Posts Tagged ‘r and b 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.


East Bay Urban Winery Spotlight

May 17, 2012

The lure of the  East Bay urban winery scene is as simple as five P’s — Proximity + Promise + Price = Plenty of Pleasure.

There are 23 members of the East Bay Vintners Alliance which has been active since 2005.

The largest, Rock Wall Wine Co., is probably the biggest winery with the longest history, having its origins in Rosenblum Cellars — the first urban winery in the East Bay.

I recently enjoyed a lovely Pinot Noir from the group’s newest and smallest member, Stomping Girl Wines. The husband-and-wife team of Uzi and Kathryn Cohen are owner-operators

I discovered the wine — a blend  of fruit from Petaluma Gap, Carneros and the Sonoma Coast — at the annual Passport to the East Bay Wine Trail tasting last weekend. The event featured tastings at 10 different member wineries.

The Stomping Girl 2010 Unhinged Pinot Noir is a cherry bomb, with vivid red fruit to spare. There’s enough acidity to keep the fruit from overwhelming the palate. I’d pair this with something simple, especially smoked meats and mild cheese.

White Wine Standouts

Two white wines stood out from the pack.

Stage Left Cellars 2006 Viognier presented a pleasantly floral and fruity take on this shy varietal.

I like the citrus highlights and wildflower nose from this Viognier, which is made from grapes grown at Kiler Canyon Vineyard in Paso Robles. Only 73 cases were produced.

The winery is only open to the public on the first Saturday of each month. The tab is $5 and the next chance you have to visit is June 2.

The 2007 R& B Cellars Sauvignon Blanc is another great white wine and a great value, too!

Winemaker Kevin Brown , whose primary focus is vibrant red wines, was direct in his intent with this paler varietal.

“When I think of Sauvignon Blanc, I want to drink French,” he said. “I want that crisp French style.”

The wine is crisp with a nice citrus core — perfect for a late Spring picnic or as an aperitif

Supplies are low, so check with the winery to see if there’s any left at the $10 a bottle/$60 a case price.

Petite Sirah Lovefest

February 18, 2012

Most of the wines I tried at a recent Petite Sirah tasting were tannic, tart and true to form for the big and burly flavor profile of the grape that originally hails from France’s Rhone region.

If you can get a bit more up-front fruit into the California version of this varietal, the wine becomes more approachable.

Petite Sirah can be a hard-sell to the general wine-drinking population, but don’t tell that to the P.S. I Love You crowd.

P.S. I Love You is an association of Petite Sirrah producers and their supporters.

The group’s annual public tasting, held Friday night at Rock Wall Wine Co. in Alameda (click here to read my earlier blog about Rock Wall), featured 58 wineries pouring selections mostly from Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Lodi and the Sierra foothills.

Several vintages were represented, with a few 2010 examples scattered amongst the mostly 2007, 2008 and 2009 selections.

My favorite of the tasting was the 2008 Pizzicato Petite Sirah ($28) from R&B Cellars, a boutique producer who makes wine at the Rock Wall facility.

The fruit comes from Bingham Ranch in Napa, where red wine grapes have been grown for more than 50 years.

This is a bold red wine with a strong tannic structure that grabs the limelight, for now. I picked up black (plum) and blue (blueberry) fruit that should move forward a bit as this wine ages.

Paso Petite

The 2009 Petite Sirah from Christian Lazo was a bit easier to swallow.

This Paso Robles wine ($25) showed some really nice and deep red plum fruit up front with blueberry highlights. The taste, which included a nice spicy undertone, lingered on the palate for half a minute.


I liked two bottles from Rosenblum Cellars.

The 2008 Pato Vineyard ($25), which is in Contra Costa County, is a personal favorite. I’ve enjoyed multiple vintages and this one doesn’t deviate from the expected fruit forward profile that tones down the more aggressive nature of the grape.

Rosenblum’s Rockpile Road Vineyard Petite Sirah ($45) from 2009 is a deeper, darker and more sophisticated bottle of wine. The fruit comes from a Sonoma vineyard that sits 1,200 above Lake Sonoma at the edge of the Dry Creek Valley.

The Rockpile wine is big and sleek, like a thoroughbred racehorse.

Concannon Vineyards

I’ve enjoyed several Petite Sirahs from Livermore’s Concannon Vineyards over the years, especially the entry-level California blend that runs $10-$12/bottle. Concannon is a legendary producer of Petite Sirah, bottling the grape as a varietal starting way back in 1961.

The 2007 Concannon Reserve Captain Joe’s pushes Petite Sirah to a higher level.

There’s a pleasing smokiness to the taste, thanks in part to 17 months aging in French and American oak. There’s good blackberry fruit, a touch of leather and some gamey notes that complete the flavor profile of this $36 wine.


I thought the just-released 2008 Fieldstone State Family Reserve Petite Sirah was also quite good.

Here’s what I wrote in my notes: “Tight, right and tasty.”

The $35 wine comes from a historic Alexander Valley vineyard, first planted in 1894.

There’s good minerality and rich blueberry-scented fruit in this wine, which has good tannic structure. It spent 20 months in oak before release and includes a dash of Viognier, a white  grape that is sometimes added to red wine to introduce floral elements to the taste and aroma of the finished product.

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.