We're spoiled with good grapes around here, and we know a thing or two about vino. Yet, the whole wine tasting experience can sometimes make you feel like a tool. Happily, a new generation of bottle shops is popping in Oakland, where welcoming proprietors and neighborhood vibes encourage you to browse, taste, learn, open a bottle, and stay much longer than you intended.
We recently made our way around the wine shops of Oaktown and hit upon five distinct shops that are disrupting the wine buying experience. What they share in common is a focus on natural wines, highly curated selections, and owners who care about the stories behind every bottle on their shelves. We left each of these—bottle in hand—happy, informed, and with a healthy buzz, and we're sure you will, too. Treat yourself to a nice bottle—it is rosé season, after all.
It's a little too easy to hang around Bay Grape, owned by Josiah Baldivino—a somm who's worked for Daniel Boulud and Michael Mina—and Stevie Stacionis, a somm who also has credits in wine and travel writing. Their space is light and airy, cozy and casual, with a focus on community. "We really hope to build relationships with, and between, our guests," says Stacionis, whose staff is eager to guide you through the curated selection of wines from small, sustainable producers. This is a great place to pick up a bottle for dinner, but it's an even better spot for sharing a bottle with friends (there's a $5 corkage fee). Don't miss Friday evening bubbly tastings and Sunday School with a sommelier. "We really emphasize learning, in a super low-key way, and hope to help our guests learn more about what they like and how to describe it."
Bottle du jour: 2016 Matthiasson Rosé
"It's one of our go-to wines—we try to stock a case of in our personal refrigerator!" Staciones says. "It's super fresh, bright, salty, grapefruity; the producers (a husband-wife duo) are some of our favorite people in the world."
On July 28th, Stacionis will be hosting Bâtonnage, a day-long forum about women in the wine industry at a private residence in Napa. Panelists will include women from across the field, including A16 and SPQR owner/sommelier Shelley Lindgren and Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant owner Debbie Zachareas. There will be lunch, lots to learn, plus plenty of swag. Can't make it? Show your solidarity by purchasing a limited edition tote bag ($149), stocked with six wines made by women in California.
// 376 Grand Ave. (Oakland), baygrapewine.com
This article has been updated since it was originally published in May 2017.