Several years ago, I spent some time roaming around Berkeley while I was waiting for a friend to finish work. I’m a naturally curious person, so I followed my curiosity into an evolving warehouse district on the west side of the city. What I found was very exciting for a wine lover like me. I stumbled first into Urbano Cellars, where I was greeted with a warm welcome from one of the owners there. I tasted through their portfolio of lesser-known grapes and European-style wines while I listened to the stories of the people coming in and out of the tasting room. Some were locals and regulars, while others were just visiting and had similarly stumbled into the little artisanal urban winery.
I found out that Berkeley’s urban winery scene was starting to blossom at the time (this was 2016), and that there were several other spots I needed to visit. So, I set off down the road to the next recommended urban winery, which happened to be the natural wine producer, Donkey & Goat.
At Donkey & Goat, I tasted my first Orange Wine, which was a Pinot Gris, and I learned about how the winery focuses on sustainable farming and winemaking and how dedicated they are to a more natural wine style. It was different from the wines I’m used to tasting but in a good way. Again, friendly staff and a very cool urban-rustic tasting room made the experience a fun one.
Back on Alameda Island where I was staying with a friend, we ventured over to Rock Wall Wine Company and had one of the most memorable nights I’ve had in the East Bay area. A winemaker I had followed for several years just happened to be renting some space in the winery there and was making his wine on-site at Rock Wall. Don’t even ask me how we figured that out via email, but he invited us in for a tour. At the end of the tour, he gifted us both bottles of his dessert wine that had not even been labeled yet. It was a nice touch and something that I’ll always remember.
At Rock Wall, we timed it perfectly, because the sun began to set over San Francisco across the Bay. There is an incredible view waiting for you if you get the chance to visit. Rock Wall has an impressive facility and a restaurant on-site, so there is plenty to do and taste while you relax and enjoy the urban warehouse feels and stunning views. I really enjoyed just relaxing out back and taking in the wonderful Bay Area weather (especially a little warmer on the east side) with a glass of wine and good friends.
So, we come to my most recent article for Winetraveler, with a few tips about visiting some of these East Bay urban wineries. If you have any questions, or suggestions of other spots we should visit, please leave them in the comments!
Cheers to hidden gems and unlikely places for wine tasting!