Posts Tagged ‘alameda wine’

It Means Orchard Tender in German

August 2, 2012

Roughly translated, Bumgarner is German for an orchard worker or gardener. It’s also the name of a  Giants pitcher and a not-so-Giant winery in the Sierra foothills.

The family owned Bumgarner Winery in Camino has an interesting lineup of red and white wines, with several on tap in the tasting room plus a delightful hard apple cider.

I found this quaint little winery by accident, thanks to my wife’s urging to stop at a thrift store off Highway 50 while driving home from a visit to Lake Tahoe.

As luck would have it, the winery sits directly behind the Snowline Hospice Thrift Store, where I got a great deal on a pair of $3 blue jeans.before strolling next door to taste some wine.

Tapping into High-Altitude Juice

Wines offered on tap are sold in a re-usable 750-ml  bottle with a resealable top. Bring the bottle back, and they knock $5 off the price of a re-fill.

My favorites included the 2010 Chardonnay and the 2008 Eldorado Tempranilllo. I also liked the apple cider, made from Pink Lady fruit in a delightfully dry style that I found refreshing.

The Chardonnay carries the vein of apples forward on a much lighter and delicate note. This was clean Chardonnay fruit without any heavy oak attributes.

The Tempranillo is made from a Spanish varietal that presents a solid, earthy backbone with leathery overtones against blackberry fruit and  bouquet.

There are some good tannins at work in the Tempranillo alongside significant acids which make this wine a particularly great match for hearty foods involving tomato-based sauces or grilled meats and sausages.

Get Your Grill-O-Rama On in Alameda

If you’re a Zinfandel fan and enjoy grilled foods, head for Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11. I’ll be there to help judge the entries and write about the results.

ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) is sponsoring  the Grill-O-Rama, an amazing cook-off competition pairing Bay Area grilling artists (like John Ledbetter from BocaNova in Jack London Square, chef Tyler Stone, Dawn Wofford from Sonoma Smokehouse, and Sophina Uong from Pican in Oakland) with wines from 32 different California Zinfandel producers.

Bay Area wineries like Rock Wall, R&B Cellars and Dashe Cellars will be pouring their wines alongside a host of other top producers from Lodi, Napa, Sonoma, the Central Coast and Sierra Foothills.

Advance tickets are available online for $50 and $60 at the door.


Rock-Solid Rosenblum

January 22, 2012

If you tried a different Shauna Rosenblum wine every day this month, you’d still have five left over to uncork in February.

Prolific ain’t the half of it. She makes 36 wines — red, white, sweet and sparkling — at Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda. The winery is located in a giant hangar on the old naval air station, not far from where her dad, Kent Rosenblum, created world-class zinfandel at Rosenblum Cellars.

Shauna Rosenblum, Rock Wall Winemaker

I dropped by Rock Wall  recently to meet Ms. Rosenblum and try three of her current-release petite sirahs — two from Napa and one from Mendocino and all from the 2009 vintage.

They will be poured along with wines from 55 producers at the petite sirah extravaganza called Dark and Delicious held at Rock Wall on Feb. 17. Click here to purchase tickets for one of the best wine tasting productions in the Bay Area.

Carver Sutro

This $40 bottle has a Napa lineage. The Carver Sutro grown near Calistoga is from a vineyard that dates back to the early 1900s when the land was farmed by Italian immigrants.

This deep, dark wine is silky smooth, no mean feat with this often-tannic grape, and there are flavors of rich blackberries along with a bit of mint.

Gamble Ranch

The Gamble Ranch, to Rosenblum’s taste, is like a “chocolate brownie with cream.”

It’s also from Napa. The vineyard, near Rutherford, dates from the 1960s.

I liked the cocoa highlights and house texture of richness that stops short of “over-the-top.”  Flavors of black cherry and plums work well alongside manageable tannins that provide enough stimulating bite to sustain interest in this $35 wine.


The Rucker’s was the least expensive ($22) member of this trio and my favorite.

This fruit-forward Mendocino wine was easy to approach and paired well with a bowl of chicken cacciatore. Rosenblum described it as having chocolate overtones and I can definitely agree that it’s on the cocoa side of the flavor wheel.

Variety Matters

Rosenblum is bringing out new wines all the time, including a new “Super Alameda” blend called Romancer that debuts right before Valentine’s Day.

Romancer is a blend of equal parts malbec, mourvedre and petit verdot that debuts on Feb. 10 with a party at the winery.

A big star already is the Rock Wall Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands ($25). This tropical-scented wine rolls Asian pear flavors around the tongue in a style that won Best in Class honors at the 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Ahoy, Norton

Another debutante waiting to be unveiled is a tiny batch of wine made from Norton, a red grape that was hot back in the 1840s when the Midwest was the nation’s wine-growing sweet spot.

Norton is being re-discovered on a relatively small commercial scale outside California with some vineyards in places like Virginia and Texas yielding interesting table wines.

The Rock Wall Norton is sourced from a three-acre California vineyard that yielded less than one ton of juice. I’ll keep you posted on the release date.

Rock Wall: Not Hard to Like

May 13, 2011

There’s a lot to like about Rock Wall Wines, but there are also a few downsides.

It’s the closest working winery to my home, but there are no captivating vistas of vine-covered hillsides in sight.

The ownership pedigree is blue-chip, but will the succeeding generation be able to carry on the tradition?

The view is drop-dead spectacular, if you can overlook the huge expanse of cracked and overgrown concrete just off the lovely deck.

San Francisco Skyline from Rock Wall

If you  don’t like wine, there’s a handy, high-octane alternative — a neighbor (Hangar One distillery) who makes booze in another abandoned Navy building nearby.

The best reason to visit Rock Wall, however, is to taste the wines. The winery’s tasting room is open to the public Thursday-Sunday, Noon-6 p.m.

New Tasting Room

I dropped by earlier this week to get a sneak peek at the new Rock Wall tasting room and sample some of the newest releases.

The public christening of the tasting room and the adjacent special events center is happening this weekend.

Ahoy, Alameda

The working end of the winery is housed inside an old airplane hangar at the former Alameda Naval Air Station, which began operation in 1940 and closed for good in 1997.

The tasting room is in a new building that sits between the hangar and the activity center, a brilliant white geodesic dome that faces the striking San Francisco skyline.

Rock Wall Wines

One of two 8,000-yard runways on the base is a short walk from the winery’s rear deck.

The aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise is berthed nearby, at one end of the 2,300-acre base on the West End of Alameda, where the big warship attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Rock Solid Reds

The lineup of Rock Wall red wines is solid.

At the top sits an excellent 2009 reserve zinfandel, made from the prestigious Monte Rosso vineyard in Sonoma.

There’s a rich core of blackberry/raspberry fruit wrapped in a creamy smoothness that belies its young age.

The tannic structure is finely integrated, apparent but not overbearing. The berry fruits yielded to cherry overtones as I rolled the wine around my tongue.

I can’t wait to taste it in six months to a year to see how much complexity it can develop.

Shauna Rosenblum

I also liked the 2009 Obsidian, a 50-50 blend of zinfandel and petite sirah that provides a juicy mouthful of good taste.

The fruit for this $20 wine comes from Lake County.

The combination of fresh raspberry and blackberry tastes from the zin with the petite sirah heft makes for a winning wine in my book.

It probably doesn’t hurt a bit that the winemaker added a splash of extra zin from the Rockpile area of Sonoma to push the flavor profile a bit higher.


Kent Rosenblum, who sold his namesake Alameda winery to beverage conglomerate Diageo for $105 million in 2008, is the consulting winemaker at Rock Wall, which started operations that same year and is run by his daughter, Shauna Rosenblum.

The Rosenblums’ current venture is located about a mile from the old Rosenblum Cellars winery, where all that’s left is a tasting room and storage facility. The winemaking is now done at other Diaego facilities in California.

The 40,000-square-foot hangar where Rock Wall wines are made is a production facility shared with a lineup of boutique wineries (including Blacksmith, Carica, R & B Cellars, JRE Wines, and Ehrenberg Cellars) that make wine in a collegial atmosphere.

It’s a fun place that combines an easy-going, low-key attitude with  high-quality wines.

Taking Petite Sirah Seriously

February 24, 2010

There’s a lot to like about petite sirah, a bold and sometimes brawny grape with roots in the south of France where it goes by the name durif, so maybe it’s time you tried a bottle the next time a red wine decision is needed.

I attended the annual petite sirah love fest sponsored by the advocacy group P.S. I Love You a few days ago at Rock Wall Wines in Alameda. There were 44 wineries pouring samples of their petite sirahs alongside plates of food prepped by 31 regional restaurants and caterers.

There was superb regional diversity, with greats wines coming from Napa along with Lodi and Mendocino and Lake counties.

Biale is Best

I was blown away by the across-the-board quality of the petite sirah poured by Robert Biale Winery. This small premium winery sits on the edge of Napa subdivision where it makes some of the finest petite sirahs in California, along with some world-class zinfandel, too.

Biale's Dave Pramuk and Al Perry at P.S. I Love You

Biale Vineyards' Dave Pramuk (left) and Al Perry

Two of the Biale wines really stood out. The 2007 Like Father, Like Son (a syrah/petite sirah blend from Napa with a splash of zin, $46) and The Royal Punisher ($36), a brooding all petite-sirah giant of a wine from Napa that epitomizes what this rough and tumble grape can become in the hands of talented Biale winemaker Al Perry.

Most of these wines are in short supply, so fans might want to check into the Biale wine club to insure access to limited bottlings. Call the winery at 707-257-755 for info.

Get in Line

Cecchetti Wine Company in Lake County has a bargain-priced winner with its Line 39 2007 petite sirah from the North Coast appellation. I would have never guessed this is a $10 wine. I’d have paid twice that and felt like I got a bargain in this deep red wine that tastes of chocolate and red cherries. A sample of the unreleased 2008 was even better!

A few notches higher on the flavor meter is the 2007 Pickett Road petite sirah ($35) from Rosenblum Cellars.  The taste of this jammy, concentrated red fruit bomb from Napa was addictive as was the nose of plums and chocolate that tumbled out of the glass.

Tune in to Jazz

Jazz Cellars poured its exquisite 2006 petite sirah from Eaglepoint Ranch ($38) in Mendocino and the double-gold winner from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition did not disappoint.

This is a big wine that would match up well with a slab of prime beef still sizzling from the grill. Despite 14.7 percent alcohol, the wine is balanced, with sufficient acid to keep the sweet fruit in check. Just a touch of vanilla from the oak barrel aging complements the red and black fruit flavors and the tight tannins of this wine.

Jazz wines are made at Crushpad, the San Francisco wine collective.

Honorable Mention

Two wines from Lodi showed what the fertile Delta region can produce when it comes to petite sirah.

Mettler Family Vineyards petite sirah ($22) is made from organic vineyards and the wine is a deep purple pleasure giver. The Michael David Petite Petit (a blend of 85 percent petite sirah and 15 percent petit verdot, a French varietal) is a $22 bottle of violet-scented blackberry fruit with a fine dusty edge.

In Pursuit of Perfect Pinot

The 8th annual Pinot Noir Summit is slated for Saturday (Feb. 27) at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael from noon to 8:30 p.m. More than 40 different wineries — mostly from California and Oregon — will be pouring. There will be blind tastings and workshops plus an awards ceremony where the top-rated wine will be revealed. Tickets run $75-$125.

Pig Out With Wine

Pigs are the main attraction, but there will also definitely be a wine component at  Cochon 555 in Napa this Saturday. Five chefs, five pigs and five winemakers will be featured at this event — the first of 10 cooking competitions in different cities across the country this year.

The challenge — create as many interesting dishes as possible from an entire 125-pound hog. Chefs from some of the region’s finest restaurants — Meadowood, French Laundry, Silverado Resort, Namu of San Francisco and Zazu Restaurant — will be pairing dishes with wines from Gamble Family Vineyards, Zacherle Wines, Hill Family Estate, Wind Gap Wines and Hirsch Vineyards.

Tickets run $100-$160. If you can’t make it to Silverado Resort for this event, the Cochon 555 tour will be in San Francisco June 6 with a different set of chefs, wineries and heritage hogs.