The Oakland Urban Wine Trail

Most people understandably associate wine tasting in Northern California with the world-famous Napa and Sonoma regions, about 50 miles north of the San Francisco. However, Bay Area natives and visitors now have a more local option with Oakland's Urban Wine Trail. The term "urban winery" might seem like an oxymoron at first, but Oakland's fresh take on wine tasting is worth a second look.

If you're accustomed to the classic Napa Valley experience, trying Oakland wineries for the first time will have you trading rustic barns for re-purposed warehouses and sprawling estates for Jack London Square. 

This past weekend, we had a chance to hit the trail when our friend Sam booked a group of us an afternoon of urban wine tasting to celebrate her boyfriend Chris' birthday. 

Urban Legend
Our first stop on the wine trail was the aptly named Urban Legend. A team of servers took turns pouring different tasters into our glasses, carefully explaining the characteristics of each. Grant and I agreed that our favorite was their petite sirah, the perfect companion to a juicy steak dinner.

Urban Legend group tasting is $10/person.
Urban Legend details: Book an appointment for a group of six or more and the tasting fee is $10 per person, with a 10 percent discount on wine purchases. Tasting room hours are 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday and noon to six p.m. on Sunday.

Cerruti Cellars
Our next stop was just a five-minute walk away, Cerruti Cellars. The spacious and breezy warehouse sits next to the railroad, and the sound of passing train whistles adds a nice touch to Cerruti's modern industrial vibe. Our group settled into a cozy side lounge with over-stuffed leather chairs and ottomans, the perfect setting for a glass of wine with friends. Cerruti also offered chocolate pairings and charcuterie plates.
Cerruti Cellar's side lounge
Cerruti Cellars details: By the way, if you're itching for an afternoon out but your friend or significant other would rather stay home and watch the game, take them to Cerruti, where they'll probably show the game on the TV by the bar. It's a win-win!The tasting room is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The Verdict
Although we've only tried two stops of many along Oakland's Urban Wine Trail so far, we're happy to say that it's definitely worth checking out. We love Napa, but it's hard to beat the accessibility and walkability of Oakland's wine trail. It's within spitting distance of BART, Amtrak, the ferry and a perpetual flock of Uber and Lyft drivers. When you're wine tasting, it's always nice not to need a designated driver. Plus, the trail's location next to Jack London Square means there will be a fleet of food trucks nearby, in case you get peckish in between tastings. 

The next time you have a free afternoon in the East Bay, be sure you stop in at an urban winery and have a glass or two. Let this map be your guide. 

Welcome to The Savory City!

Hey, guys! I'm back! I haven't forgotten about you, and I hope you haven't forgotten about me. A lot has happened over the past three years, so here's a quick update!

  1. I married my sweetheart, Grant. He hails from a great and far-off land called the Pacific Northwest. He loves coffee and flannel. He can grow a beard in one day. He once gave me a wooden box full of 32 love letters-- one for me to open each day until he permanently moved down to be with me.  Our love has overcome long-distance FaceTime dates, football division rivalries and negotiations over the last slice of pizza. I'm truly a lucky girl.
  2. Mr. & Mrs.
  3. We moved into our very own apartment, a place where we co-reign and call the shots. Paint the walls teal? Sure. Have a vinyl record player in every room? Absolutely. Turn the counter into a self-serve coffee bar? Yes, please and thank you.
  4. And I'm excited to announce that we're launching our own lifestyle blog, called The Savory City! If you haven't noticed, you're already on it! The old First Impressions blog is now The Savory City! We can't wait to share our new food, travel and life adventures with you, so stay tuned!
Teresa and Grant

Three Hours to San Jose: The Mines Road Adventure

Do you know the (long) way to San Jose? If you don't yet, it's worth discovering. The next time you find yourself in the Bay Area with a few lazy hours to spare, consider taking a drive along one of the best-kept local secrets: the scenic Mines Road, which will take you from Livermore in the East Bay to Mount Hamilton in San Jose.

Your 74-mile, two-lane odyssey begins in the heart of Livermore's wine country, right off of Tesla Road, but acres of vineyards and clusters of farm homes will soon give way to lush foothills and wandering streams. Along the way, you'll find a few farms, ranches and the occasional cattle guard. Take advantage of the beautiful vistas. There are many opportunities to pull over and take pictures, so be sure to do so!

Pro tips
  • Check that you have a full tank of gas. There is nowhere to fill up.
  • Be prepared for no cell phone service.
  • Bring a snack. With the exception of The Junction, there's nowhere to get food.
  • Beware of hairpin turns, bicyclists and oncoming traffic around blind corners.
Here are a few pictures of the Mines Road adventure I went on earlier today with my friend, Steven. As you can see in the pictures below, it was a bit rainy and foggy to begin with, which made everything hauntingly beautiful. By the time we reached Mount Hamilton though, we were rewarded with a burst of sunshine. The perfect ending to a wonderful day.

A bend in the road.
Verdant hills behind thickets of trees.
A benign motorcycle gang.
View from Mount Hamilton.

What the World Needs Now is More Burt Bacharach

There was no introduction and no entrance music last night when the legendary songwriter behind standards like, "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," "I Say a Little Prayer," and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" walked onstage at the Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. I doubt anyone would have heard the music anyway. The moment Mr. Burt Bacharach stepped onstage, a theater full of adoring fans leaped to their feet, cheered and two-finger whistled as if the Beatles had just flown in from London. General screams of delight were punctuated with shouts of, "We love you!" and "You're the man, Burt!"

Ladies and gentlemen, Burt Bacharach is still the man.
Dressed in a simple black suit with no tie, the six-time Grammy winner and three-time Oscar winner graciously smiled and waved to us for a few moments before walking over to the grand piano at center stage. At his cue, the entire 50-piece orchestra behind him sprang to life and at once, we were plunged into an irresistible medley crammed with hit after hit-- the only way he could fit enough of his beloved songs into one concert. Every song transition was met with an enthusiastic wave of applause, as two thousand heartbeats happily quickened with recognition. Scores of normally dignified adults simultaneously turned into teenagers who unashamedly gushed aloud, "Gahh!!! I love this song!!!"

My favorite parts were the few songs where the orchestra dropped out and it was just him playing the piano and singing. His raspy voice was a little quiet and subdued, giving the songs-- his songs-- much more poignancy. He took on "Alfie," "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head," and the super sexy "The Look of Love" by himself, only having the orchestra and his singers come in towards the end.

Mr. Bacharach has the energy and agility of a man much younger than his 85 years. He would stand up at the piano in mid-song, still playing with his left hand while giving a cue to the horn section or signaling the violins to come in. He would jump from the grand piano to an electric keyboard facing the audience, then back to the piano again. He also got up to introduce each song or to tell us a quick story about his early days collaborating with his longtime lyricist, Hal David.

At the end, he joked that he had to dismiss the full orchestra because he didn't want to keep them overtime, but he said he wanted to stay and play a few more songs for us with just his band-- if we didn't mind. Of course, we didn't. He played a couple of his newer songs and some Christmas stuff too. He closed by asking us to sing along with him to a reprisal of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head." A group of fans afterward rushed the stage and he stayed until he shook hands with every single one of them. A living legend and a true gent.

They said no photos, but I couldn't resist.

I Heart Paper

One of these days I'll be able to walk out of a stationary store without buying something. This was not one of those days.