Barrel Fever 

A burgeoning East Bay winemaking scene separates the vin from the vineyard.

Page 6 of 6

Which is why East Bay wineries haven't spent millions promoting their urban location. Even Rosenblum Cellars makes its AVAs easy to read on the labels of its high-end, vineyard-designated wines. Kent Rosenblum may love to have his picture taken underneath the port cranes, but no one poring over a Cleveland bistro's wine list can see them. Yet just as Rosenblum — and influential winemakers such as Steve Edmunds of Edmunds St. John and Paul Draper of Ridge — have done for decades, today's urban winemakers are trumpeting the fact that they're not tied to any specific plot of land. "I'm not bound to a region," says Matt Smith of Blacksmith Cellars. "It allows me the freedom to go to different appellations to buy the grapes that grow best there. I make Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley, Chenin Blanc from Monterey."

And with no specific appellation, there are no preconceived notions of how his wines will be. Bryan Harrington of Berkeley's Harrington Wines takes a slightly different tack: He makes Pinot Noir, and only Pinot, but one may be from the Russian River, another from Carneros, a third from Sonoma Coast.

Many of the fourteen East Bay Vintners have made their names or are beginning to stake their reputations on Syrah, a Rhone varietal that more and more vineyards are planting. The wine community already loves it, and someday the public may, too. Who knows? In a decade Syrah could be the next Pinot Noir. Plus its grapes are still affordable, and the wines don't have to compete against Napa — the gold standard in marketing terms — as a Chardonnay or a Cabernet Sauvignon would. Many of the locals also can afford to bet on up-and-coming AVAs such as Lodi, Paso Robles, and Dry Creek, securing long-term contracts with growers now, and riding, or helping to bolster, each area's rising reputation.

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