There are three cemeteries in the East Bay that planted grape vines as an alternative to lawns because it was more cost effective. Kevin Sherwood and Joe Rivello of Bishop’s Vineyard told me that the wine was made into a simple sweet rosé and given free to parishes for use in their services. Eventually they brought the fruit to Rock Wall winery and they began to produce quality wine for commercial production. This wine, teasingly referred to at home by Joe’s daughter as “skull wine,” nicely illustrates the resourcefulness of the East Bay winemakers.
The Oakland Urban Wine Xperience is an annual event put on by the East Bay Vintners Alliance. The 19 East Bay wineries represented are housed primarily in renovated warehouses, with grapes sourced from Oregon, Sonoma, Napa, Amador County, and the central coast of California. While many similar events focus on one varietal of grape and draw a crowd that has a uniform persona, the Oakland Vintners work with a variety of grapes and blends that reflects Oakland’s wide variety of people and styles, all of which were present.
Spill The Wine*
They were pouring zinfandel from three different vintages. The 2013 was fruit forward and jam-like; the 2011 was deep rust in color and had a hint of oak spice (aptly named the Oakey Monkey); and the 2009 was refined and smooth. All were sourced from the Alexander Valley.
I asked Bob if there was a particular clone of zinfandel that worked better in Alexander Valley, and he scoffed. Bob’s experience is that any grape will grow anywhere, that different areas will produce a different character, but that the tendency in the wine world is to canonize previous practices without justification, a sort of marketing ploy to buy a wine because it is picked by Keebler Elves.
I poured my glass into what I thought was a spill bucket (if you finish all the tastes they add up and shorten your visit). But Loretta Lynch said she forgot to bring a spill bucket, and that that bucket was for something else. As I apologized and offered to clean it, they put a black napkin over it, and, thinking it was now a spill bucket, I once again emptied my glass. Bob exclaimed “Oh no!” and I wasted no time taking it to the restroom to sheepishly clean it.
A Long Haired Leaping Gnome
Their 2013 syrah from the Unti Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, was very good and will get better with age. The 2008 sangiovese from the Polesky-Lenz Vineard, also in Dry Creek, was in what I’d describe as a California style, where it takes on a fuller body than the Italian style, with more rounded fruit.
Take That Girl
Their 2013 Campo di Bianca Reserva was a Southern Rhone style white wine made with rousanne, marsanne, and viognier. It had a pretty nose, soft body, and mild finish, easy to like. “Like a girlfriend,” I wrote in my notes.
When I Laid Myself Down To Rest
Sadly, neither were being poured that day, but they had a sauvignon blanc with grapes sourced from Monterey and a petite sirah from Paso Robles. The 2014 sauvignon blanc was crisp and had a mildly bitter finish. It was what I’d suggest for fans of frisee or arugula salad to pair with goat cheese or sourdough bread and butter. The 2013 petite sirah was dark, inky, mouth-coating, and mildly tannic. A grape that has a bold personality and needs care, time, and, ideally, polite company, the petite sirah was calling out for food.
I Stood High By The Mountain Tops
Returning to the table, Charlie waived me to the side and poured a taste of the grenache from a hidden bottle. The grapes were from a lower elevation of the same vineyard. The grenache had a nose reminding me of a candy shop mixed with a spice shop. The candy came through as black licorice. There was a brightness from the acid along with a medium body and a long, extracted cherry finish, sort of like after you swallow the last of a cough drop. Very good. Both the grenache and the syrah were my favorites of the day.
I asked Charlie if the vineyard was also planted with mouvedre and whether he would make a GSM, Rhone-style wine. He said that it has become popular and harder to find, but he will have some next year and may even produce a barrel of mouvedre as a single varietal.
She Poured Some Of The Wine From The Bottle Into The Glass
The first thing that my contrary thinking noticed was that the lines were becoming longer and more people were coming in. As I waited I counted around 20 people in front of me. Two ladies pleasantly asked if I was the end of the line, and we chatted about the wines they had enjoyed so far. I found that most of the people that I conversed with, although quite different in background from each other, were all pleasant and having a grand time. Behind me was a woman wearing a black t-shirt with glitter spelling out, “Wine makes me awesome.” It was probably a personal statement, but wine does have a way of making others appear smarter, funnier, and better looking.
I wasn’t too impressed with the barbera (though with some bbq my opinion could be swayed) but I had a pour of the pinot noir. I expected another big wine and was surprised by the earthiness. It was savory with sweet dark fruit (not sugar sweet, just more like dried fruit), not quite a brooding wine, more reflective. I checked the handout list and saw that it was the 2012 Sonoma Coast pinot noir, and it certainly had a coastal personality. It wasn’t quite a paradox, but more of a non sequitur (i.e. it didn’t follow my assumption).
In Front Of Every Kind Of Girl
She Whispered In My Ear Something Crazy
Stage left poured their 2012 “The Globetrotter” Central Coast GSM. I gave it a rating of 5 on the data sheet and noted that it was bright, candied, and long. Another favorite.
Dig That Girl
The lines were longer and even moving between the lines to cross the room was getting difficult. So I walked out onto the warm, sunny waterfront and looked out at the marina, filled with yachts and sailboats with their colorful spinnakers.
I walked back to my car and headed to Linden Street, not to the wine tasting room but to Linden Street Brewery. On the weekend they roll open the loading dock and sell beer. Sitting at a table, sipping a glass of black lager, I watched another diverse crowd of people relax at picnic tables eating sausages from a truck named D.O.G.S., all enjoying the same sunny afternoon.