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A Sweet Deal from an Incredible Vineyard.

At Dashe Cellars, we take our Late Harvest wines seriously.  It’s not like any other wine we make—each year, it’s a guessing game to see if the conditions are right to let grapes ripen late, often into November.  It’s high-stakes poker.  Guess wrong, and you’ve turned many tons of expensive grapes into a bunch of dried up raisins.  Guess right, and you’ve created an exquisitely intense wine. 

We’ve had a lot of experience making Late Harvest Zinfandel and over the years, we’ve made some stellar wines.  Just ask some of the best restaurants in the country, such as Alinea, the French Laundry, Charlie Trotter’s, or Chez Panisse, all of whom have featured the Late Harvest Zinfandel. 


The Vintage of the Decade. 

The last time the conditions were perfect to make a Late Harvest was in 2009.  Each year afterwards we shook our heads until suddenly, we had the legendary harvest of 2012. Voila! We decided to keep the grapes on the vine until Halloween, and the Late Harvest Zinfandel we made in 2012 was a picture-perfect study in winemaking of this kind of wine—evenly ripened, dark, intense, and complex. 

We made this wine from vines grown on our favorite vineyard—the fabulous Lily Hill vineyard, owned by our good friends Scott and Lynn Adams at Bella Vineyards. The cool climate allowed the grapes to keep their acidity even as we let the grapes ripen late, making for an incredibly balanced wine that finishes crisp and clean.  

The result? A dessert wine with intense aromas and flavors of lavender and voilets, black raspberry, wild cherry, chocolate, and spice.  A wine that can be sipped as a dessert itself, or paired with dishes such as panna cotta, molten chocolate cake, poached pears in wine, or simply poured over vanilla bean ice cream for a decadent dessert.


Get it now.  We’ll help with Shipping. 

We are releasing our 2012 Late Harvest Zinfandel this week, and to celebrate, we’re offering a special shipping deal on quantities of six bottles or more.  Simply order six bottles for a $10 flat rate shipping anywhere in the country (excluding Hawaii and Alaska) or $15 for quantities of 12 or more. Choose either shipping option LATEHARVEST6 or LATEHARVEST12 for the respective quantities and it will calculate your flat rate shipping totals. 

We were only able to make half of the normal quantity of Late Harvest Zinfandel that we normally make, so make sure that you get some before the wine disappears. 



Best California Wineries to Visit

Best California Wineries to Visit
California has thousands of winery tasting rooms, but the 75 here offer new and unforgettable experiences. They're pairing wines with smoked trout, tacos or local cheeses; putting guests in the vineyards on bikes, tractors and six-wheeled army trucks; and pouring tastes of wines you'll never find anywhere else. To make the most of any winery visit, always call a week or two ahead to find out tasting and touring hours and whether you'll need an appointment.
The best California wineries to visit.
Photo © Robert Holmes

Bay Area Wineries to Visit

Dashe Cellars

Mike and Anne Dashe's urban winery in Oakland puts in-cellar tastings and incredible Zinfandel within easy reach of San Francisco—it's a 15-minute BART ride.

Donkey & Goat

Jared and Tracey Brandt source grapes from Mendocino and nearby El Dorado county, then they make natural wines in Berkeley using old-school winemaking techniques. The small winery is open to the public only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but most guests get to taste with the


Dashe Cellars

A generation ago, my little outpost in the east bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area wouldn’t have truly afforded me any local wineries.  Sure some wineries were sourcing grapes from the truly hot vineyards on the other side of “the hill” and it was still only an hour drive to Napa Valley or Sonoma, but there weren’t many local wineries to speak of.

That’s changing rapidly these days both because of the urban winery movement as well as the general appreciation for food and wine that I find here in the east bay.

One of the vanguards of that movement into urban spaces has been Dashe Cellars.  Operated by a husband and wife team, Michael Anne Dashe, the winery benefits from its founders having about the best list of qualifications you’re ever set to find.  Between the two of them, who incidentally share winemaking duties, you’ll find job experience at the likes of Château Lafite-Rothschild,  Ridge, Far Niete, Chappellet and Schramsberg. Education wise, they aren’t much worse off either with a Davis degree and a University of Bordeaux degree between them.  I think we can agree that the pedigree of the winemaking talent isn’t to be questioned.

Dashe Cellars itself is located in an up and coming section of Oakland California, close to Jack London Square.  It’s a real working winery and offers an interesting mix of access to winemakers and vineyard staff, with a convenient location and tasting room.  In reality, when people say that we need more urban wineries, Dashe is largely the model they’re hoping for in their own town.

The wines at Dashe were originally focused on single vineyard Dry Creek Zinfandel. With 9 current Zinfandel’s for sale, I think it is safe to say that varietal is still the focus at Dashe although they also craft a range of other red and white wines. Dashe also hasn’t experienced the huge run up in prices that we’ve seen elsewhere as the economy has begun to improve in the past few years, with most of their single vineyard Zinfandel offerings, still sitting at $35 per bottle, or under.

If you’re up for a visit to Dashe during your next trip to San Francisco (please take BART, seriously you’re there in under 30 minutes door to door, quicker and easier than driving) try as many of the Zinfandel’s as they’ll allow, but don’t miss the Les Enfants line of wines.  

There is a whole movement in the wine industry about crafting more natural wines.  While some wineries take that to the extreme through biodynamic means, there wines are special and interesting in that they use native yeasts.  The whole native yeast concept was originally explained to me by the winemaker at Alpha Omega in Napa Valley, Jean Hoefliger.  Grapes have naturally occurant yeasts on the skins which will cause fermentation to occur in time, but there are generally many different strains.  As fermentation begins, some of the strains may begin fermentation and then fizzle out so to speak, only to have other strains eventually take over.  

natural yeast winesWinemakers generally have two issues with using natural yeasts.  First, they add an element of surprise to the entire process.  If you don’t know exactly what strains of yeast you have, it isn’t possible to know before fermentation begins exactly how long the process is likely to last.  Many winemakers say they get enough surprises in the vineyard, they don’t need them at the winery in addition.

Secondly, so many wines are made at custom crush and other shared facilities that using natural yeasts isn’t always an option.  With synthetic or other chosen yeasts around in such large quantities, it’s impossible to keep them completely separated.

Dashe doesn’t have either issue since the facility in Oakland is a working winery of their own and they get to choose who gets to use the facility with them.  With two highly trained winemakers on staff, who both own the business, it makes sense that no amount of attention is going to bother them.

In any case, I applaud Dashe for crafting a series of Les Enfants wines.  Currently they have a Zinfandel as well as a Grenache available from that line, both underpriced in my estimation given the work involved and quality of the wines, at $24.

Lastly, since I know a number of our readers do like white wine more so than red-Dashe does craft a range of white wines including Riesling and Vin Gris.  Although I find there to be more red wines than I could ever enjoy being produced on site, the dry Alsace style of Riesling is an interesting choice.  I’m seeing that style of Riesling being produced by more and more wineries sourcing grapes from Sonoma.  If you’re a wine drinker ready for a bit of an adventure, especially if you don’t love oaky Chardonnay, give the Riesling a try.

Don't feel like Napa? Go wine tasting in the East Bay 

Dashe Cellars in Oakland is known for its primo zinfandel wines. - COURTESY PHOTO

Dashe Cellars in Oakland is known for its primo zinfandel wines.

There is a lot to be said for wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma counties. It’s scenic, there is an abundance of wineries and it can be a day trip from San Francisco.
However, if you want to spend less time in the car and avoid the hordes of tourists, a trip over the Bay Bridge is all you need to make. It may not have the rows of
vineyards, but the East Bay has enough wineries to keep you busy for an afternoon.

Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda was one of the earliest to set up shop. That was in 1978. Now there are more than 20 producers scattered throughout Berkeley and Oakland, and most have tasting rooms. Should you find yourself craving some local juice, these are the ones not to miss:


Dashe Cellars : 55 4th Street., Oakland

Mike and Anne Dashe made wine in a building near Rosenblum before moving into this space eight years ago. Known for zinfandel, Dashe makes four, including three terrific single-vineyard wines — Louveau, Florence and Todd Brothers — that provide a fantastic comparison not only of terroir but also of the stylistic differences of this grape. The biodynamic Les Enfants Terribles wines are a bonus, as is the cabernet sauvignon.

JC Cellars : 55 4th Street., Oakland

If you are going to Dashe, you might as well try JC Cellars since the two share the same facility. Compared to Dashe, the wines are a bit more lavish. Whether or not that is your thing, comparing the different winemaking styles is educational.

Stage Left Cellars : 2102 Dennison Street., Oakland

Stage Left is of a similar ilk to JC Cellars in terms of style, though the two are hardly identical. The highlight for me here is The Emcee 2010 ($26), a mourvedre from the Vogelzang vineyard in Santa Barbara that tastes a lot like a multiberry fruit roll with Red Hots.

Broc Cellars : 805 Camelia Street., Berkeley

Broc Cellars is moving to a larger facility down the street, but the current tasting room is big enough for a handful of people. Everyone I know who is familiar with these wines seems to have a different favorite. Currently, I’m loving the 2011 Cassia Grenache ($27) from the Martian Vineyard in Santa Barbara County. It’s a vibrant, juicy and spicy wine that will lift your palate instead of weighing it down.

Donkey and Goat : 1340 Fifth Street., Berkeley

Donkey and Goat is around the corner from Broc Cellars. Both share a similar philosophy of minimal intervention and making wines with moderate alcohol levels. The wines are solid, but I’ve never had any that have wowed me until now. The culprit would be the 2010 Recluse Broken Leg Vineyard ($40), an elegant syrah from the Anderson Valley that possesses a cornucopia of black pepper, bacon, boysenberries, orange rind, bright acidity, and delightful and chalky tannins.
Most of these tasting rooms charge a nominal fee, but it may be waived with a purchase.

Pamela S. Busch is a wine writer and educator who has owned several wine bars in San Francisco, including Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen.

History underscores Zinfandel's new tack

State's great grape finds footing in history, ambitious new wines

Updated 3:03 am, Monday, March 4, 2013

Carole Meredith, the vine geneticist who solved the mystery of Zinfandel's origins, and husband Steve Lagier walk through their Zinfandel vineyard in Napa. Photo: Lacy Atkins, The Chronicle

Carole Meredith, the vine geneticist who solved the mystery of Zinfandel's origins, and husband Steve Lagier walk through their Zinfandel vineyard in Napa. Photo: Lacy Atkins, The Chronicle

Of the thousand things that keep winemakers awake at night, label approvals rank near the bottom. But Carole Meredith has had good reason for insomnia.


That's the newly revealed historic name for a grape we know remarkably well: Zinfandel. Meredith had asked federal regulators to approve the first Tribidrag to be made in modern times.

In mid-February, her wish was granted. Next month, 70 cases of the first California Tribidrag will be sent out into the world. Technically it will be Mount Veeder Red Wine; the feds approved Tribidrag only as a fanciful name.

All grist for the nerdiest of the nerdy - if not for the fact that Meredith is also the vine geneticist who sleuthed out the mystery of Zinfandel's origins, finding it identical to an obscurity in a single vineyard on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, where it was known as Crljenak Kastelanski.

Now she and several Croatian researchers have added a significant chapter to Zinfandel's history. Ivan Pejic and Edi Maletic of the University of Zagreb, who helped Meredith with her earlier hunt, discovered a grape in the Dalmatian hinterlands called Pribidrag, as well as a 90-year-old leaf specimen from an herbarium in the city of Split. After several years, the researchers figured out how to extract DNA for testing. It revealed that the old dried leaf was, in fact, Zinfandel.

Grape had 'nobility'

Meanwhile, Zinfandel's - hence Tribidrag's - history kept stretching back in time, enough so that Tribidrag was used as Zinfandel's official name in wine authority Jancis Robinson's new book, "Wine Grapes." Historian Ambroz Tudor uncovered references as far back as the early 1400s; Tribidrag wine was traded with Venice across the Adriatic - significant enough to be referenced by name.

"What to me makes this so sweet," Meredith says, is that "not only did we figure out where in Europe Zinfandel came from, but it was important. It wasn't a junk grape. It had nobility to it."

All of which shines back on Zinfandel's current state. After a long wandering in the stylistic wilderness - from frivolous and pink to super-ripe and sweet - California's beloved grape has found a surer, more serious step. It is again the base material for wines that can, and rightfully should, be taken with as much gravitas as top Cabernet. Its best expressions provide as good a vehicle as Pinot Noir to explore the state's terroir.

It's too soon to herald its return from the seas of bombast. But an ambitious, and expanding, roster of wines provide the clues to a great Zinfandel revival.

That includes stalwart evangelists for Zinfandel's quieter side through the years - both the famous (Ridge) and the loyally esoteric (Napa's Sky Vineyards). It includes those like Mike Dashe of Dashe Cellars who have demonstrated that less can be more, especially in Zinfandel strongholds like Dry Creek Valley.....

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