writing by Kendra Aronson
images provided by Wine Camp

Wine Camp was born out of a love for intimate gatherings, small-scale local winemakers, and delicious food. The Central Coast of California has become the hub for up-and-coming, exceptional wine producers and we want to support this trend by sharing their wines with people, and providing our guests with a family-style menu based on what we’re pouring,” beams Molly Sowers. Molly and her co-curator, Emily Baker, host Wine Camp ‘Sunday Suppers’ bringing together seasonally-minded chefs, boutique winemakers, and hungry locavores to partake in an unforgettable meal experience. “We want our guests to walk away with further appreciation of Central Coast winemaking, a new producer to add to their wine repertoire, and a unique wine story to share around their own tables. Not only is Wine Camp’s Sunday Suppers series a platform for winemakers to feature their creations and guests to enjoy, we simply love celebrating the fundamental human need to gather and connect,” says Emily. 


The two gals both bring years of unique expertise to the communal table. Molly received a degree in Wine & Viticulture from Cal Poly, guided wine and culinary tours in France, harvested wine in Sonoma County, and served as the Assistant Tasting Director at the prestigious Wine Enthusiast Magazine in New York. Emily studied Visual Communication & Presentation at U.C. Davis, co-founded a wedding and event collective in Sonoma, and currently runs her own graphic design, styling, and creative direction studio in Arroyo Grande. Molly’s strong background in the wine industry paired with Emily’s creative eye, mixed together with their mutual penchant for celebrating the seasons, has made this collaborative project an instant success with a cult following.


It’s small behind-the-scenes details—like assigned seating and shared plating—that contribute significantly to the overall vibe of each intimate gathering. “We create the seating charts for each event as a way to introduce people and foster new relationships,” explains Molly. “[Serving] family-style meals naturally cause you to interact with the people you’re seated next to. Whether you’re complete strangers or close friends, you’re forced to rely on everyone at the table to be fed. This drives home a sense of community and relationship building we hope our suppers convey.” Even the personalized name cards feature heartfelt quotes from the farm-to-table goddess Alice Waters, “This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive.” and the joyful Julia Child, “Dining with one's friends and beloved family is certainly one of life's primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.” Not only do these cards act as a wonderful conversation springboard when forming new friendships at the Wine Camp dinner table, they also make for thoughtful ephemera to stick on the fridge as a reminder to gather—and gather often.


The inaugural Sunday Suppers series kicked off early November 2014 at a public park in Morro Bay, overlooking the ocean, under a grove of Eucalyptus trees, with twinkling string lights overhead. The tables were tastefully decorated with bright orange persimmons and sprigs of rosemary to reflect the autumnal seasonality. The menu included wood-fired octopus, roasted artichokes and cauliflower, chickpea and chorizo salad, chanterelle and hazelnut flatbread. These shareable, passable plates were carefully paired with Notary Public wine from the Santa Ynez Valley.


Sunday Suppers Vo. 2 took place mid-February 2015 inside a small 100-year old rustic barn at See Canyon Fruit Ranch, in the heart of Avila Valley. Everything was glowing that evening—from the votive candles on the table to the rosey cheeks induced by Côtière Wine.


Sunday Suppers Vo. 3 was hosted at The Station SLO (page ##)  in early August 2015, just a few weeks after this hip wine-bar-meets-modern-mercantile opened up its doors. Jake Francis, heritage-breed pig farmer of Valley Piggery (based in Santa Barbara) doubled as the chef for this evening’s proper pig roast. The sweet pork was paired with three different Dry Rieslings from small-production Central Coast winemakers: Solminer, Tatomer, and Maiden Stoen. They couldn’t have asked for better weather—everyone donned their summer shirts, skirts, and sunglasses to soak up the sunshine as they dined in the former gas station space with the garage doors rolled up.


When you gather at a Wine Camp table, your soul and stomach both leave satisfied. Seasonal fare? Check! Beautiful wine? Check! Stunning venues? Check! Community-driven conversation? Check! Not a bad way to spend a Sunday evening. Stay tuned for the highly anticipated Sunday Suppers Vo. 4 by visiting winecampcalifornia.com to sign up for their mailing list. Follow the duo on Instagram @winecamp to get teasers of venues they are currently scouting, wines they are tasting, and restaurants they are frequenting up and down the Central Coast.


Kendra Aronson is the writer, photographer, designer, and self-publisher of The San Luis Obispo Farmers' Market Cookbook: Simple Seasonal Recipes & Short Stories from the Central Coast of California. Visit slofarmersmarketcookbook.com to purchase your copies. 

Originally published in Edible San Luis Obispo & Wine Country 
Summer 201
6 · Issue 14