Up Periscope

Emeryville has about 10,000 residents, a movie studio, a big bio-tech company, an educational toy maker and a fun winery called Periscope Cellars.

If you blink while driving down I-80 between Oakland and Berkeley, you might miss the town that is home to Pixar, Chiron and Leapfrog.  But, if you get off at either the Powell Street  or Ashby Avenue exits, and head for 1410 62nd Street, you’ll find Periscope Cellars  in a non-descript industrial building that once was home to a submarine repair shop.

Unlike many of the big wineries in Napa and Sonoma, there are no lush vineyards surrounding a picturesque chateau.  Instead, this four-year-old winemaking operation prides itself on its gritty, urban setting.

Brendan Eliason is the winemaker responsible for Periscope’s tasty lineup of syrah, zinfandel, petite verdot  and Deep 6, a flagship blend of red varietals.

Brendan Eliason

Brendan Eliason

Eliason recently led me through a tasting of barrel samples of the various wines to be included in the 2007 Deep Six, slated for release later this year. Using a wine thief,  he drew samples from several different wine-stained barrels stacked three and four-high in the same space where workmen once refurbished submarines that patrolled the Pacific Ocean during World War II.

I was surprised by the wine from two barrels of sangiovese that had different taste characteristics. The grapes were harvested from the same location in Alexander Valley, but taken from different sections of the tiny vineyard. One sample had a rich, full mouth feel but a closed nose while the other had a  more pronounced aroma. They complemented each other well and I can’t wait to see how the final mixture turns out.

“The grapes we get are from four blocks in the vineyard, which starts on the edge of the valley floor and then continues up a hillside,” Eliason explained. “You can really taste the difference, even though the blocks are only eight feet apart.”

Wine has been Eliason’s focus since he was 18.

“I’m completely unqualified to do anything else,” the winemaker said with a laugh when asked why he got involved in the business. His qualifications include a degree in enology from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and a position as co-winemaker at Caffaro Cellars in Dry Creek Valley.

Periscope Cellars offers free tasting (Wednesday-Sunday) from Noon to 5 p.m.  Prices for most bottles hover around $20.

On the second Wednesday of every month, there’s a 5-8 p.m. happy hour with snacks, live music and movies.  The winery also opens its doors on a regular basis for special events, including a fund-raiser Saturday (June 6) in honor of World Ocean Day. Proceeds from the event go to COARE, the Center for Oceanic Research, Education and Education.

Beyond the Bay

If you follow I-80 to Sacramento on Saturday (June 6), there’s a big outdoor wine and food event at Cesar Chavez Park with more than 60 wineries pouring tastes and dozens of restaurants offering samples of regional fare. The 7th annual Raley’s Grape Escape showcases wines from Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Yolo  counties. If you go, I’d recommend trying the cabernet or petite sirah made by Dave Dart at d’Art Wines and any of the fine zinfandels from Jessie’s Grove Winery.

Rock, Paper, Scissors & Syrah

The annual Rock, Paper, Scissors Championship takes place Saturday (June 6) at Cornerstone Place in Sonoma.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

Rock, Paper, Scissors

The competition, which runs from noon to 6 p.m.,  is sponsored by Roshambo Winery, which takes its name from a slang term for the game. To play, two competitors square off and exchange hand signals representing rock (closed fist), scissors (two fingers) or paper (flat hand). Rock beats scissors. Scissors beats paper and paper beats rock. Oh, and there’s sure to be Roshambo wines, too.

All Hopped Up

For a hoppier experience, cruise up Highway 101 and check out the Beerfest in Santa Rosa on Saturday (June 6), featuring pours from 35 microbreweries. Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 at the door. Proceeds benefit Face to Face, the Sonoma County Aids Network.


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