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Why an urban winery in the greater Bay Area?

Bob Miller, left, and his wife Kim Potter, of San Francisco, enjoy a glass of Pinot Noir during the Winter Solstice Wine Tasting and Grilled Cheese event at Treasure Island Wines on Treasure Island in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. 

There's no majestic estate. No grapevines out back. And, instead of pests, these winery dogs chase street traffic and sidewalk skateboards.

Urban vinting may seem like a new or unusual concept, but it is as central to the history and success of the California wine industry as the Mission grape or the buttery chardonnay, from the pre-Prohibition commercial cellars in San Francisco to the first zinfandel Kent Rosenblum made on the docks of Alameda.

The majority of Bay Bridge wineries have sprouted in the last decade. Today, there are 50 in San Francisco, the East Bay and perched midway across the bridge. Most are small and family-owned, and some are making wines so good, the only reason you don't know about them is because their entire allocation has been snapped up by Gary Danko.

These vintners make wine here because they live here; because they can't afford to buy land in Napa, and, quite frankly, don't want to be limited by doing so. By chasing the best fruit and making wine for, in, and sometimes with the community, these winemakers are stalwarts of sustainability and locavore-living. They are challenging long-held beliefs that fine wines must be made next to vines or that credible winemakers focus on one varietal.

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Oakland wine trail: Six wineries to visit now

From the wineries of Jack London Square to the tasting rooms sprinkled downtown, Oakland's wine trail is an impressive complement to the city's world-class culinary scene. At the Fourth Street warehouse housing JC Cellars and Dashe Cellars, you can taste some of the most highly lauded syrahs and zinfandels in California. Venture across the freeway to the 25th Street Collective that Two Mile Wines calls home, and discover stunning examples of boutique sangiovese and viognier. Here's a sampling of wineries that stood out for us, have regular tasting room hours and form a mini wine trail of their own. Check their websites for hours and other details.

Dashe Cellars: Mike and Anne Dashe have been making stellar Sonoma County zinfandels and Rhône-style wines for 17 years (10 in the 16,000-square-foot winery they share with JC Cellars) using cool-climate fruit from low-yielding vines, native-yeast fermentations, and minimal handling. Be sure to try 2011's The Comet, an intense, old-vine zinfandel commemorating Comet ISON, and the 2012 Potter Valley Dry riesling, a dead ringer for the Mosel. Stay tuned for a first-time Sierra Foothills Grenache Blanc to be released in April. (55 Fourth St.;

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Chabot Space & Science Center And Dashe Cellars Launch THE COMET Wine

By Chabot Space & Science Center

Published: Monday, Dec. 9, 2013 - 11:50 am

OAKLAND, Calif., Dec. 9, 2013 -- Partnership Renews Winemaking Tradition and Benefits Science Center

OAKLAND, Calif., Dec. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Chabot Space & Science Center, in partnership with Oakland-based Dashe Cellars, announces the launch of THE COMET, a new wine produced and named to honor the Comet ISON, the recent comet attracting extraordinary media attention in November.  

THE COMET follows in a centuries old tradition of "comet vintages," in which vintners would create a special wine to commemorate years in which major comets passed Earth. Dashe Cellars has renewed the tradition with a unique limited edition wine, and 10% of the proceeds from sales of THE COMET will be donated to Chabot Space & Science Center.  

According to Dashe Cellars, "THE COMET was created by carefully selecting individual barrels of old-vine zinfandel made from the Todd Brothers Ranch in Alexander Valley, a high end vineyard in Sonoma County. These selected barrels were then blended with a small amount of dark, intense Petite Sirah to add balance. The wine include with intense aromas of black raspberry, wild cherry, and black currant fruit, with highlights of chocolate and black pepper spice. In the mouth, the wine has a great velvety texture and explosive flavors of blackberry, cassis, plum, clove, and black pepper, with a long, spicy finish that lasts for minutes. A rich, full-bodied wine, THE COMET has the intensity and complexity that is the perfect accompaniment to holiday feasts of any type."

Chabot CEO Alexander Zwissler stated, "Our partnership with Dashe Cellars is based on our mutual appreciation of science. Michael and Anne Dashe – both with science backgrounds – share our commitment to strengthening science education in our community. We hope Chabot supporters and wine enthusiasts will gift THE COMET to their friends and family, and spark discussions of what's happening in astronomy and science."

Although the Comet ISON was predicted to be "the comet of the century" by some astronomers, it fizzled out spectacularly on Thanksgiving Day after its perihelion, or journey close to the Sun. THE COMET wine is expected to have a longer life, but production is limited to 100 cases. THE COMET is available directly from Dashe Cellars at $35 a bottle, or by the case, and can be ordered online or may be purchased from Dashe Cellars at the tasting room, located at 55 4th St. in the Jack London Square Historic Warehouse district.

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The Gift of Booze With a little effort, gifts of alcohol can be thoughtful — not like an afterthought.

By Madeleine Key 

Any adult can buy a bottle of liquor at BevMo!, but thoughtfully giving booze requires a little extra effort. Thankfully, the East Bay is home to a bevy of outstanding producers and purveyors. St. George Spirits makes just about every spirit you can name these days, and breweries are in no short supply. The best boozy gifts are novel and, most importantly, tasty. If you're giving someone a gift that's meant to be consumed, you had better make every sip count.
Here are our favorites:
2012 Roussanne Stone Crusher
By Donkey and Goat Winery
"Orange" wines — which are more darkly hued than typical white wines because the skins of the grapes used to make them are left on during a
portion of fermentation — are something of a cultish novelty in the United States. In other parts of the world, however, orange wines have been made for thousands of years. The 2012 Roussanne Stone Crusher, made by Donkey and Goat Winery with fruit from El Dorado Hills, is anything but a novelty: With chewy tannin and excellent structure, it's a white that will delight and surprise lovers of red wine. It's strong enough to hold up to the heavier foods of the season, such as meat, seafood, and roasted veggies, and has a delicious, lingering finish. The Stone Crusher is an exciting example of the forward-thinking winemaking in the East Bay that has garnered national attention. But mainly it tastes really great.
Available at Donkey and Goat Winery, 1340 Fifth St., Berkeley, 510-868-9174,
Bartender's Tool Kit Gift Set
Bar tools last forever, and this set is immaculately crafted. So no, this is not a great gift for a friend who willingly takes shots of vodka, but it might be appropriate for someone who wants to elevate his or her five o'clock game. Because if the craft cocktail movement has taught us anything, it's that good drinks require good tools. This set, available at Umami Mart, includes the essentials: a beautiful Yarai mixing glass, a strainer, a jigger, a bitters bottle, a barspoon, and a spherical ice tray. If it's a little out of your price range, Umami Mart also sells individual items, including highball glasses, unique barspoons, a charming (but surprisingly hefty) bottle opener in the shape of a fish, and a variety of different sized spherical ice trays.
Available at Umami Mart, 815 Broadway, Oakland, 510-575-9152,
2010 Zinfandel Florence Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley
By Dashe Cellars
Dashe Cellars has been quietly making some of the best Zinfandel in California for nearly two decades. Until recently, Zinfandel has had a bad reputation: It was largely (and rightly) written off as overblown. But the Dashes have done a lot to change that. They make wine in a more European style — meaning it's higher in acid and less oaky than most Zinfandels. Their 2010 Zinfandel from Florence Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley is truly outstanding. Boasting dark fruit and spicy floral notes, it achieves an expert balance between fruit and acidity, which makes it an excellent wine to drink with food (the Dashes recommend grilled lamb and other foods that can stand up to its intensity). The Dashes' wine could fetch a far higher price if their winery was located in Sonoma, where they source their grapes. So take advantage of their location in Jack London Square: This wine is a steal.
Available at Dashe Cellars, 55 4th St., Oakland, 510-452-1800,


An amazing line up of the very best Zinfandels

Gregory Dal Piaz

November 5, 2013

It's not often that I have a plan. Well, a detailed plan at least.. Some sort of a plan not being a requirement for those in this business. But a detailed plan, and over-arching theme for a visit to wine country can certainly come in handy. 
This month’s, or rather last month’s theme was, surprisingly enough: Zinfandel. I say surprisingly because in a land full of vines, Zinfandel accounts for about 50,000 acres out of California’s over half million acres of vineyards. That 10% is about half the acreage of either Chardonnay or Cabernet, almost the same as Merlot and more than Pinot Noir’s 40,000 acres, which surprised me. Based on this I should only be devoting about 10% of my California coverage to Zinfandel, right?
Even with all this land under vine Zin doesn’t get 10% of the wine coverage out there. And what’s with Pinot? Probably the second most heavily written about variety in California and a wine that has seen production quintuple over the past decade while Zinfandel’s has remained fairly stable. In these number lies two stories.. The first is why Zin is not that heavily written about, it’s popularity has remained stable, and truth be told as with most wines that popularity is mostly built upon rather inexpensive and not terribly distinctive wines. 

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