Batch #2 coming Spring 2024 - join our mailing list to know first!
Read more about the collab on EATER SF
Russ Moore and Allison Hopelain are two integral figures in the East Bay food scene. Following long stints together at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, they went on to become proprietors of Oakland stalwart Camino for a decade. At Camino, Allison and Russ were committed to infusing the experience with natural, local and organic ingredients throughout the menu and wine list. During that time, they would make vinegar in-house using leftover wine. Although they decided to close the restaurant in 2018, their passionate ethos for organic and locally-made food lives on through the continuation of Camino Vinegar.
In 2023, Allison and Russ teamed up with Broc to make a red wine vinegar using a red base wine from Broc. The result is an exciting, lively and fresh vinegar made from organically farmed 50% Nero d’Avola and 50% Valdiguié wine. We recently sat down with Allison and Russ to ask them all about vinegar and natural wine. Check out the Camino x Broc Red Wine Vinegar, coming soon.
What excites you about this Broc red wine vinegar?
We typically make vinegar from a lot of different wine that we acquire – including some Broc wine when it comes our way. This is our first collaboration with a winemaker, so we are excited to see how the qualities of Broc wine translate into vinegar. Our vinegar is alive and it's always a little bit of a mystery what direction the vinegar will take once it gets going. As we’ve tasted the Broc vinegar throughout the process, the vinegar has retained the freshness that Broc wines have – not just acidity, but actually a little motion on the tongue. It's very clean. Also the fruit – it tastes grapey.
We are excited that Chris actually picked the wine for this batch [50% Valdiguié and 50% Nero d’Avola], making it feel like a real collaboration. What we miss about not having a restaurant is working in a collaborative environment. This felt like a small step in that direction for us.
What is it about Broc that made you want to work with us and our wine?
So many things! Working with Broc gives us the opportunity to make a batch of vinegar with 100% organic wine made from California-grown grapes. What could be better?
We’ve felt a connection with Broc Cellars from back when we had the restaurant. We are thinking back specifically of a big dinner party at Camino to celebrate the release of Jon Bonné’s New California Wine and we served Broc wines with that meal. It really felt like the perfect intersection of the East Bay food and wine scene. So a bit of an opportunity to do that with you again.
We also really appreciate how strong the Broc community vibe is. It goes beyond what’s in the bottle–the labels, the club, the tasting room, the pop ups. Allison was really stoked that Marta made the label for this vinegar.
Why does working with quality wine matter?
Ingredients are everything! At Camino, we actively, continuously (some would say, relentlessly) sought out the best ingredients and did our best to highlight them. No tricks or disguises, just celebrating the ingredients to maintain the connection between agriculture and food (and wine!).
When we started making vinegar at Camino it was from the ends of bottles of wine from our list – mostly young, lighter, natural wines. We once had a wedding at Camino where the couple brought their own wine which was a big, California red. We used the extra wine for vinegar since we were not going to put it on our list. It was the only failed batch that we’ve had–it tasted jammy and cloying. But it was a good reminder that the same philosophy stands true with anything you make.
Any interesting tidbits about making vinegar you've learned over the years?
Mostly patience–there is no rushing it.
We like to make one complete batch at a time. I know some home vinegar makers add wine to their barrel as they use the vinegar. I would encourage them to let the process finish uninterrupted.
What's your favorite way or dish to use the Camino red wine vinegar?
Simple lettuce salad. We eat a lot of salad–butter lettuce in the summer, chicories in the winter. Truly an example of how using great ingredients elevates the simplest foods.
Butter Lettuce Salad with Homemade Vinegar and Herbs
Excerpted from This is Camino by Russell Moore & Allison Hopelain:
Camino vinegar is strong and flavorful so you can use a higher ratio of olive oil to vinegar for your vinaigrette. This helps create the right consistency to coat the lettuce leaves well with less vinaigrette so your salad isn’t too wet.INGREDIENTS
1 large butter lettuce head
1 small clove garlic
Red Wine Vinegar
A small handful of chopped soft herbs such as chervil, mint, anise hyssop, tarragon or chives, in any combination.
Make the vinaigrette right in the mortar by pounding the garlic with a pinch of salt then add a splash of vinegar. Stir in the olive oil. To dress the salad, toss the herbs in the bowl of lettuce. Sprinkle a little salt and a few grinds of pepper. Using a small ladle, start by dressing the lettuce lightly. The goal is to barely coat each leaf so, using your hands, gently toss the lettuce trying to touch each leaf. Taste and add more vinaigrette and salt, if needed.