Believe it or not, Oakland is home to a number of wineries. Obviously they don't grow their grapes in Oakland (though we have spotted one small vineyard in the hills near us), but instead mostly source them from the well known wine growing regions in other parts of California. On Saturday, K and I took part in the Passport to the East Bay Wine Trail 2011. Twenty one wineries from all over the East Bay participated, but to keep it manageable, they were giving tastings at 6 locations in Oakland and Alameda. Several of the locations were close enough to each other to walk, but there was also a shuttle bus to get between locations, particularly those in Alameda.
Cerutti Cellars, which was also hosting Andrew Lane Wines (Saint Helena) and Irish Monkey Cellars. That ended up being a great place to start, as it wasn't too crowded, and we got a chance to talk with various people including winemaker Bob Lynch of Irish Monkey. I especially liked the Irish Monkey wines, as they tend to be pure grape, e.g., their Merlot is made from 100% Merlot grapes, not blended with others. Despite the powerful flavor, I thought the Irish Monkey Merlot and Petite Sirah had some of the nicest finishes.
Then we shuttled over to Dashe Cellars and JC Cellars, which were hosting Aubin Cellars, Eno Wines (Berkeley), Stage Left Cellars and Tayerle Wines. Things were getting more crowded by then, so it was harder to talk with the wine makers. But there were also great snacks to take a break from wine tasting and ultimately substitute for lunch.
Urban Legend Cellars, which was hosting Adams Point Winery, Stomping Girl Wines (Berkeley) and Urbano Cellars (Emeryville). This location also featured live music and more yummy snacks. Adams Point Winery specializes in fruit wines and dessert wines, which was an interesting break from the plethora of reds, whites and occasional rosé. Unfortunately the space wasn't as well utilized here, so the stations for all 4 wineries were in one corner, making it difficult to move around and sample everything.
Finally, we walked over to Linden Street Brewery, which was hosting Periscope Cellars (Emeryville, but opening a tasting room at Linden Street soon). It was a nice change of pace, as with only one winery giving tastes there, the crowd was much smaller. We were able to sit and relax and taste things slowly. I also got a chance to chat with Tina Tamale, blogger, proprietress of La Borinqueña Mexicatessen, and general Oakland fan. La Borinqueña was providing yummy snacks to people at Linden Street -- not quite your usual wine tasting accompaniments, but a bit heartier fare and a great change of pace.
At this point, it was late in the day, we were tired, and the next shuttle bus to the Alameda stops wasn't due for a while. Add in that we wanted to watch the NCAA men's final four games that evening, and we decided to call it a day for wine-tasting. We were hoping to sneak in a dessert at Plum, but they didn't have space available, so we headed to Pacific Coast Brewing to have some dinner and watch the games.
For even more wine, beer and food businesses in Oakland, check out the Oakland Waterfront Food Trail Map. They've marked the ones which offer purchases on-site, but check first before planning a visit.
If you're coming from outside the area, another option is to take an East Bay Winery Bike Tour. For $89 (-$15 if you bring your own bike), you get bike and helmet rental and a guided bike tour to various Oakland and Alameda wineries.
Stage Left Cellars was voted best San Francisco (?) winery by the SF Bay List, and Dashe Cellars was #2.