More Wine, Less Whine

A new generation of winemakers introduces their vintages to the Bay Area.


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Bradford Taylor of Ordinaire prefers natural wines.

Photo by Lori Eanes

Fair or not, the wine industry has developed a bit of a staid reputation. But its perception as a stodgy, stuck-up, high-brow pastime dominated by a decidedly few number of palates is changing as Millenials are uncorking reds and whites faster than they’re popping beer tops. Luckily, the East Bay has several fun new wine bars that have opened over the last year, and the mantra these wineries follow is one that emphasizes comfiness over stuffiness.

Ordinaire

For a guy working on his English Ph.D. at Cal, Ordinaire owner Bradford Taylor is pretty chill. At his place on Grand Avenue, he’s created a rustically elegant, but mellow, vibe in which he can showcase his passion for natural wines—essentially wines that are grown and produced with a minimum amount of manipulation. The wine bar and retail shop has around 15 wines by the glass and 250 by bottle available at any given time, mostly from California and Europe.

But don’t sleep on the food either: Ordinaire caused a minor riot among Oakland foodies with its popular summer pop-up dinner series starring Kronnerburger’s Chris Kronner. Those events are, sadly, no more (Kronner is opening his own place on Piedmont Avenue), but Taylor is in the process of reimagining the food menu with something just as creative. In the meantime, you can snack on a selection of artisan charcuterie and cheeses.

3354 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-629-3944, www.OrdinaireWine.com

Bay Grape

The second bullet point on the chalkboard of the entrance in this new Adam’s Point wine shop says it all: “We want to make wine less [lame].” (Just substitute a more offensive word for lame).

That isn’t to say owners Josiah Baldivino and Stevie Stacionis aren’t professionals: Together the husband-and-wife team tally more than two decades working in the industry, including Baldivino’s four years as head sommelier for Michael Mina restaurant. But they don’t take themselves too seriously. Bay Grape has a refreshingly open, casual, and, most of all, young feel. Tribe Called Quest, for example, was spinning on the record player (yes, an actual record player) on one recent evening.

The owners host tastings on Thursdays and Saturdays, as well as periodic classes themed by wine grape or region. Otherwise, customers can browse the impressive global selection of hard-to-find offerings from mostly small-batch wineries, and either open a bottle there or take it home. Or do both. Don’t worry, the rules here are as relaxed as the owners.

376 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-686-3615, www.BayGrapeWine.com

Wine & Waffles

Is there anything less pretentious than waffles? That’s why it’s so interesting to see them paired with wine at the new spin-off of Alameda’s beloved Ole’s Waffle Shop on Park Street. Owner Vicke Monize’s family owns Ole’s—thus the waffles—and her husband Ken Monize hails from Sonoma Wine Country—where the wine part comes in.

It’s an interesting match, and it works first and foremost because the space is modern and fun, with live music on Wednesday through Sunday and great views on Park Street. The wine list is packed with interesting, mostly Northern California, wineries. But the real fun comes with pairing one with the chicken and waffle sliders, and especially the desserts. Peaches and cream waffle with a nice vintage port, anyone?

1505 Park St., Alameda, 510-523-2301, www.WineAndWaffles.com.

And Coming Soon

After opening a small tasting room for his Emeryville-based Periscope Cellars in Old Oakland’s hopping Swan’s Market, Brendan Eliason is expanding his presence. Late in October, the fun-loving East Bay vintner planned to debut Deep Roots Oakland, offering a small food menu highlighted by flatbread pizzas, creative cocktails, as well as a dozen or so selections of additional urban East Bay wines.

Go to www.DeepRootsWineBar.com for more info.

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