For the last two years, Urbano Cellars has had a nomadic existence, storing its barrels of wine at other wineries and not having a place to call home.
The winery, run by Fred Dick and Bob Rawson, had rented space for years at Periscope Cellars on Hollis Street in Emeryville. That operation had to shut down. For a while it looked like the 15-year old Urbano would open a place in Oakland. The longtime friends had found a space near Jack London Square, but it needed retrofitting. The city of Oakland tempted the partners with tax breaks, but had to rescind the offer when Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislature eliminated redevelopment agencies.
Then Donkey & Goat winery moved, in 2011, from its Fourth Street home to new quarters on Fifth near Gilman in Berkeley’s burgeoning “drinks district.” Urbano Cellars took the old space and brought in the 100 barrels and assorted bottles of Zinfandel, Chenin Blanc, and Syrach-Grenache blend that had been scattered around the East Bay.
On Saturday, they are throwing a big party to celebrate the move.
“Donkey and Goat’s space became available,” Dick said earlier this week as he rushed around to ready the place for the Grand Reopening. “Low and behold we had a turnkey winery with everything we needed.”
The partners, who were once neighbors in San Francisco, moved to Fourth Street in the fall. The late move meant they couldn’t crush grapes and make a 2011 vintage, so they will break out older wines for the barrel tastings they plan to offer their visitors on Saturday.
“Saturday is our celebration,” said Dick. “We finally have a home. It’s been over two years we’ve been without a place to make our wine.”
Urbano Cellars is part of the trend of urban wineries, places that buy grapes, crush, blend them into wine, and store it in city facilities. Urbano is part of the East Bay Vintners Alliance, a collection of 20 wineries in the industrial west sections of Berkeley and Oakland.
The pioneer urban winery of the East Bay was Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda and its various spinoffs, said Dick. Many urban vintners got their start by training there, including Dick. He and and Rawson also took wine-making classes at UC Davis.
Dick, who graduated from UC Berkeley in 1988, said his reception in Berkeley has been wonderful.
“I am very happy to be back. I love Berkeley,” he said.
The Grand Reopening is on Saturday February 4th,at 2323B Fourth Street, from 1 to 5 pm. Flights of wine will be free and people can buy a full glass for $5. The bluegrass band Nobody from Nashville will perform. Urbano Cellars will also have a tasting room with regular hours.