Urban winemaking is nothing new, and the scene is definitely growing. I took a couple of hours this past Saturday to check out (in fact re-check) some wineries in Berkeley. If you live in the bay area, nothing beats going to the actual regions of Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, et al. but if you fancy your quick winery fix, there is all you want a few minutes away. I80 North (or South) get off at Gilman St and a few blocks away are three working wineries.
Chris Brocway has been on the scene for a while now, and recently moved to his new digs, directly on the corner of Gilman and 5th. Broc Cellars is a natural wine producer (he adds SO2 just before bottling), I first came across his wares at a Sonoma rosé tasting and was surprised to hear he sourced the grapes from a Spiltwine buddy, Mike Roth of Martian Vineyards. Some wines to look out for at Broc are the Zinfandel (with something crazy like 13.5% alc) and the Carignan – made by carbonic maceration (which is how it’s made in the Languedoc), real light and Beaujolais in style. The geekiest wine at Broc might just be the skin contact Roussane, basically an orange wine. Apparently the one we tried was from 2009….and therefore even darker in color and overall complexity, current vintage is the ’11. He sources grapes from all over the state, even Oregon! Oh, and that little cement thing next to the bottle is a sample model of Broc’s egg cement tank, awesome for convection during fermentation – here’s some extra reading on cement and egg-shaped tanks. (I’m a fan, btw)
I’d been hearing murmurings of this winery even when I was down in Santa Barbara. Owners Tracey & Jared Brandt are full on natural winemakers, and just a few hop, skip and jumps from Broc on 5th Street. My first excuse to pop by the TR was for a Carignan story I was working on….well their Carignan was very impressive! Full of crunchy bramble and blackberry fruit. They source from all over the state and my fav are the Carignan (or course) as well as the Fenaughty Vineyard Syrah, which I later found out received a 97(!!)
in Wine Enthusiast – here’s the review. This high score is particularly interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, is the Wine Enthusiast making a stand that they are willing to give such high scores to wines of this style (ie low alcohol, natural in style), or is this just a one time thing? And secondly will the Wine Enthusiast be the voice (and therefore give more of these higher scores) to the polar opposite views of Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate? Time will only tell, but when I chatted to Jared about this he too was just as surprised, and made a note that D&G don’t really send wines out to be scored, Wine Enthusiast had contacted them……The Fenaughty is nearly out, so get it quick! They also have some –
bursting with ripe berry flavor – Grenache (and also the best movie poster, in the bogs).
Another couple of steps from D&G this time on Camelia Street is Lusu Cellars (it’s in fact where Broc used to be). I have never heard of Lusu and was pleasantly surprised with the wine. David Teixeira is the owner/winemaker and guy pouring the wine in the cellar, basically the tasting room is in construction and you will be sniffing and swirling amongst the barrels and tanks, about as authentic as it comes. David (that’s him with the beard, below) grew up on the Delta and his Portuguese family have been making wine since he can remember, mostly Zinfandel. It was also his Zinfandel that I liked best, a light style (again a 13.5% alcohol level) with soft plum, white pepper and fresh raspberries. All the wines are available at the winery. In the barrels he’s got some port ageing as well as Madiera (!?), I don’t think I’ve ever had a Madiera style wine made in Cali, David’s Portuguese roots stem from the little island…will definitely be going back to see his progress with both of those fortified wines.
There you have it, three very good wineries, all a stones throw away…..more to come on the Bay Area’s urban wine scene….stay tuned!