Flights of Five

Local Wineries Form New Cooperative Tasting Room


     In California, wine tasting was once a rural experience. Oenophiles would trek up to Napa or Sonoma, braving dusty roads in daylight to sample sips before 6 p.m. closings. If they were lucky, the winery might serve them some crackers. Today, the East Bay is home to numerous urban wineries, but most tasting rooms still shutter at 6 p.m. and serve minimal nibbles.
     Alameda is changing all that. Located at Angela’s Bistro & Bar, the Alameda Vintners Club offers tastings from five East Bay wineries from noon until 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Instead of just crackers, the wines can be paired with special small plates designed to complement the wines. “As winemakers, we wanted to have a place where our wines were accessible to the public,” says Kevin Brown, owner of R&B Cellars. “Being downtown, near shopping on Park Street and the Alameda Theatre, and being open later than 6 p.m. gives people the option of coming before or after dinner or before or after a movie.”
     In addition to R&B Cellars, local wineries include Carica Wines, Ehrehberg Cellars, JC Cellars, and Urbano Cellars. Brown stresses that having tastings from multiple wineries in one location enhances the overall experience. Wines are served in flights of five — usually featuring tastes of wines from each of the wineries — and range from $7.50 to $15. Themes include “Splendid Blended,” “Ode to Zinfandel” and the option to select your own. “Everyone loves discovering a new favorite winery, but it’s even better to discover five new ones,” says Brown. “We have such a rich assortment of great wines in the East Bay.”
     The wineries in the cooperative have their own specialties, but each has won awards for their quality and their value. R&B Cellars has racked up recent kudos for its red blend called The Improviser and its Swingsville Zinfandel and Serenade in Blanc Sauvignon Blanc. Carica focuses on single-vineyard designed varietals, including Petite Sirah, Syrah, Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc, and also makes a proprietary Rhône-style red wine, blending Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. Ehrenberg Cellars has won gold medals for its Cabernet Sauvignon and its Zinfindels. Urbano was awarded silver medals at the 2011 California State Fair for its Chenin Blanc and Sangiovese wines. JC Cellars specializes in Napa Syrah, Sonoma Zinfandel and Mendocino Petite Sirah.
     Each winery has its own separate wine club, with discounts for regular buyers. For now the “club” in Alameda Vintners Club is just a name, although a wine-buying program may come along in the future, Brown says. Visitors who like what they taste can buy bottles to take home or, for a corkage fee, open a bottle with their dinner.
     The small-plates menu by Angela’s chef Saboor Zafari are designed to complement the wines and include braised short-rib sliders, bruschetta served three ways, shrimp and salmon fritters and a variety of pizzas.

Alameda Vintners Club at Angela’s Bistro & Bar, 2301 Central Ave., 510-522-5822

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