This week we continue our journey, begun in my last column (see Wineau, “Local Juice, Part One,” 3/5/08), through an array of semi-affordable wines offered by East Bay vintners. You’ll notice that local winemakers’ best values are a study in whites and pinks — last time we tried two rosés and a Pinot Gris, and this column features yet another rosé, a Sauvignon Blanc, and a Colombard. Thank the lower cost of white grape varietals for this demure color scheme, along with market forces such as consumers thirsty — and willing to pay more — for big reds. Since these lighter wines are warm-weather appropriate, think of this as our way of welcoming spring.
I was delighted by the 2006 Verve Sauvignon Blanc from Oakland-based Aubin Cellars ($14). To me its aroma was all lemon, and the taste was citrusy too, with a hint of caramel. Sauvignon Blanc is often described as food-friendly, but this wine would also be great on its own. However, our Token Winemaker was emphatically not a fan; he noted a popcorn bouquet and a smoky taste uncharacteristic for this varietal, but declared it “only slightly objectionable.”
He had more positive things to say about Aubin Cellars’ other bargain white, the 2006 Verve French Colombard ($12). Praising its aroma of white fruit and vanilla, he also caught subtle notes of peach and melon. We both noticed a somewhat discordant tartness here, but overall I thought this was a nice light wine that might go well with salad.
Finally, the 2006 Gamay Noir Rosé from Emeryville-based Urbano Cellars ($14.99). The 2006 vintage is the first from Urbano, and its rosé surprisingly evoked more tree than fruit, along with a pleasant nuttiness. Well-balanced, this would be a fine party wine for a sunny day.
A few wineries of note couldn’t be included in our East Bay winery roundup, because their prices exceeded our higher-than-usual limit of $20 a bottle. You can still try their wines, however, by paying a visit to the tasting rooms of Lost Canyon Winery, Dashe Cellars, and JC Cellars. At Lost Canyon (2102 Dennison St., Suite A, Oakland), try their $5 flight of six wines any Friday, Saturday, or Sunday afternoon between 1 and 6 p.m., or by appointment. Dashe and JC Cellars share a tasting room (55 4th St., Oakland), where they each charge a $5 tasting fee that is refunded with a wine purchase. The two wineries keep slightly different hours; Dashe is open Thursday through Monday, noon to 6 p.m., and JC Cellars is open Thursday through Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. and by appointment on Monday. Be sure to try JC Cellars’ Syrahs, which a friend with a much more seasoned and discerning palate than mine puts on par with the best in the state.