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We are Campos Family Vineyards

01 November 2017 Written by  By Michelle Campos
Published in November 2017 Articles

Two years ago my husband Ric and I opened our Campos Family Vineyards, which is a vineyard and event destination located on 44 acres in rural Byron.

We have a tasting room, an event center, concert venues, a wedding garden, a bocce ball court, a baseball field, and more! 

We are Campos Family Vineyards because the site has a welcoming family friendly atmosphere. Kids and young people compete on our athletic field. Children have fun on our playground, while their parents enjoy a glass of wine and some fellowship in one of our outdoor gathering areas. “Family” is also in our name because this really is a business in which Campos family members serve in the tasting room, assist with the events, work in the harvest, direct traffic, and manage weddings. The vineyard’s “family” includes members who aren’t blood relatives. Ric was a gifted football coach and applies his skill at team building in maintaining teams at the winery including Tasting Room Staff, Working Guys Crew, our Admin and Front Office Team, and our Facility Manager, Marty. Without these dedicated people, we couldn’t have survived or be able to do all the things that we have been called to do. 

Campos Family Vineyards is a community resource. The event center is useful for corporate events, weddings, private parties, wine-tastings, community fundraisers, and similar gatherings. We have spaces for concerts indoors and out. Our Wine Down Friday summer concert season runs from the end of May through the end of September. One of the central activities is a Sunday morning worship service when the event center transforms for a couple hours into Freedom House. 

We have special events throughout the year. Last April we sponsored a huge Easter Egg Hunt complete with a bunny who posed for pictures with the children. This month, November 25, will be our annual Sip & Shop, which is one of our most important annual wine-tasting events. Local vendors and artisans will be on hand, with live music, food trucks, and raffles to benefit a local charity. We will sell wine, of course, and a variety of gift baskets. It will be a great way to kick off the holiday season. 

On the first Friday in December, which will be December 1, we’ll do our Second Annual Campos Christmas Tree Lighting with Santa, food trucks, carolers, live music, and pictures with Santa.

Our vineyard is home to a number of special events and fundraisers, big and small. This past summer we hosted the popular Wine in the Bay fundraiser for St. Anne Church. We also had a crab feed fundraiser for the Knights Travel Baseball Club. 

In July the facility rang with laughter and tears as people gathered for Jeff Cornelius’ Celebration of Life. Nobody left the premise without being touched by Jeff’s story and by the amazing courage displayed by Ginamarie and her eight daughters. 

Last August we did a huge fundraiser for the Temple Grandin Autism Fund. We honored the event in a particular way with a unique label called Gigi’s Blend in honor of our 11-year-old granddaughter who has Asperger syndrome, which is an autism spectrum disorder. Even though Gigi has some developmental issues, common to people with the condition, Gigi also is artistically gifted, which is another characteristic of the disorder. In fact, she designed the label for Gigi’s Blend using joyful swirling colors and textures that some people consider to be the most beautiful label on a wine bottle they ever saw. The label is so beautiful that I’m sure some people will be reluctant ever to open the bottle. 

A big Just Breathe fundraiser last month was in support of 27-year-old Tiffany Rich. We met Tiffany’s parents, Danny and Darcy, last December when they were guests in our tasting room. While chatting with them, we asked Tiffany’s mom about a tattoo with the word BREATHE. The question made her tear up and she told us that their daughter, who has cystic fibrosis, was waiting to receive a double lung transplant. As we sometimes do in such cases, Ric and I asked if we could pray with her. She was glad to let us do so. 

A few weeks later we learned that Tiffany got a call for new lungs. Not long after the successful transplant, Tiffany and her parents worshipped with us at Freedom House. We agreed to host a fundraiser to help her defray the expenses associated with the transplant. The fundraiser was a wonderful event because two local performing artists, Brandon Passion and Toree McGee, provided the opening act for the featured group, which was none other than the Marshall Tucker Band. 

We love to mix and mingle with people in the tasting room and at the events. We especially enjoy serving people through our events and fundraisers. We have never worked harder in our lives or had so much satisfaction in living. 

OUR WINE

Campos Family Vineyards is on 44 acres, 36 of which are planted in grapes including Petite Sirah, Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, and Mourvèdre. Our soil is clay so our wines are lighter shades but our fruit is amazing. Grape harvest, at the end of September, yields 200 tons of grapes; we use 50 tons for bottling nine estate wines, creating 1,500 cases a year. We hope in future years to make more wine ourselves and sell fewer grapes to other wineries. 

Tom Bloomfield, with 35 years of experience, is my farming consultant. Our winemaker, Gerardo Espinosa, makes the wine through his Lodi company called Lodi Crush. The Van Ruiten Family Winery in Lodi does our bottling. 

In 2016 Ric entered the first wine we bottled, which was a Petite Sirah, in the Monterey County Wine Competition. It is customary to not open a new bottle of wine for six weeks to avoid bottle shock. However, Ric had just bottled it the day he learned of the competition. Nevertheless, he FedExed it the next day and won a Silver medal. Bolstered by the victory, he entered the wine in an international competition in New York where it won another silver medal. 

BACK STORY

Ric and I first became interested in wine when we were co-owners of a business based in the Santa Rosa area and would take day trips to Napa where we became familiar with some of the area’s beautiful wineries. We were attracted by how the vines were in orderly rows of green marching into the distance. 

Each of the vineyards has a distinct personality. I remember one day saying to our young granddaughter, “Look at that vineyard, Gigi.” She replied, “It looks like every vineyard, Nanna.” But she was only looking at the plants. When you raise your eyes and really look around, every vineyard is unique and each is beautiful in its own way. 

Ric and I tried to imagine what life would be like for people who were able to live and work in their own winery — managing the harvests, living in those beautiful spaces, hosting winetasting events, and embracing each part of the experience. We began to dream of having a small vineyard of our own and could imagine an acre of grapes and bottling a few hundred private label vintages that we could enjoy ourselves and share with friends and family members. 

We were living in Discovery Bay when Leer Vineyards started up, offering a full-fledged wine experience right in our back yard. Ric and I became regular visitors to the vineyard. We joined their wine club, attended their concerts and events, and fell in love with the place. Every time we turned off Byer Road and drove down the lane into the property, a sense of peace would come over us. The Bible said that one of God’s gifts is “wine to gladden the hearts of men.” The site seemed to have a nearly sacred quality about it. We imagined that our hearts were “gladdened” and that we felt the peace and the presence of God in that place. 

When we learned that the owners were putting the vineyard up for sale, our hearts sank. We feared that people who would not maintain the quality we had come to appreciate would purchase it as investment property, or perhaps it would become corn and tomatoes. We were surprised when the owner Stefan Leer approached us and offered his opinion that it would be good if Ric and I purchased the property ourselves.

Our initial reaction was to laugh at the suggestion. For one thing, for decades we had been diligently working on Ric’s Storm Water Inspection and Maintenance Services business and were beginning to make plans to retire. We had come to a point where life was good. We were comfortable and loved our Discovery Bay home. We were looking forward to having time for more leisure activities and travel. Our little daydream of having a small hobby-size vineyard was altogether different than the prospect of taking over a thriving winery that would certainly entail a lot of seven-days-a-week effort, and on some of those days working from early-morning-till-late-at-night. 

Things changed one day when Ric had a waking vision. While looking at a picture of the property from an aerial point of view he saw in his mind a church building in the middle of the vineyard. Within minutes he called Stefan Leer. “I had a vision,” he said. “I saw a church right in the middle of the property. Let’s get together with our pastor and with people from the county and see what the possibility is.” 

The subsequent response wasn’t encouraging because he learned that the property is in an agricultural zone in which such a structure couldn’t be built. The discovery made Ric doubt his vision until he realized that perhaps the point of the vision was to create a place for Sunday worship rather than actually constructing a physical church building, and that we could convert a large garage space into an event center that we could then use for any purpose. 

The county agreed, as long as we brought it up to code by adding ADA restrooms, a sprinkler system, and were in compliance with all fire, life, and safety regulations. The county further agreed to our using the space for services of worship as long as we didn’t call it a church. (Some people wonder about worshiping in a vineyard, but we remind them of Jesus’ first miracle.) 

As soon as the path ahead became clear, we put our house on the market, sold it quickly, and got to work on the purchase transaction. Any property transfer is complicated but our case required six months of paperwork because of all the income streams and separate structures that we had to take into account including our sports facility, the grapes, the tasting room, the event center, and the house. We kept encountering new issues that continually challenged our strength and our purpose. However, Ric and I agreed to continue moving forward in the process as long as doors kept opening and we continued to have peace about the plan. 

Serving the community in various ways is the best thing about Campos Family Vineyards as far as Ric and I are concerned. We’ve never been busier in our whole lives, but this has been a continual joy for both of us — far better than any retirement could ever have been. 

In spite of the fact that we’ve had an amazing number of people on campus during the two years we’ve been doing this, we never had a bad experience. People love coming back to Campos Family Vineyards. They enjoy the same kind of peace that is still so real to us. Their hearts are obviously “gladdened” as well. 

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