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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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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.