Winemaker’s tale of Covenant and divine providence


One of the newest producers to enter the domestic kosher wine market is Camuna Cellars out of Berkeley, Calif.
Camuna is a passion project from Eli Silins, cellar master at the kosher Covenant Winery, and his wife, Molly Nadav, an artist and also Covenant’s project director.

A Chicago native, Silins chalks his involvement in wine up to “divine providence. I was living with kinda hippies in a sort of commune around Chicago,” he told me last week by phone, “and I came out to California [in 2012] with some friends,” more or less on a lark. He wound up landing a harvest internship with the Covenant Winery for 2013, and so it just sort of came together.

Covenant was still operating in Napa that year, but moved to Berkeley as it expanded in 2014. Silins was already living in Berkeley by then. He meshed well with the Covenant folks, and quickly transitioned from harvest intern to
team member.

In 2014, Silins met Nadav. A Philadelphia native, Nadav stared working at Covenant the next year. The two Married in 2016.

“I’m mostly in the cellar making the wine,” said Silins, “and Molly designs the labels, and is really more than half of
the business.”

They are still exploring and haven’t settled on exactly what they want Camuna Cellars to be. Their wines are kosher (OU supervision), but they are not geared particularly to the kosher market.

“I’m not designing a wine or trying to impose anything in particular on the wines I make,” Silins said. “I’m trying not to mess around with the quality or character of the fruit we get.”

Rather, they are striving to make honest, fun, approachable interesting and not-too-expensive table wines for themselves, and for people like them.

For this first official release, they made one barrel of Barbera rosé [25 cases, or 300 bottles], one barrel of “ancient wine” Carignan, and three barrels of Nebbiolo [75 cases, or 900 bottles].

Silins and Nadav source their grapes exclusively from “sustainable and/or organic vineyards,” and they “intervene minimally to deliver a product true to its essence,” using only “native yeasts” and “minimal sulfur added at bottling.” They also refrained from fining or filtering their reds. All three of the current Camuna wines are honest, interesting, fun, and — most importantly — a pleasure to imbibe! Their wines are available exclusively through their website. Without further ado:

Camuna Cellars, Barbera Rosé, Clarksburg, Calif., 2017 ($20): With wonderful balance, sporting clean, vibrant, dry and tart fruit notes of strawberry, cherry and under-ripe pear, this is fun and interesting, with an earthy, minerally quality.
Camuna Cellars, High Vibes Nebbiolo, Clarksburg, Calif., 2017($26): This is light and delicious, with great acidity and
tannic structure. Aromas and flavors of cranberry, cherry, rose petals, violets, cherry blossoms and tar. The bouquet kept drawing me back into the glass, while the taste delighted, refreshed and satiated my palate. Great for pizza and similarly lighter fare or even just on its own.

Camuna Cellars, Carignan, Ancient Vine, Contra Costa County, Calif., 2017 ($36): This is a unique, beautiful and
entirely delicious expression of California Carignan. It offers bright and juicy yet controlled notes of cherry, red plum and black currant fruits, with a touch of flint and earth. This smooth, lightly tannic, medium bodied wine exhibits
beautiful balance between the fruit, acidity, tannins, earth and floral notes. Terrific now, but will reward some
ageing. L’chaim!

Send your wine and spirits questions to Joshua E. London at [email protected].

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