For all our sakes I hope that nice guys like Urban Legend’s Steve Shaffer don’t finish last. But after a recent tasting where I felt I needed to explain the basic tenets of selling in a capitalist economy I am not so sure. Hard to make the leap from vintner to marketer—and thank god for that.

From refillable “jug” wine on tap inspired by Oakland’s neighborhoods (Jingletown is the current one, previous ones include Uptown and West O) to mentoring and promoting new wineries like the queer-owned Farina Blanco Winery, Steve and his wife Marilee are in the vanguard of community-minded, East Bay winemakers.

Rather than smash the competition, urban winemakers often support each other and Steve has no qualms about sending me to another winery to taste a particular wine if I’m not loving one of theirs.

Sell me one of your wines I ask Steve…

Your first stop in touring local wineries should be Urban Legend Cellars. Their tasting room is located in the Jack London Square area at 621 4th St. in Oakland, and open from 1pm – 6 (Fri-Sun).



Urban Legend has a long tasting menu – so don’t go hungry or with big plans to be sober afterwards. Two of my current favorites are the Rosato di Barbera (Rosé) and their Carneros Pinot Noir.

The Rosato di Barbera is a Rosé that is dry enough for Steve so it’s dry enough for me. People think that Rosé is sweet – like all things pink – but this is not always the case. Steve discussed at great length about where the Barbera he uses is grown, why it’s optimal growing weather there and so on. Just short of glazing over, I had to tell him that this kind of information is so wasted on me.

Rosé is perfect in summer, with spicy foods, barbecue, and goes pretty damn well with anyone going on and on about a subject you have no interest in.

It retails for $19 a bottle, but Urban Legend is offering a discount to Oakland Local people of $17. Pretty sure if you are getting gay married the Shaffers will give you an even bigger case discount.

The other wine I recommend is their Carneros Pinot Noir. It’s Urban Legend’s first try at Pinot Noir and it received a 90-point rating from Wine Enthusiast – no small achievement and further proof that excellent grapes and brainy winemaking in Oakland can compete with the big boys.

Urban Legend’s is a classic Carneros Pinot Noir. Impactful, yet smooth, delicious and will impress all your important guests.

Buying wine and becoming a club member at Urban Legend Cellars offers a triumvirate of exceptional wine, big love for Oakland, and support for business integrity. The “lift all boats” strategy is actually a very smart one and my money is on Urban Legend Cellars sticking around for a long, long time.

All due respect to the stalwart Napa folks, but if you live in the East Bay and want something to go with your artisanal crackers, Farmers Market berries andavocado-fed pork, Urban Legend Cellars is your winery.


P.S. July 27, the East Bay Vintners will hold their Annual Wine Xperience event at Jack London Pavilion. It’s an explosion of wine from 15+ urban, many from Oakland, small wineries matched with a range of food from pretty great East Bay restaurants. It’s a good introduction to some amazing wine and food at a bargain price.

Bonus track on the Rosé:  From my friend Jen Elias (creator of Winesmarts) “Urban Legend’s Rosé is an interesting one to try as it’s made from the Barbera grape, while many of the southern French rosés are made from Grenache or Mourvedre and a mix of other grapes. Rosés in general tend to be more affordable (unless you go for big name regions like Bandol or Tavel), so grab a few friends and some different kinds and taste them all side by side.”

If you go:

Urban Legend Cellars
621 4th Street in Oakland
Tasting room open 1 – 6 p.m., Friday through Sunday

Granate Sosnoff is a nonprofit communications professional, Mugsy pop-up wine bar producer, and frequently in need of a good glass of wine.

10 Responses

  1. Beth T

    OMG-that CAT!! Is she a drunk? Love this column and love that Oakland Local has info like this!

  2. mark w

    I have had that pinot, and it’s delicious! I’ll have to go to their tasting room – thanks for the tip!

  3. mark j

    Nice picks. I have been there…good wine and nice folks. The personable community experience is a big plus.

  4. leo

    Thanks for staying local Granate…really enjoyed knowing I don’t have to travel far to find good wine.

    • Granate

      Thank you Leo – the wine in the East Bay is impressive and look forward to sharing more great wines…

  5. barbara g

    I am a big fan of the Rosato…and their Dolcetto. Nice article and truly genuine folks over there…great place to spend an afternoon tasting!


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