Most people think of Napa Valley as the place to go for wine tasting in California, but did you know there are excellent wineries in Oakland too? It’s easy to create your own wine tasting tour along the Oakland Urban Wine Trail.
Don’t get me wrong, Napa is a fantastic area for wine, but it’s a bit of a journey from the Bay Area. I wanted to be able to taste some of the best California wines without having to spend the time traveling.
We spent a day tasting our way through the Oakland Urban Wine Trail. Yes, it is possible to have a wonderful wine tasting experience in the East Bay.
In this post, I will tell you more about the Oakland Wine Trail and help you plan your own visit.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. Please see disclosure for more information.
What is the Oakland Urban Wine Trail?
The Oakland Urban Wine Trail is made up of select wineries located in the city of Oakland. These wineries produce amazing wine from grapes sourced throughout the state. The trail is a self-guided tour so it’s flexible. You can choose when to do it, so it will easily fit into any itinerary.
If you visit all the wineries and purchase a bottle at each one, you will receive an Oakland Urban Wine Trail tote bag. To get the prize, you need to use the Oakland Urban Wine Trail App. Shortly after you confirm all your purchases, you will get a code that you can take to the Visitor’s Center to claim your tote bag.
Oakland Urban Wine Trail App
The Oakland Urban Wine Trail App provides information about the wineries on the trail, tracks your purchases towards the prize, and offers discounts. Download the app for free here.
The app is relatively simple. The main page lists information about each winery and the special discounts available. It also has a place to confirm your bottle purchases.
We did redeem the discount at Prima Materia, which was straight-forward and saved us $10. We didn’t document our bottle purchases since I knew we were not going to have time to go to all the wineries.
We stopped for four wine-tastings during the day we spent on the Oakland Wine Trail. Since it is a self-guided wine tour, it offers the flexibility to choose how many wineries and which ones to visit. Visiting four wineries (Rosenblum Cellars, Prima Materia, Glasshouse, and Brooklyn West) gave us some insight into the Oakland wine scene.
Next time, I am in the area, I hope to visit the other wineries on the trail – Campovida, Cote West, and Urban Legend Winery.
Note: The Subject to Change Winery, which used to be part of the Oakland wine trail, has moved to Forestville.
Our first stop was Rosenblum Cellars, located right by the ferry dock in Jack London Square. This family-run winery has been making wine in nearby Alameda for over 40 years. Their specialty is Zinfandel – they have made more than 50 Zinfandels earning 90 or more points from Wine Spectator.
At Rosenblum, you can choose from five different flight options (ranging from $15 – $30) or order wine to taste by the glass. We choose to share the Rockstar flight which was $25, but the fee would be waived if we bought a bottle. The pours were generous and came with a card with tasting notes.
We decided to enjoy our wines inside, but they do have a good-sized outdoor patio area. With the waterside location, I was glad they had huge windows, so we could still enjoy the view. In addition to the ferry, there is another notable boat nearby – the Potomac. It was FDR’s presidential yacht. While we didn’t have time, you can do a tour or even take a cruise on the Potomac. Get more information here.
All the wines we tried were delicious but since we both thought, that the Petite Sirah was our favorite we decide to buy a bottle. They gave us the bottle in a cloth bag that will hold four bottles.
After we purchased the bottle, they gave us a glass of their Cabernet Sauvignon to try. That was a nice bonus!
Rosenblum Cellars does offer cheese and snacks as well but it is all a la carte. If you are a member of their club, the food is discounted.
The tasting room is open from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm Sunday through Thursday and until 9:00 on Fridays.
Get more information about Rosenblum Cellars here.
Prima Materia, our next stop, is a small tasting room located in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland. They also have a few seats outside, if you prefer to do an al fresco tasting.
The name Prima Materia means prime materials in English. The grapes come from their vineyards in Kelsey Bench AVA of Lake County. They are hands-on in making the wines and only do small batches. The wines from Prima Materia are unfined, unfiltered, hand-harvested, and hand-bottled, but clean, stable and ready for long aging.
At this winery, you can choose a tasting of four wines (you get to choose which ones) or a tasting of eight. They also offer wines by the glass for $12.
We decided we would share the eight-wine tasting and also the cheese plate. The cheese plate was generous, well-presented, and delicious. It included three kinds of cheese, two types of meat, spiced almonds, olives, and crackers.
Next time, I would probably order a tasting for each of us. I was impressed with the variety of wines that we tasted. There were three types of wine (Barbera, Sagrantino, and Aglianico) that we tried that I hadn’t heard of before.
We used the discount from the Oakland Urban Wine Trail app to get half off our tasting.
The winery hours are Friday and Saturday from 1:00 pm to 9:00 pm and Sundays from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm. You can make an appointment if you would like to visit during the week. Periodically, they hold classes and other special events in the tasting room.
Get more information about Prima Materia here.
Glasshouse is a tasting room for both Tintype and Two Mile wines. They also offer tastings of Golden State Cider and Oakland Spirits.
It is located about halfway between Prima Materia and Jack London Square. They share their space with an art gallery/art workshop. The space can also be booked for private events.
Two Mile Wines are made a few doors down from the tasting room and the grapes come from grapes from Sonoma, Napa, and the Central Californian Coast. The name comes from a law that prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages within two miles of the University of California – Berkley campus.
Tintype Wines sources their grapes from Northern California farmers who believe in sustainability. They want the exceptional fruit to speak for itself so there is minimal intervention during the winemaking process. All the ingredients are listed on the labels for transparency.
At Glasshouse, they offer a five-wine tasting that includes a mix of wines from both wineries for $11. They will waive the tasting fee if you purchase a bottle that costs $32 or more. You can also buy wines by the glass.
We decided to each have our own tasting. It was a nice variety of both white and red wines. We were also offered a complimentary bonus tasting of one of the rich red wines.
Our host was Kate, a friendly Certified Sommelier. In addition to sharing her thoughts on the wines, she also shared the history of the wineries and gave us some insights into the winemakers.
In addition to the wine, they serve empanadas and freshly made popcorn. The empanadas were a good size. I loved the mushroom one. Russell tried the chicken. The popcorn came with a couple of spice options which I tried, but it was delicious just plain (well it was generously buttered).
Note: On the Oakland Urban Wine Trail App, Glassroom is listed as two individual wineries. To get the tote bag for completing the Urban Wine Trail, you would need to buy a bottle from both Two Mile and Tintype Wines.
The tasting room is open on Thursdays and Fridays from 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm and Saturdays from 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Get more information about Two Mile Wines here.
Get more information about Tintype Wines here.
The last tasting room we visited was Brooklyn West, located in the Jack London Square area. It’s actually inside the oldest warehouse in the Jack London Square Warehouse District. It has a unique glass roll-up garage door that was closed when we visited since it was a bit chilly.
Brooklyn West does not own any vineyards, which gives them the freedom to source the best grapes from all over the state and create small batches of artisanal wines. While they make a wide variety of wines, they have a special passion for Spanish and Iberian grapes. After our experience in Rioja, we can definitely relate!
If you are wondering why there is a winery named Brooklyn West in Oakland, there are a few reasons:
- The winemaker’s family is from Brooklyn.
- Brooklyn, California was formed in 1856, commemorating the ship that had brought over 200 Mormon settlers from New York. Brooklyn was annexed by Oakland in 1872 and the area is now known as East Oakland.
- Some see Oakland as the Brooklyn of the West. It’s an alternative hotspot in the Bay Area. Residents and visitors are increasingly heading to Oakland to find unique cultural and culinary experiences.
We were lucky when we visited, that the winemaker, Stew, was working the tasting room (this is not the norm). He had such fun energy and a different perspective.
At Brooklyn West, they offer one type of tasting for $20, which includes four wines. We decided to share it given all the wine we had already had earlier. You can also add a tasting of their Old Vine Zinfandel for $5.
Since it was our last winery of the day, we shared the tasting. The pours were generous and we enjoyed the wines. We had a hard time choosing our favorite but decided to buy a bottle of the Rockridge Red.
They have a fun selection of board games. We played “Wine Wars” which is a trivial pursuit type game focused on wine. It was entertaining, made us laugh, and taught us a few things too.
The tasting room is open from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm from Tuesday to Friday, from 1:00 pm to 9:00 pm on Saturday, and from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm on Sunday. Groups of seven or more need to make a reservation. The space can also be booked for private events.
Get more information about Brooklyn West here.
Traveling along the Oakland Urban Wine Trail
Since you will be tasting lots of wine, don’t plan on doing any driving. It is easy to travel between the wineries without your own car.
If you are coming from San Francisco, it’s easy to take the ferry or the BART (Use the 12th Street/Oakland City Center stop) to get to the Jack London Square area. The BART is a bit cheaper, but the views from the ferry are worth the extra cost. Use a clipper card to get the best rates on public transportation in the Bay Area.
Several of the wineries (Rosenblum Cellars, Brooklyn West, Campovida, and Urban Legend Winery) on the trail are located within easy walking distance around Jack London Square.
Prima Materia, Glasshouse (Two Mile and Tintype Wines) and Cote West are a short distance away. You could still walk to these wineries but it would be a long walk. Of course, there are also public transportation options.
Since we were a bit short on time, we just took Lyfts/Ubers. The cars came quickly and it didn’t cost much more than if we both would have taken public transportation. To us, it was worth it to save time. This could also be a good option if your feet are tired.
Can you do the Oakland Wine Trail in One Day?
Yes. They are located close enough to each other that if you wanted to squeeze in visiting seven tasting rooms in one day you could.
Personally, I don’t think I could handle that much wine tasting in one day. If you only have one day, consider choosing a couple of wineries to visit. Another alternative would be to visit all the tasting rooms over a few days.
How Much Does the Oakland Urban Wine Trail Cost?
It depends. You can tailor an experience to meet most budgets.
Most tasting rooms offer different tasting options or you can just enjoy wine by the glass. Tastings ranged from $11 – $30, while glasses were $10 – $14. Some wineries also offered half-glasses for less.
If you are on a tight budget, find a friend to share tastings. Also, be sure to take advantage of the discounts on the Oakland Urban Wine Trail app. Walking or taking public transportation from tasting room to tasting room will also help to save money.
Some bottles of wine are a bit pricey, but when you take into consideration that the tasting fees are waived it may make the splurge worth it.
What is the Best Winery on the Oakland Wine Trail?
This is basically an impossible question. We loved all the wineries we visited and would return in a heartbeat. If we wouldn’t have had to worry about luggage restrictions, we probably would have bought a bottle at each one.
When trying to figure out which wineries to visit think about your preferences and the kind of wine-tasting experience you are after. While all the wineries had excellent wine, I thought I would also highlight some of their unique offerings:
- Rosenblum Cellars had lovely views. I enjoyed looking out over the water as we tasted the wine.
- Prima Materia had an amazing cheese plate and the tasting room is very intimate.
- Glasshouse had the art and also empanadas and popcorn.
- Brooklyn West had the board games and probably the most laid-back atmosphere.
Traveling with Wine
I think you are going to want to buy some of the wines you taste during your Oakland wine tour. There are a few important considerations if you will be traveling on an airplane with the wine:
- Wine must be packed in your checked bags. Some of the cheaper airfares do not include free checked bags. Check the luggage allowances and fees in advance so that you are aware. In most cases, if you need to pay for luggage, it is cheaper to do it in advance.
- Make sure you package the wine carefully so that the bottle doesn’t break. Luggage handlers are rough so wrapping the wine in clothes may not be enough. I recommend some sort of padded bag like this one.
- If you are traveling internationally, check the rules for the country you will be traveling too. Keep in mind that if you exceed the allowances there may be additional fees to pay.
Food on the Oakland Urban Wine Trail
It’s not a good idea to do wine tasting on an empty stomach. You are going to need to make sure you eat as well as drink wine.
Most of the wine tasting rooms we visited did offer light bites, but not all did. Depending on how much wine you plan on drinking, you might like to break for a meal at a restaurant (or pack a lunch).
Jack London Square, the area where several wineries are located, is also a popular spot for restaurants. Check out this list for recommendations.
Wrapping Up Our Oakland Wine Tasting Day
After we finished our day of wine tasting in Oakland, we checked in to our hotel, the Executive Inn & Suites. Our suite was spacious and perfect for relaxing after a busy day. We were too late to catch the sunset from our balcony, but it was still an impressive view.
I was pleasantly surprised that we had a refrigerator in our room. If only I would have known that before I visited the wineries in Oakland, I probably would have bought a white wine!
There is always next time! I definitely want to go back to Oakland and visit the rest of the wineries on the Urban Wine Trail.
Have you tried any of these Oakland wines?
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Disclosure: Thanks to Visit Oakland for sponsoring our visit. As always, all opinions are ours.
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Last Updated on September 29, 2020