It's been about a year since Monty Paulsen relaunched his family winery, Pat Paulsen Vineyards, in West Oakland's Pacific Cannery Lofts. Fans of the 1980s Sonoma winery may recall its rich Alexander Valley cabernet sauvignon in addition to fun, easy-drinking labels, such as Refrigerator White.
Paulsen is finding the same balance. He sources fruit for his wines from coveted vineyards in California, but he keeps his production and prices on the lower side. The live-work loft is commercially zoned and doubles as East Bay Grape Bar, a chic wine bar and event space where Paulsen and Gigi Benson, his girlfriend and marketing manager, host events and guide fans through their wines. You may have to wait your turn to sit in the bubble swing.
Curious? Go to www.patpaulsenvineyards.com to get on the mailing list, and you'll find out about the latest parties and community events. Pat Paulsen Vineyards' wines are also available at Wine Mine in Oakland and New Leaf Community Market in Capitola and San Jose. Here are five worth tracking down: Pat Paulsen Vineyards Wirth Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon Green Valley 2009: Made from grapes in Solano County, this wine has a solid structure, with ripe berry flavors and mouth-filling tannins. Pat Paulsen Vineyards Alexander Valley Merlot 2009: My favorite wine in the lineup, this merlot could go head to head with the great wines of Pomerol. It has dark blackberry flavors and a spice reminiscent of dried herbs and tobacco. Pat Paulsen Vineyards Napa Valley Chardonnay 2010: This fine example of a balanced chardonnay has equal parts acid and oak. There's no butter here, just lovely aromas and flavors of apple. Pat Paulsen Vineyards Livermore Valley Cabernet Franc 2010: This wine makes a great case for bottling cabernet franc on its own instead of blending what little the region makes into a cabernet sauvignon. It's fruity and medium-bodied with a peppery herbaceousness -- very food-friendly. Pat Paulsen Vineyards Parthenogenesis 2009: A blend of Bordeaux varietals, this California wine has firm tannins, berry aromas and a very fruit-forward personality.