Local Juice, Part One 

East Bay vintners serve up the good stuff.

"Drink Globally, Splurge Locally" is a headline I pulled out of my metaphorical wine cellar at about this time last year, to introduce a column covering so-called "urban winemakers" in the East Bay. I was thrilled to be covering the guys and gal — yes, just the one gal for now, but she's holding her own — making wine in our own backyard. Problem is, the price limit on this column — $10 — means I can't cover them without cheating.

On occasion, my editors are willing to indulge such wayward behavior. "Drink globally" is our mandate week after week, as we steer you toward value wines made in South America, Australia, Italy, France, South Africa, Washington state, and elsewhere in California. But today and in my next column, I urge you once again to splurge locally and try wines from one of the fifteen members of the East Bay Vintners Alliance.

The Edmunds St. John label helmed by Steve Edmunds, a veteran winemaker who's something of an elder statesman among his fellow local vintners, is a great place to start. His 2006 Pinot Gris ($16), made with grapes from El Dorado County, won raves from our Token Winemaker for its exquisite color of pale straw and a taste that's light, fresh, and crisp. "Very easy and inviting," he said, and I agreed — although we both noticed a hard, almost bitter quality to the finish.

Edmunds' other affordable offering (most of his wines retail between $18 and $45) is the 2006 Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir Rosé ($16), also made with grapes from El Dorado. This elegant, dry rosé had a powerful aroma hinting of tropical fruit and a nice berry taste. Seemed versatile, too — great with food or not, on its own on a hot day or as an accompaniment to an evening meal of seafood or something spicy. Incidentally, Edmunds himself speaks highly of the rosé from French producer La Vieille Ferme, which retails for as little as $5.95. It quickly sold out at his local Andronico's, but you can get the 2006 vintage for $8.99 on Wine.com.

Another distinguished East Bay rosé comes from A Donkey and Goat, the winery of Tracey and Jared Brandt. (The Brandts are that rarity in the wine world: a husband-wife team where both halves of the couple are winemakers.) The 2007 Isabel's Cuvée Grenache Rosé ($18), made with grapes from Mendocino County's McDowell Valley, is not — as is often the case with rosés — a saignée, the byproduct of the method used to give red wines a richer color. We appreciated this wine's complex but somewhat muted aroma and an off-dry taste that our Token Winemaker characterized as having just a hint of "animal" to it. There was definitely a flavor here that's neither fruit nor vegetable — both intriguing and brand-appropriate.


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