San Francisco residents and visitors should realize that there is a wonderful destination for wine tasting just past the eastern end of the Bay Bridge. More than 20 enthusiastic, knowledgeable and skilled urban winemakers live and work in family-owned wineries in Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda and Emeryville. Wine tasting here is easier than you may expect, as over fifteen wineries have regular tasting room hours. Although most of the tasting rooms are open on weekends, you can also find some open during the week (and even after 5 pm) if that works better for your schedule.
So, swing on over to visit the East Bay’s Urban Wine Country and you will find dozens of wines made from varietals such as Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and even Mead (wine made from honey). The surroundings may have more asphalt and freeway sounds than a rural wine country experience, but you’ll still find fermentation tanks, oak barrels, and skilled winemakers eager to share their products.
Last month, we were able to revisit many of these wineries ourselves during the East Bay Vintner Alliance’s annual Passport event where 21 wineries, 2 days, and hors d’oeuvres at each stop added up to a pleasant weekend in this under-appreciated region.
Keep reading and we’ll tell you which wines (and wineries) we enjoyed the most. We encourage you to do some Urban Wine Country exploration and sampling on your own, and/or seek these wines and wineries out at your local wine stores and/or restaurants.
Aubin Cellars – 2011 Verve “Garrigue” (Grenache, Syrah, Carignan), 2008 Verve Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir [6050 Colton Boulevard, Oakland, 510-339-0170, open by appointment only]
Campovida – 2012 Campo di Blanca (Marsanne, Viognier, Roussanne), 2011 Viognier [103 Linden Street, Oakland, 510-550-7273, open for tasting Thursday 5-9, Friday 5-8, and Saturday & Sunday 1-6]
Cerruti Cellars – 2010 Tudal Family Napa Valley Cuvée (Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Malbec) [100 Webster Street, Suite 100, Oakland, 510-550-2900, open for tasting Saturday & Sunday 12:30 – 5:30]
Dashe Cellars – 2012 “Les Enfants Terribles” Grenache, 2011 Florence Vineyard Zinfandel, 2011 Louvau Vineyard Zinfandel, 2012 Late Harvest Zinfandel [55 Fourth Street, Oakland, 510-451-1800, open for tasting Thursday to Sunday 12-6]
Eno Wines – 2010 “The Proposition” (Pinot Noir) [805 Camelia Street, Berkeley, 415-515-7227, open for tasting Saturday & Sunday 1-5]
Stage Left Cellars – 2010 “Go Getter” (Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne) and 2010 “The Day Job” (Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache) [2102 Dennison Street, Oakland, 510-434-9930, open for tasting the 1st Saturday of each month 11-5]
Urban Legend Cellars – 2012 Rosata di Barbera, 2010 Dolcetto, 2011 Barbera, 2011 Tempranillo [621 Fourth Street, Oakland, 510-545-4356, open for tasting Friday to Sunday 1-6]
Founded in 2007, the East Bay Vintners Alliance (EBVA) is an association of more than 20 vintners who live and work in the area. Producing wine locally in former factories, tanneries and even an airline hangar, these pioneering urban winemakers offer an extraordinary range of varietals from the most popular to the exotic at every price point. To learn more about the Alliance’s upcoming events, and see the location and tasting room hours for all of their winery members, please go here.
You may also want to mark your calendar for EBVA’s Urban Wine Experience event on August 2, 2014 between 1 and 5 pm at Jack London Square in Oakland. This time, 20 urban wineries will all gather in one location to pour white, rosé, red and dessert wines for you to taste and enjoy. In addition, local eateries and food purveyors (such as Bocanova, Bucci’s, Dragon Rouge, Hutch Bar & Kitchen, and Plum) will create delicious bites to pair beautifully with the EBVA’s wine portfolio. Tickets (which aren’t available yet) will be $45 when purchased in advance but only $35 if you are a wine club member with an EBVA winery. Ultimately, at-the-door tickets will be $60 each.
We always suggest exploring new wine regions and trying out new wineries, so please consider adding (or revisiting) the wine “region” of Alameda, Berkeley, Emeryille and Oakland to your future travel plans.
Although they are not part of the EBVA, we also highly recommend a stop at Donkey & Goat Winery [1340 Fifth Street, Berkeley, 510-868-9174, open for tasting Friday to Sunday, 2-6] if you will be wine tasting in the East Bay. And, you can add their 2012 “Untended” Chardonnay and 2012 “The Prospector” (Mourvèdre) to the long list of wines we like from them.