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Locavore In Name Only? Truth Reiterated

By Charles Olken

Lord knows that I am no unabashed champion of natural, organic, authentic, biodynamic, dry-farmed, natural-yeast-fermented wines.

Lord also knows that I am entirely accepting of wines of that ilk. I judge wine by taste, balance and doing as little harm to the earth and to those who consume it.

Last week I complained about a very good Oakland restaurant that proudly trumpets its philosophy embodied in and by the causes/beliefs/processes listed in the opening sentence, including the other part of that philosophy that what they serve should be locally sourced whenever possible.

If you have not seen those comments and want to know what all the fuss is about, please scroll down to the blog entry from last Tuesday. It is just two entries down from here and not all that hard to find.

Not that I went out to look for it, but a conversation did develop between me and the wine buyer concerning the virtual absence of local wine on his otherwise interesting list, and in that conversation, those of us at the table were told that California did not make wines that suited the restaurant’s professed preferences.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Wines of that ilk have always been around. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote a long article about them based on another restaurant in Oakland named Ordinaire that serves nothing but. Funny that Ordinaire could find them but Camino could not.

Both the article questioning the list and the comments that follow contain mentions of California producers that fit the Camino requirements. And let’s be clear. The “requirements” are not what is in question here. It is the utterly contempt shown for California wine in the comments by the wine buyer and echoed by one of Camino’s suppliers in the comments section.

Here is another bit of proof of the shortsightedness and bias at work here.

Camino is a fine place to eat, but bring your own California wine if you, like me, think that California deserves even-handed treatment by local locavore restaurants. Camino is located at 3917 Grand Avenue.

Ordinaire, located just down the street at 3354 Grand Avenue, is a wine bar dedicated to the very wines that meet the Camino requirements. Here is what Ordinaire says: “We focus on natural wines from France, Italy, Spain and California”. And there, on their webpage, is a picture of their pouring list including Donkey & Goat, Broc, Matthiasson and Workbook.

So, how about it, Camino and acolytes? How about a walk down the street to find a broad range of wines from California, including wines made right there in Oakland and nearby in Berkeley? It is time for this nonsense that California does not produce wines in the required style. It always has. Ask Coturri and Frey and Edmunds St. John and Bonny Doon just to name a few who have been around a lot longer than Camino.


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Locavore Not
by Brad Kitson
Posted on:3/29/2016 5:13:22 PM

For me, local isn't just about sustainability.  It's personal, too.  You can get to know a local producer.  It's a lot harder to get to know a producer half a world away.

I feel sorry for Camino.  



restaurant wine lists
by Eric Scholnick
Posted on:3/30/2016 12:36:41 PM

I have dabbled in assisting restaurants in putting together wine lists.  Early in my first such endeavor, a distributor rep made the following comment:

"You know what's the hardest part about putting together a restaurant wine list?  Putting wines on there that you don't like."

That was an eye-opener for me.  As it turned out, some of the wines I liked sold well, others not so much, and some of the wines I wouldn't have selected before hearing that comment ended up being quite popular.

Sounds like the wine director at Camino is assuming that his palate is superior to all others, and everybody should like what he/she likes.  There are no doubt two sides to this story, and I haven't been to Camino, sampled their cuisine, or seen their wine list, but their stance smacks of pretention and arrogance.

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