When blending, Cohn reaches as far out as France, making wine with his friend Pierre Guillard in the Cote Rotie. “A lot of wineries are focused on doing estate or local,” Cohn says. “But being here, we can have our pick of the best vineyard sources.” The pair’s Pourquoi Pas is a blend of Cohn’s Rockpile Syrah and Guillard’s Cote Rozier – an herby cassis-meets-game innovation worth its $135 sticker. Dashe, whose r sum includes Ridge and Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, offers just as broad a portfolio. He started Dashe Cellars in 1996 with his wife, Anne, who trained and worked in Bordeaux. Together, they make wines of exceptional complexity from top Sonoma vineyards. They are also graduates of Rosenblum, and it’s evident in their zinfandels, which also nix jam in favor of spicy minerality. Dashe’s artistic lineup also includes whites: His dry, Alsatian-style Riesling is an up-and-coming star. “We weren’t interested in making chardonnay or sauvignon blanc,” Dashe says. “We wanted to make something with unusual character and bigger acidity.” Something different, much like the urban landscape where he makes his wines. “It’s a vibrant scene being near all the restaurants and retailers,” Dashe says. “Napa and Sonoma are beautiful, but there we’d be one of many. Here, we’re unique.” Along with long-established Rosenblum, Dashe and JC Cellars anchor the East Bay Vintners Alliance, now 15 wineries strong and growing. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose muscular style nicely reflects the no-nonsense spirit of urban wineries, declared September as California Wine Month. I think we can all agree they make city life just a little juicier. [email protected] (925) 943-8155 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! They may be 100 miles or more from Napa, Sonoma or Mendocino, but Cohn and other urban winemakers are producing some of the state’s most exciting wines – in small storefronts and industrial warehouses tucked in Berkeley, Oakland and Emeryville. Urban wineries have arrived, and both their spirit and mission evoke old Napa – a time before urbane conceit and corporate dollars reigned. Metro East Bay’s focused, high-quality winemakers are epitomized by Jeff Cohn of JC Cellars and Mike Dashe of Dashe Cellars. The two share a warehouse winery that parallels the 880 Freeway in Oakland. Cohn spent a decade making wine at Rosenblum in Alameda before launching JC Cellars, where he focuses on elegant northern Rhone-style wines. His Syrahs are dark, lush and meaty, softened by hints of lavender. His zins are lean, not jammy. And First Date, his blend of Marsanne and Roussanne, will revive white wine drinkers tired of the usual suspects. OAKLAND — They pick at night, when the grapes are at their prime – crisp and filled with flavor. The rolling fog tickles the trellised vines, and by twilight they are bare. Back at the estate, a large staff grooms the harvest before destemming the grapes and pumping them into steel tanks. The winery dog licks up scrap skins, charming fanny-packed customers who’ve stolen a peak from the mahogany-walled tasting room. Romantic, yes, but for winemaker Jeff Cohn it was the roar of traffic nearby that signaled “crush” on a recent weekday afternoon. A truckload of premium petite sirah grapes pulls into JC Cellars’ industrial warehouse in downtown Oakland. Accompanied by two assistants, Cohn grabs a tight cluster and pulls a grape to his lips. “How beautiful is that?” he says.