By Granate Sosnoff
Oakland and nearby winemakers offer elegant and dazzling wines to choose from for your favorite people. So why not skip wine country traffic and the daunting aisles of bottles in well-lit chains, and for your next event (party, dinner, glass-in-your-hand-while-you-sauté,) try one of these local beauties.
Also, if you’re into wine world chat you may have heard a bit about the New California Wine – less overpowering big fruit and more terroir-driven wines made from grapes grown beyond Napa Valley, in overlooked places like El Dorado and Lodi. Many representatives of these low-intervention, smoother wines are being made right here …
European style, bold Zinfandels from Dashe Cellars
2010 Florence Vineyard Zinfandel & 2011 Dry Creek Zinfandel
Dashe Cellars is one of the most acclaimed wineries in Oakland. Their Zinfandels were recently profiled alongside some heavy Zin-hitters by Snooth and received 95 points for their 2010 Florence ($35). The Florence also received rave reviews from Wine Spectator and a gold medal from Sunset Magazine. The 2011 Dry Creek ($24) is velvety and stunning and also gets high ratings. Either bottle will please and impress the Zinfandel drinkers in your circles, with the signature Dashe-style of vibrant, balanced, yet bold wines from Oakland.
Dashe Cellars 55 4th Street, Oakland (510) 452-1800
THERE 2011 Chardonnay, Urban Legend Cellars
Certified organic, Mendocino
THERE is a newer label for premium wines from Urban Legend Cellars. You could spend more for a wine of the same caliber, but at $28 for THERE, why would you? My friend who usually enjoys a much more “buttery” Chardonnay found this clean-tasting beauty to her liking. Urban Legend’s THERE label is a reference to Gertrude Stein’s famous quote about Oakland and “there being no there, there.” Stein wasn’t dissing Oakland but reflecting on past homes that had disappeared. More info on that if you want here.
Jingletown, Urban Legend Cellars
Blend of Grenache, Syrah and Pinot Noir.
Urban Legend crafts on-tap blends to honor and reflect different neighborhoods in Oakland. Past ones include Uptown and West-0. Right now they have Jingletown available in refillable one-liter bottles ($4 for the bottle, $24 for the wine). Jingletown plays the role of classic red table wine exquisitely: affordable and pairs nicely with a variety of foods. The winery takes the bold step of blending Pinot Noir, not often done, and the results are delicious and layered, much like a Jingletown mosaic in Oakland.
Urban Legend Cellars 621 4th St., Oakland (510) 545-4356
Elegant Pinot Noir from Stomping Girl Wines
2011 Beresini Vineyard – Carneros
This classic Carneros Pinot Noir will please the Pinot drinker deep inside all of us. Made from sustainably grown grapes, without pesticides, and unfiltered by the Berkeley husband and wife owners of Stomping Girl Wines. They’ve been making a name for themselves with their Pinot Noirs with recognition by the SF Chronicle Wine Competition and the PinotFile. You can find Stomping Girl wines at Encuentro, on tap at Toast, Zut, and at various other East Bay restaurants. You can also purchase their wine online and at Wine on Piedmont in Oakland.
Big Cabernet from Irish Monkey Cellars
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – Fiore Alexander Valley
2009 Cabernet Franc – Amador County
Irish Monkey is known for their Cabernets. Winemaker Robert Lynch is part of a small group of East Bay computer geeks turned winemakers. If you have the time you’ll get a lesson like I did on the birth of Cabernet Sauvignon (Cabernet Franc meets Sauvignon Blanc). Irish Monkey goes the extra mile with their Cabernet Franc ($32), using Old World winemaking techniques and longer aging in top-quality oak casks. If you’re a Cab drinker you’ll be happy with these powerful but highly drinkable ones. My vote is for the Fiore Alexander Valley 2010 ($42) – but Irish Monkey assures me “other people” like the Cab Franc as much or more…
Irish Monkey Cellars 1017 22nd Avenue, Oakland (888) 373-6441
2008 Founders Rock from Two Mile Wines
Petite Sirah and Syrah Blend
This biodynamic and organic blend is a full-bodied delight. With Petite Sirah from Livermore and Syrah from Dry Creek Valley, it’s a 2012 Sunset Magazine gold medal winner and an affordable $18 from Uptown Oakland. I just wrote about these guys here if you want to find out more about them. The Founders Rock is a genuine crowd-pleaser and will go well with a variety of foods. A damn good wine that just happens to fit the “New California” trend.
Two Mile Wines 477 25th Street, Oakland (510) 868-8713
2010 Sangiovese from newcomer Lusu Cellars
Organic, Sonoma County – Dry Creek
Winemaker and owner of Lusu Cellars, David Teixeira, grew up in the California Delta making wine with his family in a traditional Portuguese/European style. He’s refined what he’s learned and Lusu wines are a prime example of “New California” style with very little intervention, clean tastes and great focus on terroir. This $24 Sangiovese is medium-bodied, soft but vibrant and bright, and will go great with many holiday foods without overpowering them. Lusu wines are available at The New Parkway in Oakland, at Kichener Oakland pop-ups, at the winery and a growing list of venues.
Lusu Cellars 805 Camelia St., Berkeley (925) 963-5009