Posts Tagged ‘dashe cellars’

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.


Festival Season is Upon Us

March 25, 2011

We’re right in the midst of my favorite time in wine country. Festival season.

I’ve got info to share on two wine-tasting events in San Francisco and Oakland/Alameda, but first a quick report on a really nice sauvignon blanc.

A bottle of 2009 sauvignon blanc from Franciscan Estate in Napa found its way into my kitchen (the winery sent me a sample) and I’d actually forgotten about it until a desperate need arose for a white wine to pair with a salmon dinner.

Too lazy to tramp down to the cellar, I frantically searched the kitchen wine cabinet and then sorted through the 12 or so bottles stashed on various tables, counters and shelves.

The Franciscan was the only white in sight, so I slid it into the fridge for a 20-minute cool-down while I pan roasted a delicious filet of coho salmon marinated in olive oil and fresh Meyer lemon juice.

SV Hits the Spot

I like a crisp glass of sauvignon blanc in the summertime, on a hot night or at the beach, and also sometimes with steamed crab. I don’t believe I’d had any memorable SV with salmon before, since chardonnay is generally my “go-to” wine with salmon.

A glass of the tasty Franciscan changed my mind. It paired beautifully with the juicy pink fish, served over a bed of white and red quinoa with a side of sautéed red and dinosaur kale.

This agile wine showed a lime-centric core wrapped in layers of melon and a touch of something pleasingly tropical.

It’s a definite keeper at $17 a bottle.

Damn the Torpedoes, Festival Season Ahead

I’ve already reported on the 2011 versions of ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) and the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, and there’s a lot more wine event action ahead.

Rhone Rangers Report

This weekend, the Rhone Rangers hold their yearly grand tasting at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

There are events on both Saturday (March 26) and Sunday (March 27). Here’s a link to details, with the featured tasting scheduled from 2-5 p.m. Sunday. Prices are $45 at the door.

This group is focused on promoting American wines with strong ties to the Rhone Valley of France. Rhone-style wines can be made from 22 different varieties of grapes, including syrah, grenache, mourvedre (all red) and viognier, roussane and marsanne (all white).

If I were picking California’s leading Rhone-style wine producers I’d be sure to include these two Central Coast stars:

Tablas Creek, which is owned by the same family that owns one of the Rhone’s greatest estates — Chateau de Beaucastel.

And, Zaca Mesa, a delightful winery in Los Olivos that started planting vines in 1973.

Both wineries will be pouring at the Rhone Rangers event in San Francisco.

East Bay Action

The East Bay Vintner’s Alliance puts on its annual Passport event next Saturday (April 2). Tastings are grouped at six urban wineries in (naturally) the East Bay.

Tickets are $40 and that includes a free shuttle bus between the wineries, BART and the Oakland Ferry Terminal.

There are 21 wineries pouring samples. Public transit is definitely the way to go, unless you’ve got a designated driver!

Tasting stops include: JC Cellars and Dashe Cellars — which share a building near Jack London Square in Oakland; the brand new Cerruti Cellars tasting room in Jack London Square; Periscope Cellars, an Emeryville producer that has moved its tasting room to a new location at Linden Street Brewery in Oakland which I wrote about in one of my earlier blogs; Rock Wall Wine Company, located in an old airplane hangar in Alameda; Rosenblum Cellars, which still has a tasting room next to the Alameda Ferry Terminal; and Urban Legend, a small winery located in an old commercial building on Oakland’s 4th Street.

For a full list of participating wineries, click here.

What’s Next?

I’ll be reporting on lots of wine tasting events over the coming months, from Monterey to Mendocino. Here are a few of the major attractions on my radar:

April — East Bay Vintners Association Passport

May — Santa Lucia Highlands Gala

June — Auction Napa Valley 2011, TAPAS Festival (Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society),  Taste of Mendocino

If you have a favorite wine festival, tasting or other wine-related event coming up over the next few months, please let me know about it.


Wine Mining for Napa Nuggets

August 6, 2010

Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon represents the very best wine that California can produce.

There are lots of Napa Valley wines on the market, from $10 to more than $1000 a bottle. When they’re good, they can be awfully good. The opposite happens, too.

Napa’s geography is divided into 15 sub-appellations covering an area that begins just south of downtown Napa and runs north to the resort town of Calistoga.

A comparison of two wines from the 2007 vintage highlights some of the similarities — and subtle differences — that can occur.

Robert Mondavi Winery and Mount Veeder Winery provided samples of their 2007 Napa Valley cabernets for my informal tasting.

The two wines are made primarily from grapes grown in different parts of the region — Oakville (on the valley floor), Stag’s Leap (on the hilly eastern edge of the valley) and Mount Veeder (on the steep slopes of the western side of the valley).

Up from the Valley

Most of the grapes used in the Mondavi wine ($28) are from the famed To Kalon Vineyard (38%) on bench land near the iconic winery in Oakville. Another 29 percent come from hillside vineyards grown on the opposite side of the valley in the Stag’s Leap region with the remainder culled from other Oakville and Napa vineyards — plus 2 percent fruit from Sonoma.

To Kalon Vineyard

This wine showed a light touch of sweet oak on the nose, which also revealed some blueberry highlights. This is a deep rich red glass of wine. There’s sweet cassis fruit that filled out over the evening and opened up as some of the tannins softened. It’s 86 percent cabernet, 8 percent merlot, 4 percent cabernet franc and 1 percent each of petit verdot and malbec.

I’d hold onto this one for a year or two and then taste it again to check its progress.

Down from the Mountain

The grapes for Mount Veeder’s wine come from steep, hillside vineyards. The vines are grown on the opposite side of the valley from Stag’s Leap. Higher elevation vineyards — planted on minerally depleted soils — often produce intense fruit from smaller berries that struggle against the elements.

Mount Veeder Winery Ranches

The mix of grapes is similar to the Mondavi, except Mount Veeder winemaker Janet Myers used syrah in place of cabernet franc.

I caught a touch of cedar on the nose (very nice) of the Mount Veeder wine ($40). There was a rounder feel to the aromas that suggested some sweetness to follow.

That hint was just a tease. The wine is dense with fruit that will come further forward, over time. I caught plums on the nose and that carried through to the taste, which had to battle youthful tannins for my attention.

This deep purple wine is still a youngster and it needs time to mellow out and for the flavors to knit fully together.

Both wines were decanted and tasted blind over a three-hour period before, during and after a meal that featured a red wine-marinated pot roast with a medley of roasted vegetables (sweet potatoes, white potatoes, brown mushrooms, red onions, red bell peppers and garlic).

Urban Wine Experience Favorites

My three favorite wines tasted at last weekend’s Urban Wine Experience included:


Cerruti Cellars 2009 Mer Blanc, a stylish pink merlot made from Alexander Valley grapes. Nice fruit in a merlot-light style, great for a picnic or enjoy by the pool on a warm afternoon


Dashe Cellars 2008 Dry Riseling from Potter Valley (Mendocino). A tangy, tasty wine for summer sipping.


Ehrenberg Cellars 2009 Lodi Petite Sirah (barrel sample). This is a deep, dark purple wine with gobs of fruit to watch as it matures, is bottled and comes to market later this year.

Urban Wines by the Bay

July 28, 2010

The Alameda/Oakland  Ferry becomes a wine-drinker shuttle this weekend when city dwellers can sail from San Francisco to the Urban Wine Experience on the East Bay shoreline.

There will be 19 wineries from the East Bay Vintner’s Alliance pouring about 60 wines from 2-5 p.m. on Saturday (July 31) in Oakland at the old Barnes and Noble building, now called the Jack London Pavilion.

It’s easily reachable from all of the Bay Area by car, BART and several bus lines. Advance tickets are $45 online and $60 at the door.

Starting Small

Although there is one big fish in the group, Rosenblum Cellars, most of the wineries are much tinier operations that produce small lots of wines with limited distribution. Here’s a chance to taste wines you won’t likely see on any grocery store shelf.

Bob Rawson is president of the  vintner group and a partner in Urbano Cellars, which operates in Emeryville at facilities operated by Periscope Cellars, another small producer that set up shop in an old submarine repair shop in an industrial block of 62nd Street off Hollis Avenue.

Bob Rawson, Urbano Cellars

Rawson started making wine several years ago in his San Francisco garage with a neighbor, Fred Dick. It was a hobby that grew into a business with plans to expand into new space in Oakland later this year.

Several alliance members share facilities with Rock Wall Wines in Alameda, where a huge aircraft hangar at the old naval air station provides room to work and grow their businesses.

Other alliance winemakers, like Jeff Cohn at JC Cellars, who started working at bigger wineries, like Rosenblum, have grown their businesses and now operate their own wineries. JC Cellars shares winery and tasting room space with Dashe Cellars at 55 4th Street in Oakland.

Award Winners

Some of these wines are “turn your head around” good and have been recognized for excellence at various competitions around the state.

One of the newest alliance members, Urban Legend in Oakland, won Best of Show at the California State Fair for their 2009 Clarksburg rosato di barbera ($16). I wrote about this dry, flavorful summer wine in an earlier blog about the new winery near Jack London Square (621 4th Street, Oakland). Only 65 cases were made.

Urbano will be pouring its own 2008 rose’, a bone dry wine made from the valdiguie grape. Known in some circles as Napa Gamay, valdigue is actually a French grape that is sparsely planted in California.

Rawson gets grapes for his “vin rose'” from a two-acre plot in Solano County. (Click here for my take on an interesting Solano County winery to visit.)

“We are trying to make something different and unusual,” Rawson said, explaining why there is no cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay in his lineup.

Instead, he sources fruit from small growers of sangiovese, barbera, and petit verdot grapes.

The 2006 petit verdot from Urbano (made from grapes grown in Lodi) is a steal at $16. It’s not a grape you see bottled on its own very much. Usually petit verdot is a small part of a Bordeaux-style blend, but in Rawson’s hands this petit verdot becomes a smooth and complex red wine.

One alliance member, Adams Point Winery, goes in another direction, making mostly fruit-based wines from mango, papaya and persimmon. There’s room for all kinds of wines in this alliance, so you’ll find a wide range of styles from big, bold reds to rose’ wines and whites, too.

Urban Concept Pays Off

The idea that wines can be made outside of the major wine-growing regions, like Napa and Sonoma, isn’t new. Home and hobby winemakers  all over the country make wine from imported grapes. Rawson thinks the commercial urban winemaking movement is sustainable and practical.

“This is a model that can work,” he said, over a glass of his delightful 2008 sangiovese. “There are no land costs and no planting costs. We’re leasing warehouse space, for the most part.”

And, Rawson says, “Most of the wine consumers are here, where we are, not in Napa or Sonoma.”

Plus, there are plenty of high-quality grapes for sale from all the major growing regions, which are only a few hours away from the urban wineries.

“There are plenty of grapes. And, as beautiful as it is to look at vineyards from your porch, you don’t need that view to make great wine,” he said.

Here’s a link to a listing of all the members of the East Bay Vintner’s Alliance.

East Bay Vintner's Alliance Membership

Wonderful Wine With a Woman’s Perspective

November 6, 2009

I discovered Jocelyn Lonen wines almost by accident, but it’s the kind of accident I’d like to repeat over and over again because the wines are so good and reasonably priced.

The winery is an all-women affair. Brandi Jocelyn Pack manages the winery with a lot of help from winemaker Alison Green Duran, who also makes wine for the Hill Family Estate. Brandi’s mom, Susan Curtis, is a partner and Angela Herrera Lockhart is the national sales manager.

I was introduced to the winery at a tasting earlier this week at the Alameda Wine Co., where I found Angela pouring two reds and a white.

Brandi stepped into a leadership role after the death of her father, winery founder Lonen Curtis, who succumbed to brain cancer in 2004.

Brandi Jocelyn Lonen

Brandi Jocelyn Lonen

“This was our  dream… but I had no idea what I was doing,” Brandi said. “But, it’s really been an interesting process. I threw myself into it and tried to learn everything I could.”

The winery produced a terrific 2006 cabernet sauvignon, ($35) with a large portion of the grapes coming from the prestigious Stagecoach vineyard on Atlas Peak.

Here’s how Brandi describes it:

“I like upfront fruit, strawberry/cherry fruit,” she said. “I like the big California cabernets, with their big-bodied style. My parents tried to get me into French wines, but it’s so foreign to my palate. I just love that big, lush California cabernet and that’s what we are going for.”

The  2007 Jocelyn Lonen chardonnay ($26) is another winner. I enjoyed this wine for its butterscotch undertone and tropical fruit flavors plus a long, creamy finish. The reserve cabernet franc ($60) is delicious, but less than 100 cases were made and you’ll  have to join the Jocelyn Lonen wine club to get a bottle.

The wines are made at a custom crush facility. While there is no physical winery to visit, there are plans for a Napa tasting room to open next spring.

Warning: Wine Holidays Ahead

Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda is holding its annual holiday open house on Saturday (Nov. 7) from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets   are available online for $35 or $60 at the door. In addition to the wide array of Rosenblum wines open for tasting, there will be music and appetizers, including zinfandel ice cream. Rosenblum’s reputation was built on top-grade zinfandels (their 2007 Rockpile zin won a 90-point score from Wine Spectator), but they also make some highly rated syrah and petite sirah wines.

Just a hop, skip and a ferry ride away from Rosenblum, at Dashe Cellars in Oakland, they will be celebrating the holidays on Saturday with a different twist — a paella party.

Dashe, located just off Jack London Square, will be showcasing some of the winery’s award-winning zinfandels alongside giant servings of paella prepared by well-known chef Gerard Nebesky.

The event runs 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. On tap for tasting will be barrel samples of the 2008 vintage along with some very special zins from the 2007 vintage, including wines made from the Florence and Louvau vineyards.

Ask for a taste of the late harvest zinfandel from Dashe, which won high praise in a recent review by the Wall Street Journal.

Pretty in Pink

July 10, 2009

Summer weather is heating up in the Bay Area, so it’s time to slide a bottle of rose’ into an ice bucket, find a shady spot and discover the pleasures of California wines that live in limbo between red and white.

My interest in pink wine percolated a few weeks ago when I tasted a delicious rose’ from Scherrer Winery at the Pinot Days event in San Francisco. It was a pure shot of pleasure, and a great change of pace from all of the serious pinot noir wines featured at this event, which I wrote about in my last blog, Pursuing Perfect Pinot.

When my friend Bob uncorked a couple bottles of the same Scherrer rose’  at a Fourth of July barbecue, I was hooked on this uncommon wine. It’s a blend of zinfandel and pinot noir — varieties that don’t usually come together in a bottle — but this combination works great in the hands of Fred Scherrer. It’s available from the Sonoma County winery at $15/bottle.

I’ve mostly avoided pink wines in the past, but what we are talking here is good wine, at a good price, that goes down smooth and isn’t too sweet and cloying. This is definitely not your mother’s white zinfandel!

Blushing in Oakland

I started looking close by for some similar wines to taste and locked into two winners at J.C. Cellars and Dashe Cellars in Oakland. The two wineries, which share space near Jack London Square, have earned reputations for mostly red wines like zinfandel and syrah, but both also make a small amount of blush wines for summertime sipping.

Dashe & JC Cellars

Dashe & JC Cellars

I enjoyed the Dashe vin gris and the JC Cellars rose’ of syrah. Both sell for $14/bottle.

The vin gris is a bit lighter on the palate. It’s a three-way blend of syrah, petite sirah and zinfandel grapes. Dark rose colored in the glass, the nose wasn’t anything special, but the taste was smooth and it went down easily with a chunk of cheddar cheese and a bit of country ham perched on a slice of pita bread.

The JC Cellars rose’ was darker than the vin gris and it tasted great, edging closer to the flavors of a full-blooded red wine. This rose’ is made using the saignee method, in which some of the juice is removed from the tank before it picks up any deeper color from the red grape skins. The result is a blush colored wine that drinks like syrah “light.”

The Dashe and JC Cellars tasting room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. There’ s a $5 tasting fee, but it’s waived if you buy a bottle.

Cal-Ital Twist

I wanted to try something different in a rose’, so I stopped at my local wine bar — Alameda Wine Co. — to see what was available.  Owner Karen Ulrich turned me on to another pink wine, Uvaggio’s barbera rose’ ($8.50), a dark pink color with tangerine highlights. It makes for a decent quaffing wine — served really cold — and has enough backbone to stand up to dishes like grilled seafood or cioppino.

Barbera is the third most popular wine grape in Italy, but it is not widely planted in California. Grapes for the Uvaggio rose’ came from Lodi, where the vines thrive in the Central Valley climate.

Coming Up

Alameda Wine Co. celebrates its first anniversary with an open house next Tuesday (July 14) featuring barbecue, music, magic and $3 wines-by-the-glass. The address is 2315 Central Ave., right next door to the Alameda movie theater. The event runs from 4-8 p.m.

Rosenblum Cellars, also in Alameda, hosts its annual summer open house from 1-5 p.m. July 25-26 at the winery near the Alameda Ferry Terminal. Tickets are $35 in advance, $45 at the door.

Looking Farther Ahead

The annual East Bay Vintner’s Alliance is holding its fourth annual tasting event on the grass in Jack London Square next to the Oakland Ferry Terminal on August 8. Each of the 16 participating wineries — including Rosenblum, JC Cellars and Dashe — will be paired with a local restaurant serving food to complement the wines. Advance tickets are $45 and $60 at the door.

The Family Winemakers of California 19th annual tasting is scheduled for August 23 at Ft. Mason in San Francisco. This non-profit advocacy group puts on a great tasting featuring hundreds of wineries, including a few big family-owned companies you know by name alongside a lot of mostly smaller wineries that don’t usually share the public spotlight. Tickets are $50 in advance, $60 at the door.