Urban Winemakers on the Rise

By Stephen Eliot

We are lucky enough to live next door to some of the best and most beautiful wine country in the world. The Napa and Sonoma Valleys and the Santa Cruz Mountains are but an hour or so from our doors, and Mendocino, Monterey and the Sierra Foothills are close enough make for an easy visit in one day. There are, however, good wines being made much closer to home these days, and the number of noteworthy urban Bay Area producers is on the rise.

In California’s pre-prohibition past, most of the state’s wine was made in San Francisco and Richmond. Grapes were shipped in to large commercial wineries and wine was shipped out by rail and by sea. Those days, of course, are long gone, but more than a few talented artisan winemakers are carving out an increasingly significant niche in the decidedly metropolitan environment of the Bay Area, and they are well worth getting to know.

The East Bay Vintners Alliance (EBVA) was founded by just such a group of city-bound vintners and, now in its tenth year, counts more than twenty winemaking members. Critically acclaimed producers such as Jeff Cohn, Dashe Cellars and Rock Wall are found on the EBVA roster along with a good many smaller wineries that are pursuing their winemaking dreams, and, in the words of the EBVA mission statement, they are “united by the axiom that one need not live in a vineyard to make fantastic wine.”

The Alliance describes itself as “a true collaboration among the East Bay’s urban wine pioneers. Its members openly share resources, winemaking facilities and their own expertise with their fellow vintners. It is a partnership of many talented individuals working together for a common goal – to bring great wines to the heart of this amazing urban landscape we call home.”

The East Bay has long been our home as well, and we see in this new generation of local winemakers the same spark of enthusiasm and uncompromising artistry that drove California’s wine revolution back in the 1970s. They are not alone, of course, and there are enclaves of talented winemakers working on shoe-string budgets to found from Santa Barbara to New York, but we cannot but help feeling an extra sense of pride at the successes of those we call neighbors and friends.

At the beginning of next month, the EBVA kicks off its 7th Annual Passport to East Bay’s Urban Wine Country wherein members from Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda and Castro Valley open their doors to the public for wine tastings, food pairings, entertainment, exclusive barrel tastings and what they promise will be “general merriment.” It is a great opportunity to make the acquaintance of good wines and good people that you may not have known. We plan on attending and encourage all Bay Area wine lovers to do so as well.

Details can be found at http://www.eastbayvintners.com/7th-annual-passport-to-east-bays-urban-wine-country/


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