Only someone deep into or near the aristocracy of wine can stage a movement akin to Gorbachev’s Perestroika. Enter winemaker and some-time sommelier Brendan Eliason of Periscope Cellars. After a twenty-plus year journey (struggle?) of winemaking and a prior career pouring and choosing wines at various wineries and restaurants, Brendan is a qualified know-everything, no-nonsense, regular guy. He’s also taking on the establishment and tearing down a few sacred walls.
His Oakland winery has a tasting room in the very-happening Swan’s Market, home of Miss Ollie’s, Cosecha and Rosamunde Sausage. Across the street is District and other new restaurants are popping up nearby.
As Brendan notes, it’s taken him a long time to be in the right place at the right time…
He has journeyed from a Dry Creek tasting room where he secretly rolled eyes at the knowledge and tastes of tourists and glass swirlers (ready to launch their Cabernet into the heavens with their rapid hand circling). But then he had what Oprah would call a moment of clarity and what I will call a moment of fckit.
Why not drink your favorite wine with your favorite food rather than pair wisely because someone who knows a lot told you to do that?
And why not drink a sort of sweet, sort of sparkly pink frizzante with a taco?
Lastly, why the hell not serve that pink sparkly on tap like lemonade or Sprite?
And with Periscope Brendan answers, why the hell not.
I wholeheartedly agree with much of Brendan and Periscope’s philosophy. America has lost its way. In Europe small winemakers made (and still make) lovely wines with the grapes they grew or had access to and then shared the bounty with family, friends, and sometimes sold and served it out of a barrel, on tap.
They didn’t futz with labels or tastings or all the trappings of the snobbery associated with high-end winemaking and drinking.
So if you want to have an Oakland-modern taste of that experience, be treated with respect and offered an eclectic range of wines (gratis BTW, Periscope doesn’t charge for tastings) head over to Periscope Cellars tasting room. Wines are reasonably priced and served on tap. Though he does, on occasion, carry a bottled wine, the rest are on tap from 5-15 gallon kegs. Restaurants that serve Periscope do the same.
Wine on tap keeps prices lower, the wine fresher and waste minimized -- from boxes to bottles to corks, which according to Brendan can have a 10% failure rate.
Periscope also offers refillable bottles of wine if you want some to go.
Now for the actual wine…
My personal favorite was the Carignan. This is often a blending grape, but Periscope’s stands up on its own. Big flavor, delicious and highly drinkable, with the spicy favors of Cosecha where you can drink Periscope wine in their shared open space.
The grapes are from a small family vineyard that’s been growing Carignan for almost 100 years. By luck Brendan’s dorm mate in college is a descendant and hooked him up. If you believe in synchronicity (and didn’t I mention Oprah earlier?) then you’ll believe in this wine and that it needed to be made.
All Periscope’s wines are from small, family-owned and sustainable growers who live on the land. Not many wineries can make that claim.
Grapes matter, for sure. So does blending and Brendan is called a master blender by his peers.
Bonus tracks from the mind of Brendan Eliason: The East Bay is the largest urban winemaking center of the world. Pete Johnson is the name of Brendan’s dorm mate with the Carignan vineyard. We drink a lot of wine in the East Bay… Alameda County has more empty wine bottles than any other place in the country.
P.S. You will enjoy meeting and chatting with Brendan unless you don’t like humor or sarcasm, in which case you might want to just stay home. Forever.