I was in Berkeley, CA for a week on business and I did a bit of exploration of the wine scene here. This is not my first time here, and I have blogged about Berkeley before (LINK).
The big news here is the possible scandal associated with the Premier Cru Wine Store bankruptcy (LINK). You can read about that if you wish. Of course, the great Kermit Lynch is here with his legendary wine shop (LINK) – I visited there in May. There are a lot of very good restaurants here with wine lists of varying length, breath an depth.
The wine highlight of this trip was two visits to Vintage Berkeley (LINK) a wine shop on College Avenue in the Elmwood neighborhood (I was staying nearby). The owners of Vintage Berkeley also own Solano Cellars Wines.
The shop on College Avenue has a focus on wines of the world priced under $30. There is a “back room” with more pricey bottles. I saw a lot of wine labels that were new to me, and a few that I recognized. Most of the latter were in the back room.
There is usually a wine tasting going on, and on my first visit, the proprietors were offering a couple of French wines from the Rhône Valley. There were about eight customers tasting and shopping. I had a good conversation with several of the customers and the staff. I was told that there would be a winemaker tasting of Clos Saron wines on Saturday.
On Saturday evening, I returned and met Gideon Beinstock, the winemaker for Clos Saron, which is located in Yuba County, California, in the northern section of the Sierra Foothills AVA. The total production of Clos Saron is 800 cases, so don’t be looking for these at your local supermarket. They are currently re-planting some of their vines, so they are only bottling estate Pinot Noirs, three of them. The rest of their wines are sourced elsewhere. Here is the list from the tasting, which is most of the wines that they produce:
I found the Cinsaults and the Carignans to be very interesting wines. The Cinsault vines were planted in 1885 and the Carignan vines in 1900. The blends that featured these wines were well-structured with relatively high acid and moderate tanins. They should age well and are interesting on a number of levels.
I was not a big fan of any of the Pinots, but to be fair, they are all young. Perhaps with a few years in the bottle, they will soften a bit. There was too much acidity for my taste, although each did have a distinctive nose and flavor range.
I bought a nice bottle of Terra Sanctus Priorat Blend from Catalunya and went home. The wine was excellent – well balanced, just short of chewy, with a nice viscosity and dark fruit and notes of minerality. I know I only scratched the surface of the Berkeley wine scene on this trip – but I will return!