Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rockwall Wines – A Unique Urban Winery Consortium in Alameda, California

After visiting Rosenblum Cellars, I drove just around the corner to Rock Wall Wine Company, located on the former Alameda Naval Air Base which was decommissioned in 1997 and is slowly being converted for civilian use. The name Rock Wall refers to the defensive perimeter wall built during WWII in the San Francisco Bay to protect the base from Japanese air to sea torpedoes. The wine making facility is housed in a converted 40,000 square-foot airplane hangar known as Building 24, and it has been retrofitted with state-of-the-art winemaking equipment.

The Rock Wall Wine Company is founded and operated by a small group of wine industry veterans, including consulting winemaker Kent Rosenblum and his daughter Shauna Rosenblum, which offers wine lovers one of the most unique experiences in the wine world.

As an Urban winery that sources its fruit from multiple vineyards from around the state, it is ideally operated from a central regional location that enables the wine making team the ability to handle the fruit as soon as it is harvested, whether it is Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley, Zinfandel from Sonoma County, Petite Sirah from Contra Costa County or Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands.

In addition to the Rock Wall Wine Company the vast winery building is also home to other local winemakers and boutique wine brands (Carica Wines, Ehrenberg Cellars, JRE Wines, Joseph Gary Cellars, R&B Cellars, and Rock Wall Wine Company). A unique concept, Rock Wall Wine Company is, in essence, a wine center that services the East Bay. Through the wine center, the Rock Wall owners look forward to continuing the legacy of urban winemaking as well as providing an environment whereby making, tasting and learning about wine is fun!

You can sample the wines from either inside the tasting room or on the back patio that has spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline. 

During my visit it was a bit hazy outside so I sampled the following wines at the tasting bar:

My first wine sampled was JRE (John Robert Eppler) Wine’s 2010 Fume Blanc, Napa (Rutherford). This Sauvignon exudes tropical notes of mango as well as fresh pears followed by a very pronounced grassy-herbal character that seems almost New Zealand-like. Crisp and clean with a strong mineral finish, this wine sells for $18 a bottle.

My second wine was the Rock Wall Wine Co. 2009 Zinfandel from Sonoma, which has 3% Petite Sirah. A lighter styled Zin, this wine has bright notes of strawberries, sour cherries, and a hint of herbs on the nose. On the palate the tannins have a firm grip on the gums and a lot more pepper on the finish than on the nose. This wine sells for $25 a bottle.

My third wine was the 2009 Zinfandel from Jesse’s Vineyard in Contra Costa County and has a similar profile to the Zin I had tasted at Rosenblum that was also from CC County. This wine sells for $28 a bottle.

The fourth pour was the Rock Wall’s version of a Super Tuscan call “Super Alameda” which is 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Montepulciano and 8% Zinfandel. It is a simple bright red, medium bodied wine with tart cherries on the nose and perceptible acidity on the palate. It would pair well with pasta, pizza and similar food. Not bad for $20 a bottle.

My fifth wine sample (remember folks… I’m spitting into a cup!) was the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Hallbrook Vineyard in the Napa Valley. On the nose, black currant, dark chocolate, some earthy tones and tobacco. On the palate it is well rounded, medium bodied and intensity with refined tannins. It sells for $38 a bottle but there are many like it on the market in the $20 - $25 range.

The sixth wine was the first that I really thought was outstanding, the Carica Kick Ranch Petite Sirah. This is a deep, dark, powerful intense wine of concentrated fruit – cassis, blackberry pie, and beef jerky with some pipe tobacco in the background. If you like P.S., you’ll love this one if you’ve got $36 to shell out – I did, so I bought one.

Finally, I sampled the 2009 Palindrome Tannat. This wine has a classic Tannat profile -dark plums, tobacco, a hint of smoke and a truck load of TANNIN with a capital “T.” This is no sipping wine, it needs a steak to be truly appreciated as it will make your teeth stick to the front of your lips. This wine sells for $22 a bottle, if you aren’t familiar with Tannat this is a “must taste” wine!

For more information or to visit:

Rockwall Wines
2301 Monarch Street, Suite 300
Alameda, CA 94501
Phone: 1-510-522-5700  


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