Vinavanti Urban Winery Brings Locally Sourced, Craft Wine to San Diego

Vinavanti Urban Winery, San Diego

In a San Diego market overflowing with craft breweries, craft wine could be considered the black sheep (or bottle) of the bunch. Until you try it, that is. Then you just might become a dedicated convert like we are at Slow Food Urban San Diego.

What is craft wine anyway?

According to Eric Van Drunen, winemaker and owner of Vinavanti Urban Winery, “Craft wine is the punk music of the wine world.”

Most makers today have their wines down to a science, adding yeast, sulfites and other flavors to fit a specific “classical” or “pop” flavor profile. Van Drunen, however, takes a truly minimalist approach to winemaking where he adds nothing more than San Diego County grown grapes (they have a great map in the tasting room that shows all the local farms they source from!) and lets nature do its thing. Unique and surprising wines with subtle flavors representative of the grapes and farms where they are grown are the result.

Vinavanti Urban Winery, San Diego

Van Drunen’s Vinavanti label and tasting room evolved out of many hours drinking wine and eating good food with friends. He started buying and blending wines in 2007 to develop flavors that paired well with food and that he could sell at an accessible price. In 2010 he made his own wine for the first time using conventional methods. It turned out so-so. Bored of the limited flavor profiles of traditional wines, in 2011 he made his first natural wine and hasn’t looked back. From there, he continued to refine his process, focusing on doing as little as possible (or nothing at all) beyond sourcing local, organically grown grapes and letting nature and wild yeast do the work in the fermentation process. He bottles his wines unfiltered, highlighting the terroir through distinct colors, textures, and tastes.

Now, five years later, Vinavanti has more than 11 wines on their always evolving tasting menu, ranging from a sparkling Ladona Muscat grown in Pauma Valley that tastes something like a cross between a sour beer and kombucha to their most popular GSM, a rich and smoky blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grown in Temecula Valley.

So what can you expect when stopping by the only certified organic winery in San Diego?

“We aim to create an environment where you can enjoy a unique tasting experience in an inviting space,” say Van Drunen.

Van Drunen himself is often pouring glasses at the bar and loves to chat about natural winemaking, his background in physics and many topics in between. Community tables make for great social gathering spaces, and romantic two-tops are perfect for quieter date nights. 

Vinavanti is located at 1477 University Ave in Hillcrest, and as Slow Food Urban San Diego’s newest Member Benefits Partner, they offer a 10% discount on wines to card-carrying Slow Food members. Be sure to check them out for weekly specials and events including cellar tours (they ferment most of their wines right in the urban winery) and movie nights, and ask them about their membership program and wines on tap.

Vinavanti Urban Winery, San Diego

Join the SFUSD Board of Directors

Slow Food Urban San Diego is soliciting applications for our Board of Directors. If you are interested in joining our Board, please email a brief bio and letter of interest indicating the position in which you are interested in to by October 15th. In-person interviews will be scheduled in late October. Join us in supporting good, clean & fair food in our community. Positions up for election are described below.


Join us. We have wine.

Members of the Board serve up to two two-year terms in any one position, and newly elected Board Members will serve during 2016-17, beginning in January 2016. To be eligible, you must have or obtain a Slow Food membership. 

Education Committee Chair
The Education Committee provides the San Diego community with education and enrichment opportunities and supports campus and school chapters. The Committee supports existing programs, including the School Garden program, Edible for San Diego Kids, Farm-to-School, as well as educational programming for families and adults. The Chair oversees the Education Committee, which meets monthly, striving to engage and include Slow Food Urban San Diego’s membership as much as possible.

Farm Liaison / Ark of Taste Liaison
The Farm Liaison works to link Slow Food Urban San Diego with the local farming community and recommends strategies for the Chapter to advocate for and support farmers. The Farm Liaison sits on the Slow Food California Ark of Taste Committee (~2 conference calls a month and review of applications to the Ark) and to support Ark of Taste Programming and recognition in San Diego. The Farm Liaison may form a committee.

Membership Coordinator
The Membership Coordinator oversees all things membership. S/he maintains and updates the Chapter’s membership list and leads in recruiting and retaining members; reports membership status at each board meeting; organizes membership drives and leads in planning Slow Food Urban San Diego’s “Slow Sips” events. The Membership Coordinator also maintains relationships with our Member Benefit Partners and continues to build the Member Benefit Program. The Membership Coordinator may develop and coordinate additional programs to build the Chapter membership and may form a committee.

Outreach / Food Justice Committee Chair
The Outreach / Food Justice Committee spreads the word about Slow Food and collaborates with relevant community partners to promote sustainable food production and urban farming. The Committee represents SFUSD at community events and coordinates with the Membership Chair to develop and coordinate programs to build Chapter membership. The Committee also liaises with the Slow Food University Chapters, the SD Food Systems Alliance, and the Slow Food California Policy Committee, which meets monthly via conference call. The Chair oversees this committee and identifies community events and partnerships that best support the SFUSD mission and programs.

The Fund Development Chair
The Fund Development Chair creates, maintains and updates an inventory of resources of potential donors and sponsors; develops and implements a fund-raising campaign to be supported by the Board. The Fund Development Chair may form a committee.

The Secretary records minutes during monthly Board Meetings, administers annual elections and coordinates a schedule of interviews for Board positions.

The Treasurer maintains the books for the organization, handles expense reimbursements, accounts payable, and annual filings. The treasurer is responsible for leading the budgeting process and providing financial guidance to the Board, as well as presenting a Treasurer’s report at monthly board meetings. A working knowledge of Quickbooks is desired but training by the outgoing treasurer will be provided if necessary.

Vice Chair/Chair-elect
The Vice Chair works with the current Board Chair to administrate the Slow Food Urban San Diego Board of Directors and maintain chapter standing. Candidates must have served on the Slow Food Urban San Diego Board for a minimum of one year and agree to assume the Board Chair position in 2017 for at least a one-year term.

Communications Committee Chair
The Communications Committee facilitates Chapter communications through website maintenance, newsletters, social media and networking and ensures consistency of communications to members, media and the community. The Committee oversees marketing and getting the word out regarding Chapter activities. The Communications Chair oversees the committee and supports the Chapter Co-Leaders in tracking Slow Food California, Slow Food USA and Slow Food International activities of interest and in sharing SFUSD activities with other Slow Food entities. Strong writing, editing and communications skills required.

Slow Food Urban San Diego Board of Directors


Educating and Advocating for Healthy Bees in San Diego: Profile of San Diego Beekeeping Society Secretary Camille Smith

San Diego Beekeeping Society

Honeybees intuitively know when it’s time to nurture a new queen. So it’s no surprise that when Camille Smith landed in San Diego, the bees took flight to bring her a hive to nurture in preparation for a role as Secretary and Volunteer, Recruitment and Event Planning Coordinator of the San Diego Beekeeping Society.

Smith has always been interested in bees, but it wasn’t until she moved to California in 2008 that she had the opportunity to keep a hive of her own. That summer, three swarms came through her backyard, enticing her to buy a bee box. The bees didn’t return, but a few months later a friend called saying they had caught a swarm. Her forays as a suburban beekeeper had begun.

Over the next few months, she read a numerous books about beekeeping, watched educational videos on YouTube and joined the San Diego Beekeeping Society. From her mentor and working with society members, she learned hands-on how to properly care for bees to help them thrive.

Her initial interest in working bees quickly transformed into heartfelt passion.

“I love working with the bees,” gushes Smith. “It is so amazing how they work completely collectively with no ego. Everything they do is for the benefit of the entire hive. Even at the end of their lives, they go outside the hive to die so their sisters don’t have to clean out their bodies.”

This level of collective thinking inspires Smith in her role bringing people together at the San Diego Beekeeping Society. She and more than 1,000 volunteer members work to educate people about bees and best practices in responsible beekeeping. They visit schools and participate in community events to increase awareness about pollination and bees among people of all ages.

“The more information people have about bees, the more people are aware to not use pesticides/herbicides in their yards,” explains Smith.

The San Diego Beekeeping Society also works to advocate for legislation that is friendlier to bees and beekeeping. They had success a few years ago working with a coalition to loosen restrictions on urban beekeeping and designate best practices for keeping bees in the City of San Diego. More recently, the San Diego Beekeeping Society has worked with the County of San Diego to update their policies to make it easier for beekeepers to comply with the ordinances.

“We’ve made good progress,” says Smith. “We are proud to be doing our little part to help support the bees, and we have more people every month interested in becoming beekeepers.”

Even with growing efforts to support them, bees are not out of danger. Colonies are still collapsing from the combined effects of exposure to pesticides and herbicides, monoculture that limits access to food sources when crops are not blooming, and weakened immune systems from parasitic mites.

What can you do to learn more and support healthy bees?

Like the community-minded bees, together we can do more. Take it from a resident Queen Bee:

“Bees pollinate one third of the crops we eat,” explains Smith. “There is a direct relationship between the bees, our food, and our health. By voting with our pocket books – choosing to support local and sustainable food production through farmers’ markets and CSA – the food vendors will have to adjust. And the bees will fare better too.”