Visit Oakland Where Wines Aren’t Always Among the Vines
Heading to California and looking for some wine tasting? There’s no need to venture right into the vineyards of Napa or Sonoma, (although we wouldn’t frown upon that) instead hit the new urban wine trail right around Oakland. Oakland’s a quick jaunt from the San Francisco Airport and the trail is even easily bike-able! I ventured down to California this spring and have the scoop on this hip destination.
You’ll want to check yourself into the Waterfront Hotel Oakland in Jack London Square, the only publicly accessible mixed-use waterfront in the East Bay. The hotel has a nostalgic nautical theme and is right on the water with views of passing boats and kayaks. The Square is home to excellent restaurants and retail as well as the weekly farmers market which I was lucky enough to catch.
Book ahead to ensure you’ve got a spot on the East Bay Winery Bike Tours, the experts in the area. They arrived at the hotel with bikes in tow and guided us through the streets to three very different tasting rooms. The tour owner’s wife had even baked some fresh Foccacia for us to enjoy along the way; first class treatment.
First up was Dashe, Oakland’s largest working winery where winemaker Michael Dashe showed off their impressive Grencahe Blanc, Carignane and and Zinfandel in a rather spacious winery room.
Next we ventured to Urban Legends Cellar Door, a bustling barrel-filled space where owners Marilee and Steve Shaffer greeted us with sensational Rhone varieties, and a stellar Pinot Noir and Italian Dolcetto.
Cycling on to Rosenblum back at Jack London Square we delved further into their food-friendly Zinfandels served up with a lovely cheese and charcuterie plate. And this, all is one afternoon.
We arrived in time for lunch in the Square and choose Bocanova, a seaside spot with an excellent patio and Latin-inspired Fare. The ceviches were superb, duck tacos divine and the Pork Cubano sandwich crunchy, moist and chock full of chorizo, pork, emmentaler and pickled peppers. We had some issues over ownership of the warm croissant bread pudding with Mexican Chocolate ice cream, but we resolved them by ordering a second.
Dinner was also in the square at Haven, a more formal spot with prixe fixe menus that began with a bread, veggie and charcuterie plate that haunts me with its greatness to this day. With pickled veggies, chicken liver mousse, pastrami, a pork terrine, fava-bean fritters and more, this “Breaking Bread” course, as they called it, set the stage for a superb meal.
Continuing on the meat theme, we shared a foie gras dish strewn with pickled green strawberries, a delightful pork belly, asparagus complete with a decadent sauce, a prime-aged rib-eye, a deliciously moist fish dish with with it’ perfectly crisp skin and even managed a chocolate dessert served with ice cream. Had we had another night in town we would have returned. Excellent service, wonderful wine list and cozy but sleek atmosphere all bonuses.
The following day my flight back to Vancouver wasn’t until late afternoon so I lingered aboutand caught the farmers market, complete with a chicken roaster, fresh oranges and plenty of sweet treats.
Brunch was a plate of shrimp at Grits at Brix 581, a spot that looked like it would be hopping at night, and showed signs of action at brunch.
The rain started just as I was leaving so my farewell to California was less painful, but as I write this I am already planning my next adventure there.