I was acquainted with Urban Legend Cellars primarily through their Twitter feed. The relaxed and friendly voice behind their tweets encouraged me, and all their other followers, to stop in to their new tasting room located in the Jack London Square neighborhood of Oakland.
On a recent weekend afternoon, I did just that. There isn’t much around the tasting room, but that means that parking is a dream, not something you can say about many other neighborhoods in the Bay Area. The industrial exterior gives way to a bright and friendly tasting room that is open to the fermentation and barrel room at the back of the building.
The owners and wine makers, Steve and Marilee Shaffer were behind the tasting bar that afternoon and made me and my partner feel welcome. We tasted 6 of their 16 released wines. As a wine writer I taste a lot of wines at a lot of wineries. I can attest to the fact that most wineries have wines of wild inconsistency from swill to ambrosia. Finding a winery where every wine tasted is either good or very good is a rarity. Urban Legend Cellars is just such a winery.
I suspect that the consistent quality of their wines is the legend referred to in their name. And this urban legend is 100% true!
The wines we tasted varied in price from $18 to $28 per bottle. We walked away having purchased two bottles of their 2008 Sangiovese and one bottle of the 2009 Teroldego.
The 2009 Teroldego is one of their wines made from unusual grape varieties. The other that I tasted was a white made from Tocai Friulano. The Teroldego is an Italian grape grown primarily in the Trentino region. I’ve seen it compared to a Syrah and to a Zinfandel, but it is related to neither, and really is it’s own grape. The Urban Legend Teroldego is a dark, inky purple with medium tannin, nice acid and wonderful blackberry and fig flavors with a lingering minerality.
I also particularly liked their 2008 Sangiovese made from fruit grown in Lake County. This wine comes from an area that suffered from wild fires a few years ago and the smoke from that fire is evident in the wine, which has a light smokey finish that I found really appealing. It has Sangiovese’s characteristic cherry and cola flavors with a nice acidity and light tannin, making this a wonderful wine to drink now. This wine seems destined to accompany a good char-grilled steak.
Bay Area folks should absolutely add Urban Legend Cellars to their list of wineries to visit soon. It will make you very happy.
Urban Legend Cellars
- 621 4th St. Oakland, CA 94607
- Tasting room open: Fri – Sun 1 – 6