanted to do natural wine with other wineries I worked for but I was always under too much pressure, so I had to go the conventional route. For this brand we are totally free to do it. Ultimately, I look for balance in everything that I do. Growing up it was instilled in me to find balance within yourself and in your surroundings, so I look for that in the wine.
6. You represent a range of diverse communities within the wine industry, being women, people of color, Indigenous, and part of the LGBTQIA+ plus community; did you ever experience any discrimination?
MT: The only time I felt like I was an immigrant was when I first came here. I had one job in a cellar doing labeling and bottling, and the winemaker was expecting me to work outside of the cellar, cleaning his house. He sort of demanded it. He basically threatened, “Do you want a job or not?” And I remember thinking, “Just because I am from another country doesn’t mean you make those demands. I am here to make wine.” Otherwise, I’ve been pretty lucky. I’ve had good bosses. I did experience some discrimination once I started helping out Tara at Kita, derogatory comments, but that was more directed to her and to the tribe.
TG: Yeah, I’m used to it. Growing up I went to a private school, so just because of the color of my skin, I’ve always sort of stuck out. We were the only people of color in our school, so trying to fit in was always difficult. In general, having the connection with the Chumash tribe and encountering people who refuse to try our wines because I am from the tribe. … There has always been some discrimination towards the tribe. Sometimes, it feels like we have to go outside of the community in order to sell our wine.
7. How have you been able to overcome these experiences in the wine space?
TG: Recently, things have been better. In the past, I’ve just put my head down and forged my own path. It wasn’t until 2020 that we started really building community. Prior to 2020, I didn’t even know that there were other Indigenous people in the industry. With things going virtual, it’s been super cool. We’ve been able to form a community within some of the panels we’ve been on, which is great.
8. What are some things that could change within the wine industry?
MT: Well more diversity is one thing; it’s white and male-dominated, so that needs to change. I mean, diversity is always a good thing! We like wine that is diverse, and if you have a diverse group of people making wine, then they’re going to be more unique and different. Like you said, we each bring a part of our culture to the wines, and that’s what makes wine interesting.
Also, as wineries we have to show potential applicants that we are open and inclusive via our actions. Wineries that don’t show this are not going to get a good base of diverse applicants applying to work with them.
TG: I think it’s time people truly listen and learn. We can’t keep excusing those who refuse to listen and do the work.
9. What are some of the ways you have begun to build community and essentially change the narrative for others in the wine industry? What are some of the groups you are a part of?
TG: We are working on being mentors and showing up in the community. The Hue Society, WineFare SF, and Bâtonnage Mentorship Program are some of them. It’s awesome to have met some of those people. This year, Bâtonnage is still going to be virtual, but they’ll also be doing an in-person tasting that we’re going to be a part of. Speed Rack Advisory squad, I’m a mentor for that; also, the James Beard Legacy Board network is really awesome. I’ve learned a lot from their sessions. They are training me to be a better mentor for someone who wants to learn and be a part of this industry. How awesome is that?
10. Really awesome! So, What’s next for Camins 2 Dreams?
MT: Now that Covid protocols are lightening up, our tasting room is back open by appointment, which is great because we were only open eight months — literally our first vintage — before the shutdown happened. We’re working on our direct-to-consumer (DTC) market. Currently, we have expanded our DTC operations to New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Washington State, and California, with Ontario and the U.K. up next.
TG: Also, we are making Gamay, Carignan and Albariño. We’re excited about that. We’re doubling on production this year. Right now, it’s just Mireia and I, but in the future, we’d like to employ interns. It’s scary, but we’re growing and we love it.
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