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Urban Winemakers on the Rise

By Stephen Eliot

We are lucky enough to live next door to some of the best and most beautiful wine country in the world. The Napa and Sonoma Valleys and the Santa Cruz Mountains are but an hour or so from our doors, and Mendocino, Monterey and the Sierra Foothills are close enough make for an easy visit in one day. There are, however, good wines being made much closer to home these days, and the number of noteworthy urban Bay Area producers is on the rise.

In California’s pre-prohibition past, most of the state’s wine was made in San Francisco and Richmond. Grapes were shipped in to large commercial wineries and wine was shipped out by rail and by sea. Those days, of course, are long gone, but more than a few talented artisan winemakers are carving out an increasingly significant niche in the decidedly metropolitan environment of the Bay Area, and they are well worth getting to know.

The East Bay Vintners Alliance (EBVA) was founded by just such a group of city-bound vintners and, now in its tenth year, counts more than twenty winemaking members. Critically acclaimed producers such as Jeff Cohn, Dashe Cellars and Rock Wall are found on the EBVA roster along with a good many smaller wineries that are pursuing their winemaking dreams, and, in the words of the EBVA mission statement, they are “united by the axiom that one need not live in a vineyard to make fantastic wine.”

The Alliance describes itself as “a true collaboration among the East Bay’s urban wine pioneers. Its members openly share resources, winemaking facilities and their own expertise with their fellow vintners. It is a partnership of many talented individuals working together for a common goal – to bring great wines to the heart of this amazing urban landscape we call home.”

The East Bay has long been our home as well, and we see in this new generation of local winemakers the same spark of enthusiasm and uncompromising artistry that drove California’s wine revolution back in the 1970s. They are not alone, of course, and there are enclaves of talented winemakers working on shoe-string budgets to found from Santa Barbara to New York, but we cannot but help feeling an extra sense of pride at the successes of those we call neighbors and friends.

At the beginning of next month, the EBVA kicks off its 7th Annual Passport to East Bay’s Urban Wine Country wherein members from Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda and Castro Valley open their doors to the public for wine tastings, food pairings, entertainment, exclusive barrel tastings and what they promise will be “general merriment.” It is a great opportunity to make the acquaintance of good wines and good people that you may not have known. We plan on attending and encourage all Bay Area wine lovers to do so as well.

Details can be found at


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by R Krepsky
Posted on:4/3/2015 8:50:39 AM

you mentioned JC Cellars, Dashe, and Rock Wall and then go on to say there are other "smaller" wineries, are you aware there is an even larger winery who started the Urban Movement and founded the EBVA and helped some of these other wineries? Rosenblum started in the 70's and continues to be the largest brand in the east bay, thought it was odd you wouldn't even mention them. 

East Bay vitners
by susan captain
Posted on:4/3/2015 10:35:26 AM

In the east bay, we as well, have some growers and winemakers since 2005.  establishing Lamorinda wine growers association.  We are totally family orianted growers and some of us took it to the next level and sell wine commercially.  we consider our selves Urban wine growers and makers in Lamorinda.  interesting you have not mentioned us either!!

by Kurt Burris
Posted on:4/3/2015 12:53:04 PM

Susan:  I had never heard of Lamorinda, and while your proposed AVA makes sense from a geographical point of view, I think omiting your group from the post is understandable.  As far as I could tell from your website, Deer Hill is the only commercial producer, or at lest the only one with a link.  Anf they have one wine in release, thier 2011 Cabernet.  It's not exactly Alameda.

R Krepsky:  Is Rosenblum even making wine in Alameda anymore?  Rock Wall was founded by Rosenblum's founder after the congomerate that bought Rosenblum trashed the brand.

No Subject
by Stephen M Eliot
Posted on:4/4/2015 7:28:30 PM


Rosenblum? Lamorinda?

Yes, I am well aware of Rosenblum Cellars and the role that its creators, Kent and Roger Rosenblum had in leading the way among East Bay winemakers. Both have been neighbors and close friends of CGCW for over thirty years. Dashe, Jeff Cohn and Rock Wall were simply the first three names that came to mind when thinking about EBVA producers for whom I have high regard and was in no way meant to slight those members not mentioned. The posting was about the EBVA and their upcoming “Annual Passport to East Bay’s Urban Wine Country,” and not about any individual winery. I am glad to see that Rosenblum is still a member of the alliance even though they have closed down the original Alameda facility and no longer actually make wine in the East Bay but maintain a local presence by way of a tasting room and retail shop in Oakland. Rock Wall Wine Company, by the way, was founded in Alameda by the same Rosenblum brothers after they sold their eponymously named winery to the corporate giant, Diageo, in 2008, and Rock Wall continues to be an active and supportive player in the local East Bay wine scene with Kent’s daughter, Shauna, at the winemaking helm.

As for Lamorinda, again, no slight intended, but the point of my posting was to draw specific attention to the East Bay Vintners Alliance rather than to provide a comprehensive listing of every urban and suburban winery in the San Francisco Bay Area. To be perfectly honest, while I know that a bit of small-scale winemaking goes on the in the area, I was unaware of the Lamorinda Wine Growers Association. I see, however, that the Deer Hill Vineyards mentioned by Mr. Burris above lays claim to a single acre and produces some 75 cases of wine at this point, so I hope my lack of familiarity can be at least in part forgiven. I do, however, believe that great things often rise from modest beginnings, and I look forward to seeing what the area, its winemakers and, most importantly, its wines will have to say. I wish the Lamorinda winemakers the best and will keep an eye out for their wines.



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