Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wine and Spirits: Alameda, CA

Sometimes there is just nothing like being a tourist in your own local area. Here in San Francisco, we tend to stay in the city on the weekends and avoid the traffic and toll booths. During Fleet Week in October, we decided to get out of the city and see what kind of trouble we could find.

We journeyed across the Bay Bridge to Alameda. Technically Alameda is an island, but it is pretty well connected to the mainland. Formerly a naval post, it is also blessed with some great views of the city.

View from St. George Spirits

Our first stop was St. George Spirits. These guys were the first to start distilling absinthe when it was re-legalized in the United States. Housed in an old hanger, their vodka reflects their home: Hanger One Vodka. This is consistently one of the best vodkas I have ever had. The "Straight" vodka is so smooth you won't know it is vodka. The infused vodkas are amazing - many infusions have a "fake" taste to them, as if the artificial flavor was added after distillation. Hanger One actually distills the fruit for the vodka and you can taste the difference. The Buddha's Hand vodka is superb. Frankly, I can't name one that isn't. They do limited releases and I'm still pining over the Chipolte Vodka - I so want another bottle but it is all gone and they don't know if / when they will distill it again.

Buddha Hand Vodka
Another big hit from the distillery is the new Firelit liquor. Brandy based, this is infused with cold-brewed Blue Bottle coffee - a Bay Area favorite. I'm not usually a fan of coffee liquors, but this one is extremely good. You can sip it alone and skip the espresso on summer nights!

We took the pup with us, and unfortunately St. George will not allow dogs into the tasting room. We didn't get an reason behind this, but I suspect it is because the tasting room and the distillery are all in one building.

Less than a mile away from St. George is the tasting room for Rosenblum Cellars. Very friendly crew here and they are dog-friendly, allowing dogs into the tasting room! Their strength is their zinfandels, but be sure to try the dessert wines also. Everything is reasonably priced and the staff are very helpful.

At this point you should be pretty hungry and need food to keep going. Downtown Alameda has a plethora of restaurants, but for some reason we always end up at La Pinata 3. A local chain, but I can't say the food is the greatest. However, it is cheap and the margaritas are huge and pretty potent.

-- Happy Travels!

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