While I didn’t have time to head to Sonoma this weekend while I was visiting a friend in Berkeley, I did stumble across a gem of a wine shop. After having lunch on Monday at Gregoire, a cute-as-a-button French takeout spot, I mean check out this quiche and blood orange French soda:
my friend, a graduate student at UC Berkeley, had to head to class and I had an hour to kill. Lucky for me, there was a wine shop nearby that my friend recommended I check out.
From the outside, Vintage Berkeley doesn’t look like a wine shop. It doesn’t look like a store at all. It’s housed in a former water pumping station built in 1930. The station operated until the 1980s, but it sat vacant until nine years ago when Vintage Berkeley moved into the city landmark.
While the exterior remains the same, the owner made some tweaks to the interior and rather than pumping water, the site now pumps out wines from labels you’ve most likely have never heard of. And here comes the selling point: most of them are under $25.
Vintage Berkeley throws the age-old point system out the window and instead offers descriptions of the wines written by staff. It reminded me of the staff picks at Skylight Books, my favorite book store in Los Angeles. When I told Ryan, who started working at the shop after being a frequent visitor at tastings during his time at Cal, that I’m on a kick to try wine types I’ve never had before, he pointed out wines from Slovenia, the Basque region of Spain, Corsica, and other exotic locales.
He sold me on the Slovenian number, a blend of dry muscat and riesling that came topped with a bottle cap. It’s a 2012 Crnko Jarenincan.
I also picked up two others–a red and a white–from Portugal. The white is another dry muscat, 2012 Herdade de Gambia, and the red is a 2011 HMR Varal Tinto. All were $15 or less. As soon as I get my package in the mail and can uncork (uncap for the Slovenian wine) those suckers, you’ll be sure to see some reviews.
If you’re in the Berkeley area, check out their free tastings on the weekdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
It’s very beautiful right now, as the fall leaves come in and crisp breezes bookend the days.