Monday, July 11, 2016

This Saturday: Oakland's Second Annual Oakland Wine Festival

Bay Area Wine Lovers: no need to drive to Napa and Sonoma this weekend. Dozens of the North Coast's best wineries are coming to Oakland where they'll be pouring at the Oakland Wine Festival.

Organized by Melody Fuller, the festival is now in its second year. I met Melody when we both attended the 2014 Napa Wine Writers Symposium, where she got to blind taste with Robert Parker and impressed the living daylights out of everyone with her ability to blind taste with him. It will be a treat to see how this festival has grown from last year, which was its inaugural year.

The venue is the Sequoyah Country Club in Oakland.

You can attend the festival at a number of different levels of participation:

Saturday Events 

Choose a full day pass that includes everything for $150 or select from a la carte passes for admission to individual events. See the web site for details on ticket prices ($25-55-75-150).

9-Noon - Brunch and Blind Tasting

There will be a blind wine tasting (accompanied by a brunch from 9 am to noon that includes biscuits and bacon) of more than 100 wines for winemakers and attendees.

1 - 3 pm - Intimate Winemaker Luncheon

At noon, you will be able to attend an intimate winemaker luncheon, enjoying a four course lunch paired with wines from the winemaker seated at your table.

4 - 6 pm - Grand Tasting

The Grand Tasting takes place from 4-6 pm and includes dozens of wineries.

7 pm - Winemaker Dinners

Three wineries will offer an intimate winemaker dinner experience at three different venues in Oakland.


There will be morning and afternoon seminars. Napa's rocks will be the topic of a morning session. In the afternoon Sonoma takes the stage.


If you want to make sure to visit (and support) wineries that farm their vineyards organically (we recommend it), check out these wineries and their wines:

100% Organic Estate Wineries

• Ehlers Estate, St. Helena

Everything from this 39 acre St. Helena estate, specializing in Bordeaux wines (Cabernet, mostly) is superlative. The current vintages of red wines are all from vines that were certified Biodynamic.

• Grgich Hills Estate, Rutherford

A historic winery with more than 300 acres of certified vines in 5 locations throughout Napa Valley, this powerhouse carries on making widely distributed Napa Valley wines, including Chardonnay and Cabernet and more.

• Oakville Ranch, Oakville

A tiny winery on a big estate with grand views, this one is perched high on the hills on the east side of Napa's Oakville appellation. Stunning Cabernet and more - the winery won double golds for three of its wines at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition. It only makes four wines. And in small lots. This is a must try stop.

• Storybook Vineyards, Calistoga

Nestled in the western side of Napa's northern reaches, this is one special spot. Here, Zinfandel is the object of worship and adoration. Since this varietal is not usually as expensive as Cabernet, you'd be smart to pick up wines of great finesse for less than the cost of their expensive Bordeaux born cousins (i.e. Napa cabs).

Wineries with Some Organically Grown Wines

All of these wineries have organic estates, but many of the wines they make are from growers who are not organic. Ask.

• Chappellet Vineyards, St. Helena/Pritchard Hill

Famous for their Pritchard Hill estate, high above Napa Valley, this "blue blood" of Napa wineries has 97 acres of certified organic estate vines. Look for the Signature Cabernet ($60), which is made mostly from estate vines. (I don't think they'll be pouring their very finest - the Pritchard Hill Estate Cabernet - since it's $180 a bottle. But one can hope.)

• Domaine Carneros, Napa

Descended from Champagne's Taittinger winery, this formerly certified organic Carneros estate (332 acres of vines) still has plenty of current release wines from organic vines. Ask to taste them, if you can.

• Laurel Glen, Glen Ellen (Sonoma)

We will be lucky indeed if we get to taste their best Cabernet, which is sourced solely from their Sonoma Mountain estate, which the current owners have brought back to life.

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