Alameda’s New Wine Scene
A Veteran Vintner Gives the Skinny on What’s Up
My little island home of Alameda has some fermenting stuff happening.
The core of this spiritual revolution is Rosenblum Cellars, St. George Spirits and the newly-created Rock Wall Wine Company. They’re all located on Alameda’s historic west end within a mile of one another.
Rosenblum Cellars (2900 Main St., Alameda, 510-865-7007), which I started, has been an urban winemaker since 1978 and specializes in old vine Zinfandels and Rhône varieties such as Syrah, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre and Grenache plus a well-received white wine, called Kathy’s Cuvee, made from the Viognier grape. A multiple gold medal award–winning winery with consistently high ratings in the major wine publications, Rosenblum also has a sophisticated tasting room staff that can deliver a world-class experience with hometown atmosphere and lots of fun. The winery is near the ferry terminal to San Francisco and Oakland, features a wine club and wine club events as well as three yearly open houses with food, music and wine.
St. George Spirits (2601 Monarch St., Alameda, 510-769-1601) is a creative and exotic enterprise featuring an unusual array of distilled beverages — wonderful vodkas (the chipotle is a real zinger), whiskeys and Scotches; interesting eau de vie (fruit-distilled spirits) such as Williams pear and framboise (raspberry); and absinthe. The creator of this enterprise, Jorg Rupf, learned distilling in his native Germany in
the Black Forest region. He forsake a judgeship to come to America and turn his passion into a wonderful business. (Jorg and his wife, by the way, are also accomplished musicians and do some wonderful chamber music.) His partner, Lance Winters, has become the master distiller and creator of some very exciting beverages.
Rock Wall Wine Company (2301 Monarch St., Alameda, 510-522-5700) is the newest concept in urban winemaking, an incubator of sorts, and is located just down the street from St. George Spirits. It encompasses eight small, quality wineries (including Rock Wall Wine Company of which I am the chief executive officer and consulting winemaker) in a venue with ample opportunity for parties and events. It’s named after the rock wall surrounding the old seaplane lagoon that protected the aircraft carriers from torpedo attack. Probably the biggest attack we have now is from seagulls pooping on the building, which the rock wall doesn’t have much to offer in the way of preventing.
Rock Wall plans a cooperative tasting room with a geodesic dome event center, a catering kitchen and a larger event space for more than 1,000 folks. This all comes with fantastic views of the San Francisco skyline.
It’s likely that there will be additions to this list, and more creative folks will join us. Thus, visiting Napa and Sonoma is fine — if you want to deal with the traffic and outrageous tasting fees; however, there is a great local alternative right here in good old Alameda.
Kent Rosenblum, founder of Rosenblum Cellars, is the winemaker at Rosenblum, now owned by Diageo PLC. He is also the chief executive officer and consulting winemaker at Rock Wall Wine Company.
Wineries at Rock Wall
Rock Wall Wine Company — Shauna Rosenblum, my daughter, is the winemaker at Rock Wall, which features gold medal-winning, old vine Zinfandels and Petite Sirahs, barrel-fermented Chardonnays, Tannat, sparkling Grenache Rose and other interesting varietals.
R&B Cellars — Alamedans Kevin and Barbara Brown are the proprietors and winemakers at R&B, where they produce some great reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa along with an award-winning array of reasonably priced Sauvignon Blancs and Zinfandels.
JRE Wines — John Eppler, who hails from Texas and is a master barbecuer, is at the helm of JRE Wines and creates some exciting Napa and Sonoma Cabernets and rich Zinfandels.
Carica Wines — Carica specializes in Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah from owners Dick Keenan and Charlie Dollbaum’s steep hillside vineyard just outside Santa Rosa.
Ehrenberg Cellars — Chris Ehrenberg, who manages the Claremont Hotel (if you’re in the wine business, don’t quit your day job too soon), is the avid winemaker behind this newcomer that is starting out with its first commercial vintage that is getting raves. Varietals include Petit Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Meritage.
Edmunds St. John Winery — The name behind this winery is Steve Edmunds, who has been a Rhône-style wine legend for more than 25 years, and he’s come to roost in Alameda. He produces great fruit-forward Rhône-style wines and also plays a mean guitar.
Blacksmith Cellars — This winery is the baby of Matt Smith, who will not only shoe your horse but provide you with some of the best Chenin Blanc, Rhône and Bordeaux varietals you’ve ever had. Just don’t count on the horse thing too much.
Virgo Cellars — Stefanie Jackson of Virgo Cellars is a dedicated Virgo in her wine and lifestyle, which means that you need to be very organized when you serve it. She makes a wonderful Zin and Cab with some structure and exotic labels.