Modesto, California, is about two and a half hours from Yosemite Valley, but it's a lot closer in spirit, thanks to a local wine bar with a surprising heritage. The Camp 4 Wine Cafe is owned by Damon Robbins, son of the Yosemite legend Royal Robbins, and it operates out of the building that housed the first outlet store of the Royal Robbins clothing company.
The younger Robbins grew up in Modesto and entered the restaurant business in San Francisco after going to college in Colorado. During a visit to his hometown, he discovered there was a defunct coffee shop in the Robbins outlet building and began laying plans for the new wine cafe, which opened about two years ago (camp4wine.com). The name, Robbins said, is "a nod to all of the legends who stayed in Camp 4 and dreamed there." Portraits of many of those legends by Glen Denny (glendenny.com) hang from the wine cafe's walls.
"We have a good amount of climbers stop in from time to time," Robbins said, adding that a big draw for climbers is the opportunity to pick up a signed book from "my pops." The Camp 4 cafe hosts a chess night every Monday, and Royal Robbins often comes in to play and visit with the patrons, an unusual opportunity, Damon Robbins says, "because he is such a quiet and stoic man."
"I know I mention my dad a lot, but he really is my hero," Robbins added. "The climbers of the ’60s were a breed of their own. Their ideals, style, their way of life, was and still is one of inspiration. My bar hopes to be able to spread that message using food and wine as a vehicle for the idea of trying new things, of getting out of your comfort zone, of taking risks."
Cheers to that.