When six young olive trees recently left the nursery to find new life at the gates of a winery, their dreams, it seemed, were coming true. For what olive tree doesn't aspire to set roots in the wine country, among rolling hills and elegant rows of vines? But life has thrown these young trees a sassy curveball; they now stand on the windswept, asphalt acres of Alameda Point, at the gates of the newest tasting room in town.
The trees will get used to it, for the scenery surrounding Rock Wall Wine Company (2301 Monarch St., Ste. 300, Alameda) is surprisingly beautiful in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-film sort of way. To the east, it's all abandoned streets and warehouses, while an abandoned runway spans northward, with San Francisco's skyscrapers, the Bay Bridge, and Mount Tamalpais setting the skyline to the west. It may be the coolest wine country vista in the Bay Area — and visitors can take it all in from the newly opened tasting room.
Rock Wall Wine Company itself is young, begotten in 2008 by the next generation of the Rosenblum family, which operated the family's namesake Alameda winery for decades until selling it to Diageo three years ago. Shauna Rosenblum, daughter of Kent Rosenblum, runs the show at Rock Wall, along with assistant winemaker Chelsea Blackburn. Situated in Hangar 24, next door to Hangar One Vodka, Rock Wall's space is shared by seven other small wineries.
In the tasting room, Rock Wall's wines dominate the offered flights. These run $10 to $15, with tasting fees waived with any purchase exceeding $20 per person. During a recent visit, we tasted fifteen wines; among the whites, we felt the Chardonnays stole the show. The 2009 Russian River Valley Reserve comes from the only vineyard the Rosenblum family owns. The wine is mildly fruity, with deep flavors of butter, cream, and toasted wood. The 2009 Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay, meanwhile, makes for a striking side-by-side varietal comparison — a wine of glowing fruit character.
Among the Zinfandels, the 2009 Monte Rosso Vineyard smells like honeycomb and sage and tastes of raspberry, chocolate, and coffee. The 2008 Jesse's Vineyard is gritty, earthy, and smoky — if cowboys didn't drink whiskey, this might be their drink of choice. The 2009 Obsidian — a half-and-half blend of Zin and Petite Sirah — is zesty and alive, crisp, a bit tart, heavy on the raspberry notes, with a splash of cola.
Go slow. Most of the wines here run between 14 and 16 percent alcohol by volume, so pace yourself if you intend to finish with the dessert wines. These include dazzling late-harvest Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc and a port-style Zinfandel.
On your way out, be nice to the olive trees. The brisk wind is whipping the poor things, and they'll never know the beauty of a hillside of wildflowers, nor will they bear fruit. But no need to tell them that. Just say, "Welcome to wine country."
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