In 1996, when Becky Bloomfield, owner and vintner of Bloomfield Vineyards, planted her first vineyard, she knew she was taking a risk.
“It was a huge risk, truthfully,” said Bloomfield. “This side of the county was never known for grapes.”
While the Bloomfield family members had been farming in Contra Costa County since the 1940s, they were known for growing row crops, walnuts and stone fruits but not grapes. Fortunately, at the time, there was a real need for wine grapes in Northern California. When she harvested her first crop, which was planted on 52 acres, she had no clue just how far her grapes would take her.
“We contracted our first vineyard with Kendall Jackson wines and Mondavi of Woodbridge,” said Bloomfield, who added the first harvest was one she will never forget. “No matter all the hard work you put into growing any crop, to see it mature and change and then become something other than itself is an amazing feeling. Of course, there is pride, but no matter all the dirt and grime, wine is a very romantic thing.”
In 2004, Bloomfield Vineyards was ready to take another risk, producing its own label – something that would prove even more challenging.
“It has actually been more difficult to sell wine with a Contra Costa label than to be respected in the wine industry,” said Bloomfield.
After the first vintage was bottled, Bloomfield Vineyards soon made a name for itself in nationally and internationally acclaimed competitions by beating some of the biggest labels in the wine industry. The awards for Bloomfield Vineyards have continued year after year and have changed the perception regarding which areas can produce the highest quality of wine.
According to Bloomfield, the most important aspect to winemaking is found in the process itself.
“It begins with the farming aspect of the industry – having sustainable practices, along with knowing the soil and planting the right grapes for the soil,” she said. “If you start off with the wrong variety or bad crop, you are likely to produce bad wine.”
Over the past 13 years, Bloomfield Vineyards has grown to 200 acres and has produced more 57,000 gallons of wine, and 99 percent of their grapes are sold to other wineries in Napa, Sonoma and the Central Coast. Bloomfield is proud of each vintage and has a difficult time choosing which one makes her the most proud.
“That’s like asking who’s your favorite child. But besides the amazing chardonnay and cabernet, I would say the viognier,” she said. “It was, at that time, a virtually unknown grape, much less an amazing wine. I feel that I have really opened the wine consumer’s eyes regarding this fabulous grape.”
Bloomfield also added every wine has a great story for consumers to appreciate.
“You need to be open-minded about the wine, love the wine for what it is and respect the soil it came from,” she said. “I have beaten all the best in wine competitions in California. Come try, and be proud to know and appreciate Contra Costa wines.”
In 2007, Bloomfield took another leap and opened Brentwood’s Contra Costa County Wine Co. with her friend Dafne Swisher. The tasting room, better known as Co. Co. Wine, features Bloomfield Vineyards’ wines as well as other local wines and wines from different growing regions, beer and small bites.
“Brentwood’s Co. Co. Wine has been such a great place for our customers to come enjoy a glass of wine and sample some great wines from Contra Costa County and other areas of California,” said Lisa Carson, bartender at Co. Co. Wine. “We love discussing the wines with the customer, and Co. Co. even provides tasting notes with flight purchases on request if our customers are interested in learning even more about them.”
Brentwood’s Contra Costa County Wine Company is located at 633 First St., in Brentwood. For more information, call 925-634-9463 or visit www.cocowineco.com. For more information about Bloomfield Vineyards, visit www.bloomfieldvineyards.com.