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Summer Camp for Winos

What does sauvignon blanc, Ken Fulk, and a petting zoo have in common?

The tasting room at Hamel Family Wines.

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Designer-to-the-tech-stars Ken Fulk kicks back at Camp Hamel.

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The wine cave-cum-theater.

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The view from inside Hamel Family Wines.

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Shelter Co. pitched tents at the inaugural Camp Hamel.

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A middle-aged man in a mock Boy Scout uniform is blaring a trumpet in the winery parking lot. Inside, a stuffed badger (the event's mascot) presides over guests leisurely swirling oaky sauvignon blanc in their bulbous glasses and noshing on appetizers by Gary Danko and Delfina. On the sprawling back patio, a group of guys play shuffle board while a gaggle of women summon the spirits of their youth over a Ouiji set. Others pose with baby goats at the pop-up petting zoo or toss around a birdie in a game of badmitton. Designer Ken Fulk struts across the promenade overlooking the vineyards in a black leather jacket, while fashion idol Joy Bianchi chats up a few young techie types near the zinfandel booth.

What feels like a surreal dream is actually a scene from the inaugural “Camp Hamel” party at Hamel Family Wines in Sonoma—a sprawling new winery just off Highway 12, that's indulging in the trend of nostalgic childhood events (think Camp Grounded). With the official public opening coming up June 23, the winery is rolling out a slew of other quirky-classy events. Aside from the aforementioned Camp Hamel series, there will be celebrity chef dinners in the vineyards, extravagant parties enlisting Ken Fulk's “God-given wizardry with all things edgy and wondrous,” according to managing director George Hamel III, who goes by GIII. There's also plans for a Campfire Concert Series with s'mores and wine pairings and live music (“We're considering Edward Sharpe or Iron & Wine,” says GIII), and movie nights in the 12,000-square-foot wine cave.

So while many wineries in Sonoma and Napa tend to keep the events side of the business fairly tame—an acoustic music session here, maybe yoga in the vineyard there—Hamel is unabashedly turning up the fun/cheeky factor. Although the events are promising to draw far more of a party crowd than Hamel's neighbors, there will still be plenty of days when the vibe is mellow and all you'll want to do is order a bottle of cab, sprawl out on the sun-soaked patio, and relax.

 

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