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08.20.2008

Tasting the Wines of San Francisco's East Bay Wineries

Wine country is now 15 minutes from downtown San Francisco, thanks to the surge in wine producers that are popping up all over the East Bay (and in San Francisco proper, too!). Oakland, Alameda, and Berkeley are now home to more than a dozen wineries that range in size from a couple of people and a couple of barrels, to some of California's most lauded wineries.

A couple of years ago, these wineries got together and formed a marketing association that would help them all gain more visibility. This organization, known as the East Bay Vintners Alliance, has begun to put on yearly tastings to showcase the wines of its eastbay.jpgmembers and make good on the promise of an urban wine country in the East Bay.

I had a chance to sneak off to Oakland a couple of weeks ago on a picture perfect sunny day and hang out with the hundreds of Bay Area wine lovers that showed up to sample wines and special food pairings from some great restaurants in the area.

The event was, as far as I can tell, a smashing success. The weather alone would have made it a pleasant enough experience, but the food was quite good, including a huge cheese spread that I made several passes on once I had finished tasting all the wines.

This was my first opportunity to sample wines from all the members of the Vintners Alliance, and I'm happy to report that there's some truly great wine being made in the East Bay's urban wineries, and not just by the established names like J.C. Cellars, Dashe, and Rosenblum. There were a number of wines that were not to my taste, but the bulk of the wines were competently made and if they weren't all spectacular, they certainly all showed both the hard work as well as promise of several new small producers.

My scores from my tasting follow below. Prices quoted are the suggested retail price for purchase direct from the winery.

Photo courtesy of John Joh.


Scores for the 3rd Annual Urban Wine Experience

WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2007 Dashe Cellars Zinfandel L'Enfant Terrible McFadden Farms, Potter Valley. $24.00
2006 Dashe Cellars Zinfandel Todd Brothers Ranch, Alexander Valley. $32.00
2006 JC Cellars Marsanne Preston Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley. $32.00
2007 Rosenblum Cellars Viognier Kathy's Cuvee.Winery only.
2006 Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel Kontrabecki. Winery only.

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2006 Aubin Cellars Verve French Colombard Domaine de Mirail, Cotes de Gascone. $12.00
2007 Dashe Cellars Dry Riesling McFadden Farms, Potter Valley. $20.00
2006 Eno Wines Grenache "Yes, Dear..." Eagle Point Ranch, Mendocino. $28.00
2007 JC Cellars Rose Stagecoach Vineyard, Napa Valley. $18.00
2007 Prospect 772 Rosé "Babydoll" Sierra Foothills. $15.00
2006 Rosenblum Cellars Petite Sirah Pickett Road. Winery only.

WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2006 Andrew Lane Gamay Noir, Napa Valley. $19.00
2005 Andrew Lane Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. $28.00
2006 Dashe Cellars Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley. $24.00
2006 Eno Wines Pinot Noir "Never Say Never" Santa Lucia Highlands. $32.00
2006 Eno Wines Zinfandel "Acres of Happiness" Teldeschi Vyds Dry Creek Valley. $28.00
2005 Eno Wines Syrah "S05" Las Madres Vineyard, Carneros. $35.00
2006 JC Cellars Syrah California Cuveé . $25.00
2006 Lost Canyon Winery Pinot Noir Morelli Lane, Russian River Valley. $42.00
2006 Lost Canyon Winery Pinot Noir Saralee, Russian River Valley. $42.00
2006 Prospect 772 Grenache/Syrah "The Brawler" Sierra Foothills. $36.00
2006 Rosenblum Cellars Rosie Rabbit Late Harvest Zinfandel Winery only.
2007 Two Mile Wines Viognier Bloomfield Vineyards , Central Coast . $23.00
NV Adam's Point White After Dinner Wine. $16.00

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2005 Andrew Lane Cabernet Franc, Oakville. $35.00
2005 Andrew Lane Merlot, Napa Valley. $17.00
2006 A Donkey And Goat Three Thirteen (Southern Rhône style blend). $37.00
2006 A Donkey And Goat Syrah The Recluse, Anderson Valley. $37.00
2006 Lost Canyon Winery Reserve Syrah Trenton Station, Russian River Valley. $35.00
2006 Prospect 772 Syrah "The Brat" Sierra Foothills. $36.00
2006 Tayerle Wines Carneros Pinot Noir . $30.00
2007 Urbano Cellars Vin Rose Solano County Green Valley. $14.00
2006 Urbano Cellars Syrah Dry Creek Valley. $19.00
NV Adam's Point Mango Dessert Wine. $16.00
NV Adam's Point Persimmon Dessert Wine. $16.00

WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2006 Irish Monkey Cabernet Franc, Lodi. $29.00
2006 Aubin Cellars Verve Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast. $28.00
2005 Aubin Cellars Verve Syrah Columbia Valley. $26.00
2006 Aubin Cellars Verve Sauvignon Blanc Paso Robles. $14.00
2006 Tayerle Wines Savignon Blanc Villa San Julliette . $12.00
2006 Two Mile Wines Petite Sirah Rosciano Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley. $34.00

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8
2006 Lost Canyon Winery Syrah Alegria, Russian River Valley. $35.00
2006 Periscope Cellars Deep 6, California(6 Grape Red Blend). $24.00
2006 Urbano Cellars Petit Verdot Lodi. $16.00

WINES SCORING BETWEEN 7.5 AND 8
2006 Irish Monkey Syrah Lovall - Borneman Lavender Farm. $26.00
2006 Periscope Cellars Sangiovese, Alexander Valley. $22.00
2006 Two Mile Wines Sangiovese Polesky-Lentz Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley. $42.00
2005 Urbano Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel Solano County Green Valley. $18.00

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 7.5
2006 Periscope Cellars Petite Verdot, Lodi. $18.00

WINES SCORING BETWEEN 7 AND 7.5
2006 Irish Monkey Cabernet Sauvignon, "MEF". $35.00

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 7
2006 Irish Monkey Primitivo Lovall Valley, Napa Valley. $30.00

WINES WITH A SCORE BELOW 7
2006 Periscope Cellars Zinfandel, Sonoma County. $20.00
NV Adam's Point Chocolate Dessert Wine. $16.50

Comments (3)

caitlin wrote:
08.21.08 at 2:17 PM

Not a surprise to see Rosenblum up there in the top category. This produces consistently turns out quality wines, their '06 Petite Syrah is delicious.

Erik Talvola wrote:
08.22.08 at 8:00 PM

I find it interesting that it appears that nearly none of the wines actually come from the grapes in the East Bay (a couple Lodi wines snuck in there, if you count Lodi as the East Bay, which is pushing it)

Now, this has been one of my pet peeves for a while. I live in San Mateo, and enjoy visiting the wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains. However, even though on one hand I want the best wine possible, on the other hand I am not that interested in driving out to Saratoga to taste a Napa Valley Cab - I'll go to Napa for that. I am more interested in tasting the wines that actually grew there.

Do you have any thoughts on this? If I went to an East Bay winery tasting, I'd sort of want to taste some wines from the East Bay - maybe some of the Contra Costa County wines from Cline or Rosenblum, or some of the Livermore Valley wines.

Or, maybe they were there, but simply couldn't hold up to the Napa grapes.

Alder wrote:
08.22.08 at 8:28 PM

Erik,

My notes are on all the wines that were present (or at least the ones that were being poured in the first two hours).

Unless I'm visiting a winery where the winery is in a building stuck right in the middle of a vineyard, these days I don't expect the wines I'm tasting to necessarily be from the exact same geography as where the winery is located.

As far as true east bay sources, Contra Costa and Solano are really the main places and there aren't many vineyards there, so it's perhaps not reasonable to expect all east bay wineries to have east-bay grown wines (no designated AVAs there, for instance). But I understand your sentiments, for sure.

Livermore doesn't qualify as East Bay in my mind, and even if it did, it's got it's own AVA, wine country, and winery association.

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