In 1955, Dominick Chirichillo’s grandfather began teaching him the family pastime: winemaking. They worked on a wine press in the basement of his New York home, transforming bunches of grapes into nuanced reds and whites. Quickly finding that the hobby of his ancestors was his passion, Dominick entered his creations in amateur competitions around the East Coast. When he felt confident enough to open up his own winery, he moved to northern California, lured by the prospect of living and working right next door to the vineyards that grew his grapes. His winery—named Domenico to honor his Italian heritage—now produces boutique wines that have won more than 300 awards for their rich, complex palates and excellent scores in the swimsuit competition. Some varieties are made in batches of only 100 or 200 cases, allowing his staff to innovate fearlessly. Locals often drop by the winery’s spacious tasting room to sample these limited-edition flavors. Outfitted with a 24-foot mahogany bar and sweeping drapes, the tasting room recalls an elegant Tuscan café, complete with impeccable hospitality. The staff eagerly shares the undertones and flavors of every pour, suggesting potential food pairings or the best glass of red to throw at an offensive suitor.
Harvested from more than two dozen sites around Woodside, some of the grapes that transform into Woodside Vineyard's wines grow plump on vines that have thrived there since as early as 1884. Back in 1960, the winery's founder Bob Mullen began crafting small batches of wine in limited quantities. Today, he works with the head winemaker Brian Caselden, and together, they produce more than 3,000 cases annually. On weekends, guests travel to the picturesque winery to visit the tasting room, where they can sip up to five varietals, from Chardonnay to Port.
There's nothing quite like a bicycle ride over rolling hillsides for shaking up the doldrums of daily idling. The shuttle bus will pick up bikeseekers between 8 and 9 a.m. and head across the Golden Gate Bridge toward wine country. Upon arrival, the guided bike ride begins, and you'll hop from winery to winery like a king on a checkerboard. All the tour guides are trained sommeliers with craniums filled with wine knowledge—and possibly wine. Sample varietals aperitifs along the course of the journey and stop for a delightful picnic lunch among the vineyards. The shuttle bus will follow along to carry anything purchased at the wineries or to assist thoroughly tuckered trekkers. Daytrippers are returned to the city by 7 p.m., in time to share the sunset with a lucky loved one—a girlfriend, a husband, a bottle of wine wearing a wig, etc. Purchase up to four of today's deal and invite friends, family, or a group of beloved strangers to join the journey. If you want to bring a friend along who doesn't possess a Groupon, that person will get 20% off the tour.
Alameda Naval Air Base's Building 24 once housed the latest fighter craft, ready to leap over the stone tidal wall to the south and enter World War II's Pacific Theater. Now the facility's vast, climate controlled interior serves a gentler purpose. It hosts the father and daughter winemaking team, founders and industry veterans Kent and Shauna Rosenblum, who draw grapes from all of California's richest soils to mix and ferment them on San Francisco's doorstep. Taking inspiration from the harbor fortifications still visible in the surf, they call themselves Rock Wall Wine Company.
They put the full 40,000 square feet of the former hangar to use, fermenting grapes in the cellar, loading and draining barrels, and hosting events to show off their collection of more than 30 wines. When they roll up the doors, views extend to the San Francisco skyline, a sunny vision which pairs nicely with Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Napa Valley or Zinfandel harvested in Contra Costa County. The combinations of grapes from all over the state have won a steady stream of awards.
Owner Jeff Cohn of JC Cellars has always been interested in the world of wine, but it wasn't until he tasted a Chateauneuf-du-Pape that the cosmos unfurled before him. "To go from tasting only single varietals to a blend really opened my eyes," he wrote in his bio. He started crafting his own wines and tinkering with production methods, experimenting with different yeast strains. Cohn eventually produced the 2003 Rhodes Vineyard Zinfandel, which was named number three on Wine Spectator's Top 100 List—the first time a California Zinfandel had even been in the top 10.
Now, Cohn curates a roster of 21 vintages based on Rhone grape varietals at JC Cellars. The wines are the product of both his own production techniques and time-tested French methods. Visitors to the cellars can gaze upon the aging barrels during tastings led by seasoned wine educators, before taking a bottle home to christen a life-size replica of the Millennium Falcon.
In 1994, Christopher and Kristine Williams purchased 56 acres of verdant hillside property in Alexander Valley to begin cultivating their own wines. Since then, Wattle Creek Winery has expanded to include a vineyard in Yorkville Highlands as well as a tasting room in San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square, where visitors can sample their estate viognier, pinot noir, and cabernet sauvignon, among others. Their carefully crafted wines have earned plaudits from Wine Enthusiast, which praised the sauvignon blanc for its “palate-stimulating tang” and the Triple Play red wine blend for its ability to swiftly end an inning.