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The Joy of Bay Area Urban Wineries

By Peter Cunningham

Urban Wineries in the Bay Area operate in converted warehouses, disused military installations, or dockside utility buildings. These sites are gritty, the visuals and the feel are engaging. The customer engagement includes San Francisco Bay with all its moods. In the bay area’s silvered sun light, rust-brown and orange are the dominant colors. In the dark of night, the dominant colors are the lights of the urban skylines, the lights of the bridges and the lights of the ferries on the water. During rains, water drips through the ceilings of the adjacent dry-docks. The surfaces decayed, discolored, and pitted by windswept salt-water spray. Disregarded dredges and tugs list in the shallows amongst creosote infused pilings. Shipping lanes traversed by ocean going cargo ships and tankers. These ships are large and cast shadows that darken the setting. Tugboats ferry back and forth, manned by stevedores wearing rain gear and life preservers. Sailboats and powerboats roll in the currents. The visuals are accented by the clatter of colossal ships loaded by leviathan cranes and the thud, clank and grind of container transports as they move. The smells are industrial and mechanical mixed with sea brine. The experience is new to most. The experience is compelling.

An urban Winery’s industrial exterior envelops a tasteful interior with wine bar, good food, a wine tasting space and entertainment. The winemaker’s exposed tanks, barrels, pumps, macros, lifts and bottling lines, all are visible and can be toured. Customers love all this. In addition, several have both indoor and outdoor areas, including bay view patios.

Urban Wineries are “neighborhood wineries.” They are minutes away by car or public transport, and neighbors visit frequently, spontaneously or by plan. A wine bar, with lunch and dinner options and small plates, and optional wine tasting keep the crowds coming back. With this combination, customers enjoy lingering and immersing in the urban winery experience. Meals can be prepared in a kitchen on site, or in food trucks. Self-service food offerings are no problem. Rosenblum Winery added a selection of high quality charcuterie and other light food at their tasting room in Oakland’s Jack London Square. Rock Wall’s site has a kitchen and food trucks to meet the demand of the crowds, others have food trucks only. Groups, families and singles tell me regularly words to the effect, “what could be better than finishing a hectic day with a good meal and some good wine and a great view.” In other words, food and wine connect people to place.

Wine tastings are most appreciated when conducted in an area separate from the wine bar because the tasting curator needs the full attention of the audience. Urban Wineries are full of tales and history Customers revel in stories of management’s taming the industrial site to create the Urban Winery experience. What a great background for information on how the great wines are made.

Entertainment should include headliners and themed parties to attract crowds so people can mingle. Touring entertainers can be brought in to provide variety. Music, readings / poetry slams, art exhibits, comedy nights are all popular. Winery SF and Bluxome Street Winery are worth visiting to see the entertainment in action. An additional attraction is the availability of space to rent in the winery for events they host. People hosting parties say they like to introduce their friends to the winery, and share the experience. Rock Wall, and other venues, I know of enlist volunteers who help with Crush and Bottling. Working on the processes that create the wines they drink gives real satisfaction. At several smaller Urban Wineries, friends and family try their hand at making their own wines, typically about 25 to 50 cases.

These experiences contribute to the enjoyment, and attract and keep a crowd. Urban Wineries have broken the pattern of travel to Napa and Sonoma. Napa Tourism Board reports that 90% of the visitors at the wineries in Napa and Sonoma are Bay Area residents, and visitor numbers are down.

Recently I visited several wineries in Napa. Some are moving their tasting rooms to Napa city center from the countryside. The new tasting rooms are offering meals and entertainment, some offer hotel accommodation. This is in an effort to regain some customers who have adopted Urban Wineries as their destination of choice.

Bay Area Urban Wineries in the Bay Area that should become your go to destination include: Rock Wall Wine Company, Rosemblum Cellars, Urban Legend Cellars, Winery SF, Bluxome Street Winery, to name a few. Or consult Yelp.

Peter Cunningham

LOCAL GUIDE

Peter Cunningham is a successful organizer and manager of Urban Winery Operations, Customer Experience Programs for Urban Wineries and Retail Customer experience in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Upcoming Bay Area Urban Winery Events

Oct 20 @ 1:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Kolobok Russian Soul Food will be today’s featured food truck. created by © Syndical.com
Oct 20 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
Formed in 2005 by multi-instrumentalist, Ken Sirchuk, the Time Out Quartet has become a mainstay of the the East Bay Jazz scene. With 3 studio albums, including the latest Reflexions, Time Out Quartet enlists the[...]
Oct 21 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Jazz singer Emy Tseng and her trio will be serenading us with great Brazilian tunes and jazz standards on this Sunday afternoon.It’s Oyster Sunday, too! created by © Syndical.com
Oct 21 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
Oyster Sunday ~ Fabulous Wines & CidersRaw Oysters on the 1/2: $2.00 eachGrilled Oysters with Pesto & Parmesan: $2.50 eachWine & ciders available by the glass to pair with your oysters.Food also available through Caribbean[...]
Oct 24 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
$2.00 OFF Select Wines & Ciders by the GlassPicnic Wednesdays: Bring a picnic with you to the winery.Snacks available at the winery as well. Please note: All other days food is not allowed to be[...]
Oct 25 @ 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
$2.00 OFF Select Wines & Ciders by the Glass. Food Truck: The Eating created by © Syndical.com
Oct 25 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
Come share your music with us!Lead by Vocalist Denise Kidder with pianist William Beatty. $10 cover. Four wineries & hard cider. Performers rotate in order of sign-up & continue until closing at 9 pm. Musicians[...]
Oct 26 @ 12:00 am – 1:00 am Riggers Loft Wine Company
$2.00 OFF Select Wines & Ciders by the GlassFood Truck: The Eating created by © Syndical.com
Oct 26 @ 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Horatio Monroe will be performing in the Rock Wall Dome today.created by © Syndical.com
Oct 26 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
Manasseh Bernal is a prolific bay area songwriter and mulit instrumentalist who has released a large body of work under the moniker Fleeting Trance. His musical efforts have led to collaborations with musicians involved in[...]
Oct 27 @ 1:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Kolobok Russian Soul Food will be today’s featured food truck.created by © Syndical.com
Oct 27 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
Great Brazilian jazz, upbeat, vibey and beautifully turned out! Pair it with some wine & food. Make it an evening!Food Truck: Caribbean Spice Suggested Cover Charge: $5created by © Syndical.com
Oct 27 @ 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Catch the Early Bird discount until September 22nd at midnight!Early Bird General Admission: $25Early Bird Club Viva Member Admission: $20Join us for an evening of Halloween shenanigans! Bay Area favorite DJ Zhaldee will keep the[...]
Oct 28 @ 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
PS Acoustic Duo will be performing in the Dome today.created by © Syndical.com
Oct 31 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
$2.00 OFF Select Wines & Ciders by the GlassPicnic Wednesdays: Bring a picnic with you to the winery.Snacks available at the winery as well. Please note: All other days food is not allowed to be[...]
Nov 1 @ 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
$2.00 OFF Select Wines & Ciders by the Glass. Food Truck: The Eating created by © Syndical.com
Nov 1 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
Come on out for some mind-bending trivia at Riggers Loft.Teams form around 6:30pm. The fun starts at 7pm with your favorite trivia host Kathy Lund!Teams are made up of one to six people.Enjoy food from[...]
Nov 2 @ 12:00 am – 1:00 am Riggers Loft Wine Company
$2.00 OFF Select Wines & Ciders by the Glass Food Truck: The Eating created by © Syndical.com
Nov 2 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
Francesca is a versatile vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with folk, jazz and blues qualities, paired with modern taste similar to artist like Eva Cassidy and Norah Jones. Francesca is also a staff show producer for[...]
Nov 3 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
Laura is a Berkely based composer, recording artist and bandleader. She has appeared with her trio at SF Jazz, Piedmont Piano, and the California Jazz Conservatory. She is the co-leader, along with her husband Tony[...]
Nov 7 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
$2.00 OFF Select Wines & Ciders by the GlassPicnic Wednesdays: Bring a picnic with you to the winery.Snacks available at the winery as well. Please note: All other days food is not allowed to be[...]
Nov 8 @ 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
$2.00 OFF Select Wines & Ciders by the Glass.Food Truck: The Eatingcreated by © Syndical.com
Nov 8 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
Join us for an evening of painting fun for everyone! This special Paint Nite experience led by local artist Rachel Gold is open to painters ages 21 and up. For this event we will be[...]
Nov 9 @ 12:00 am – 1:00 am Riggers Loft Wine Company
$2.00 OFF Select Wines & Ciders by the GlassFood Truck: The Eating created by © Syndical.com
Nov 9 @ 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm
created by © Syndical.com
Nov 9 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
Come on out for Steve Taylor-Ramírez, a singer-songwriter from Berkeley, CA, who plays a mix of folk, Latin and blues. Steve has been called a “Critic’s Choice” by the East Bay Express, Bay Area News[...]
Nov 10 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
Guy Gash is a wonderful jazz guitarist who surrounds himself with talented musicians (Sharp Five) and always turns out a great evening of music.Suggested Music Cover Charge: $5Food Truck: Carolyn’s Creole Kitchencreated by © Syndical.com
Nov 12 @ 11:30 am – 6:00 pm
The Tasting Room is open today from 11:30 am to 6 pmScolari’s at the Point will be open from 12pm to 5 pmcreated by © Syndical.com
Nov 15 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm Riggers Loft Wine Company
Come on out for some mind-bending trivia at Riggers Loft.Teams form around 6:30pm. The fun starts at 7pm with your favorite trivia host Kathy Lund!Teams are made up of one to six people.Enjoy food from[...]
Nov 21 @ 11:30 am – 6:00 pm
The tasting room will be open from 11:30 am to 6:00 pm today.Scolari’s at the Point will be open from 12pm to 5pmcreated by © Syndical.com