The East Bay natural wine scene is just a vibrant as San Francisco’s. These five venues have focused selections of natural wines yet there are a few other shops that also have a range of high-quality organic and biodynamic wines.
376 Grand Avenue, Oakland 94610
Hours: Monday – Friday, 12 – 10 pm, Saturday, 11 am – 10 pm, Sunday, 12 – 9 pm
Features: Weekly tastings and classes, wine clubs.
Getting there: Street parking, MacArthur or 19th Street Oakland BART stations, AC Transit – 12, to Grand Avenue and Staten stop.
Comparing Bay Grape to a political party, it is not in the dead center and for sure, adheres to some ideological principles but does not go too far to the extreme. Chances are you won’t be offended yet there is still a sense of adventure and a lot of wines that meet a general (organic farming, native yeast, low sulfur) natural wine sniff test. It is literally a mom and pop operation with owners Stevie Stacionis and Josiah Baldivino running the place.
Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant
1605 San Paolo Avenue, Berkeley 94702
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 11 am – 6 pm.
Size: Very Large
Selection: Mostly French, some Italian
Features: Wine clubs.
Getting there: Small parking lot, street parking. BART – North Berkeley Station, AC Transit: G line to San Pablo and Cedar Street stop.
From the very beginning, Kermit Lynch had some organic producers. Over the years and certainly within the last decade, more natural winemakers have been added to the portfolio. Not everything is going to meet the basic natural criteria but a lot of the wines will, so ask. The staff should know; they are as seasoned pros. KLWM may not be on the edge of the frontier in the way it was in the 80’s and 90’s but you’ll be hard pressed to find a dud in the shop. Don’t forget to check out the horizontal shelves near the counter…this is where the older wines live.
3354 Grand Avenue, Oakland 94610
Hours: Daily 12 – 10 pm, closed first Tuesday of the month.
Features: Wine tastings, food pop-ups, wine clubs.
Getting there: Street Parking. BART: 19th Street or MacArthur Blvd. AC Transit.
If Ordinaire were not a premier East Bay natural wine venue but a record store, you would see greatest hits, the top forty and a huge experimental section. In other words, owner Bradford Taylor has it covered. The staff is enthusiastic and helpful. You can tell that the employees really want to be there and feel as if they are part of something special; which is true, but more of that in the wine bar section. Years before Ordinaire was even a thing, I lived a few blocks away on Grand and would have sold at least one of my nephews into slavery to have a place like it nearby.
The Natural Grocery Company Annex El Cerrito Store
10387 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito 94530
Hours: 9 am – 8:30 pm daily
Getting there: Street parking, store lot, BART to El Cerrito Plaza.
The wine department at The Natural Grocery Company is a little nook in the annex, off to the side. Most of the wines are made without synthetic sprays, commercial yeast or high sulfur. The selection is compact yet diverse and discerning.
1737 Broadway, Oakland 94612
Hours: Monday – Thursday, 12 – 10 pm, Friday & Saturday, 12 pm – 12 am
Features: Weekly tastings, wine club.
Getting there: Street and lot parking. BART: 19th Street Station.
In its old location, The Punchdown was the first East Bay natural wine store/bar. Then, it had one of the most exciting selections of any wine shop in California and in the new spot that is doubly true. There is a small, temperature controlled retail room where you can feel like a kid in a candy store. You’d be hard pressed to find wine retail anywhere west of the Mississippi with such a thoughtful and varied selection. If you need help, owners, D.C. Looney and Lisa Costa are there most of the time. If not, someone else can help out.
Also check out:
Paul Marcus Wines
5655 College Avenue, Oakland 94618
Paul Marcus has very much of a classic East Bay wine sensibility. A lot of the importers he works with are based in Berkeley or Oakland and, as it happens, a good minority of the selection falls into the natural camp. Located in Market Hall on College and next to Oliveto’s, it shares the high gastronomic standard that has come to be associated with Rockridge.
1580 Solano Avenue, Albany 94707
Solano Cellars has always been a quirky store with a few bottles that will grab your attention. Not only will you find organic and biodynamic wines blended in, but they also have some older vintages hanging around.