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Urban Wineries? Yes, Just the Grapes Aren’t Urban

When you think of Wine Country, the rolling hills of Sonoma County, the chateaus of the Loire Valley countryside, and the (congested) floor of the Napa Valley come to mind where happy grapes grow for happy wine drinkers. There, visitors sample the eventual product of those aged and stomped grapes in the adjacent tasting rooms. This…this is the Wine Country.

An urban industrial neighborhood? Perhaps a fine location for a chic wine bar in a re-designed brick warehouse.

But, this is where the wines are made?

It’s happening now. Urban wineries are sprouting up everywhere across the country, from major cities near major wine growing regions, such as Seattle and San Francisco to cities not associated much with wine, such as Brooklyn, Dallas, and Cincinnati.

Dogpatch Wine Works

Breweries or even distilleries? Yes, we’ve had those for centuries in urban warehouses, from Anchor in San Francisco to Brooklyn Brewing Co., but not wine. Wine is for the pastoral countryside, to be grown, made, and sipped where the morning starts when the rooster crows and the evening concludes as the sun sets without neon lights turning on.

It’s now wine’s turn in the urban warehouse renovation trend, that in the previous decade included countless bars, restaurants, and start up ventures.Of course, the grapes aren’t grown on the warehouse roofs or the marshy waterfronts of the San Francisco Bay or the Ohio River. One day those might be wine growing regions, but the wine might resemble Maui pineapple wine more than a fine Chardonnay or Zinfandel. There’s nothing like a terroir rich in sea urchin or pigeon droppings.

The grapes are grown in the country’s many principal wine growing regions, then brought to the warehouses to be crushed, made into wine, and then aged in barrels. Massive, renovated industrial resources are the perfect space for all of those barrels to hang out comfortably for years of aging. Many of these warehouses now have tasting rooms to, so the wineries are no longer urban secrets.

In San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, the city’s neighborhood du moment, Dogpatch Wine Works opened their warehouse tasting room this past summer. The 15,000 square foot facility makes and ages wine for their own label, Dogpatch Wine Works, along with other professionals wine makers, including Jazz Cellars and Séamus, and even you can hatch a strategic plan with Dogpatch Wine Works about a wine you would like to make yourself with the many vineyards they have acquired.

So if you aren’t exactly in the business of pursuing a vineyard in Oregon, but want to make a Pinot Noir the caliber of Stoller or Penner-Ash, then working with Dogpatch Wine Works you can work with their Anderson Valley vineyards (not Oregon, but close) and be as hands on as you want, or just show up for a barrel tasting at the end and impress your friends.

Right now, the 2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir by Dogpatch Wine Works is a tour de force of lush, bright figs and blackberries, light on tannins, but not lacking in its body whatsoever. Their 2011 Russian River Chardonnay is much lighter than the typical butter and oak heavy California expression, almost in line with a Sancerre. Séamus’ 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from their Olde School Vineyard in Sonoma County follows the aforementioned Chardonnay– entirely drinkable with a hefty steak, but also flexible and light enough to not make you pucker. It is, again, very un-Californian in that it shows levity and control.

Is this the next direction for wine making? While space is at a premium in some wine growing regions, one also must factor in the costs of transporting the grapes, which for Dallas would be a lot more than Portland, Oregon being near the Yamhill-Carlton AVA.

This is certainly an exciting new twist as the American wine making saga continues. Craft cocktails and craft breweries are having their time in the spotlight. Wine, however, never fades away. A great Chardonnay is one of life’s pleasures. With wineries making the urban jump, a glass of Pinot Noir might once again as in vogue as after Sideways opened.

Hey if we have urban wineries and urban rooftop gardens, why not urban rooftop vineyards? I’m guessing I’ll be chronicling a few of those by next Fall.

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