When a wine festival’s website announces the following—“We’re, like, totally stoked to party with you”—it doesn’t take many guesses to find out where it’s being held. Nat Diego is San Diego’s first/only/premier/most exciting natural wine festival, and it happens in just a few short days, August 4th-6th. Tickets are available here, and range from single event tickets to weekend passes.
It was perhaps only a matter of time before this ever-temperate, farmers-market-loving California coastal city with a killer craft beer scene embraced minimal-intervention wine. Over the past few years three wine bars have taken conscious beverage consumption in San Diego beyond beer and into natural wine: The Rose Wine Bar, Vino Carta, and Village Vino. As expected, many San Diegans enthusiastically embraced the concept and as a result, this small but mighty new festival was born.
The dream team behind this event includes folks from each of the above wine bars, with Chelsea Coleman and Katie Fawkes of The Rose helping lead the way with informative videos on social media in the lead up to the event. They’ve covered everything from what natural fermentation means to the definition to terroir to…an acoustic guitar ditty dedicated to wine.
On that note, have you ever wondered what natural wine sounds like? You’re in luck:
This is the most gloriously San Diegan thing I’ve ever seen, and I’m saying that as a person who went to a San Diego high school with both surf and skate PE options. Event highlights include a “Locals Only” party featuring wines from both sides of the border, tacos, and likely perfect weather; a double-decker bus tasting cruise around San Diego; and more than fifteen importers and twenty-three wineries participating in the event.
To learn more I caught up with The Rose’s Chelsea Coleman for a quick chat about the festival.
Who is behind Nat Diego and how did it come to be?
Nat Diego came to be over good wine (of course) and a late night conversation. Some of the guys from Farm Wine and Vino Carta dreamed up the crazy idea to throw a bunch of parties around America’s Finest City. We at The Rose got wind of this at a tasting in LA with Farm Wine. Anne, one of The Rose ladies, immediately tagged the festival “Nat Diego” and we were off and running! Nat Diego is being organized by us (The Rose) and two other shops that focus on natural and traditional wines here in San Diego: Vino Carta and Village Vino. We are grateful to be able to work with winemakers and importers from across the globe!
You’re highlighting/featuring local winemakers and importers, including some from Mexico and Los Angeles. Who are the key players in San Diego’s burgeoning natural wine scene?
In San Diego there are three natural winemakers who use San Diego County grapes. They are Los Pilares, Vesper, and J Brix. All of these producers make beautiful, unique, and location-appropriate wines. When it’s 73 degrees and sunny pretty much all the time, a dry Vesper Rosé, a petulant natural of ambrosial Muscat from Los Pilares, or a food and chill-friendly Carignan from J Brix are just what the doctor ordered.
Across the border there is really only one producer whose natural wines make it to the states and that is Bichi Wines in Tecate. They make a Misión and a still Muscat that have some of the most wonderful curry spice notes like cardamon. As far as importers go, Los Angeles has become a new ground zero for natural wine on the West Coast. Amy Atwood and Farm Wine were the pioneers but a new legion of smaller and specialized portfolios are popping up, many of whom will be joining us for Nat Diego.
San Diego’s food scene has experienced a renaissance of late. What has the response been to the wines at your bar and to the festival in general?
You know, if you’re excited about something and believe in it, people feel that and the excitement is contagious. Making the switch from industrialized mega-wines to minimal intervention wines can be shocking because it’s just not what we’ve become accustomed to. But once you get people interested through what we call “gateway wines,” it’s easy to change hearts, minds, and palates.
We have a bartender, Zeke, who can somehow skip the gateways and convince a Prisoner enthusiast to drink an unfiltered, slightly effervescent Trollinger and thank him for it—but that’s a gift not all of us have. Long story short though, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Who wouldn’t want to consume alcohol without additives that comes from grapes grown and produced responsibly (often locally) if given the choice and the information? It can be a challenge to get people on board but once they switch over, there is no going back. They become accustomed to and develop a taste for clean wines.
What’s an ideal pairing for a fish taco lunch on the beach in Del Mar?
Los Pilares La Dona sparkling pet-nat Muscat!
Phylisa Wisdom (@wordsofpwisdom) is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn. This is Phylisa Wisdom’s first feature for Sprudge Wine.
Photos courtesy of The Rose.