Part I – Winemaking in Oakland?
Something fascinating is happening just an hour south of Napa’s Cabernet vineyards and overcrowded tasting rooms. In one corner of the San Francisco Bay Area megalopolis, in nondescript warehouses and on abandoned U.S. Navy property, grapes are being transformed into world-class wines by winemakers that are very serious about their craft.
On Saturday, July 31st, in Oakland’s Jack London Square, the public was invited to taste wines produced by 19 urban wineries at the East Bay Vintner’s Alliance 5th Annual Urban Wine Experience. Attendees were treated to an amazing array of wines made in many styles, and all paired with a local restaurant offering tasty morsels to accompany the tasting.
While we made our way from table to table, chatting with fellow tasters and meeting winemakers, it became increasingly clear that these urban wineries were far more than just hobbyists gathering to share their wares. We were being offered pours of Grenache, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Riesling, Petite Sirah, and blends, most of which were showing beautifully.
Our tasting experience started off with a bang as we sipped our way through theofferings of JC Cellars – one of my favorite producers at the event – including their 2008 Daily Ration (score B), a non-vintage blend that actually comes in a jug! Yes, I said it comes in a jug, and when you have polished off the contents you are encouraged to bring it back to the winery for a $20 refill! Oh, and did I forget to mention that it is probably one of the best daily sippers I have ever had? Our Daily Ration was followed by the 2008 vintage of The Imposter (score A), a stout blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo, Carignan, Grenache, and a dash of Viognier! To say that this wine is big and bold might just be the understatement of the year. This is a wine that will benefit greatly from additional time in the bottle, but with a bit of time in the decanter, it will certainly not disappoint if you can’t resist popping this one for next Saturday’s big barbecue!
Next up was Carica Wines, featuring a wonderful discovery, the 2007 Kick Ranch Syrah (score A). This wine, an outstanding expression of Syrah, features absolutely riveting aromas of blackberries, ripe plums, and cherries that are matched beautifully by flavors of chocolate with a hint of pepper.
There is no question that this is a beautifully crafted wine that can be enjoyed now, but will reward patience if you can leave it alone for a couple of years. Of course, that’s easier said than done! Charlie Dollbaum, owner and winemaker, was also pouring the 2008 Kick Ranch Sauvignon Blanc (score A-), a wine that features classic Sauvignon flavors of bright citrus backed by refreshing acidity.
With three substantial reds and one delicious white wine under my belt, it was time to seek out something a little different. Bring on Aubin Cellars and the 2008 Verve French Colombard (score B). Served chilled, this was a refreshing change of pace, with nice hints of citrus on the nose. There is some sweetness to this wine that is not at all over the top, but makes for a perfect summer sipping wine. Unlike the other wines being poured at this event, the Vereve French Colombard grapes are harvested at Domaine de Mirail, located in theGascony region of France. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the elegant 2007 Verve Carneros Pinot Noir (score A-). This is a Pinot that hits all the right notes with a complex nose of raspberries and hints of leather. On the palate there are clear flavors of dark berries, especially cherries all backed by smooth tannins. According to the Aubin Cellars website this Pinot Noir can be had for a song, or $12 if you can’t carry a tune!
That’s it for now, but in the next installment documenting this outstanding event we’ll taste the wines of Dashe Cellars, Eno Wines, Prospect 772 Wine Company.
all photos and text © 2010 craig allyn rose