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Taft Street Winery Reinvented

I can remember drinking Taft Street wines in the early 1980s when I was developing a passion for wine. The Tierney brothers from Berkeley, John and Mike, joined Mike Martini to form Taft Street in 1979. John and Mike Tierney cooked in nearby restaurants part time while undergraduates at Cal, and started making wine. John graduated from Cal and moved to Sonoma County to work at Souverain Winery. He returned to Berkeley to be the winemaker at Wine and the People where he met Mike Martini. The Tierney’s house on Taft Street in Oakland was built in 1918, and its garage was so small that a car could no longer fit comfortably inside. The brothers decided to turn it into a winery, a true garagiste winery. A few years later they moved to a winery in Sonoma, releasing their first wine in 1982. Robert Parker, Jr., rated their wines highly and the label became quite well known. By 1990, they were producing 20,000 cases of good wine. Unfortunately, Taft Street wondered off the original intended course and was bought by a Manhattan, New York importer. The label soon faded into obscurity.

Mike Tierney and Mike Martini have resurfaced and reinvented Taft Street eight years ago. Their tagline is “Garagistes since 1979.” The winemaker since 2007 has been Evelyn White (formerly at Clos Du Bois) and the wines have been solid since that time. The principals are holding to a policy of reasonable prices, quality grape sourcing and moderate production. The grapes are brought in from the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley. Several varietals are produced including Chardonnay ($17 to a $30), Sauvignon Blanc ($16), Pinot Gris ($16), Riesling ($16), Gewürztraminer ($16), Merlot ($15), Syrah ($22), Zinfandel ($24) and Rosé of Pinot Noir ($16) and Pinot Noir ($20 to $36).

2006 Taft Street Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., pH at harvest 3.64, 4,981 cases, $16. Sourced from several vineyards in the Sonoma Coast appellation with a good portion from Art Ibleto’s Bella Sonoma Vineyard. Fermented in open-top stainless steel tanks with three daily punch downs. Pressed to 45% French oak and 55% American oak and aged for 14 months. · Aromas of black cherries, burly oak, green garden, forest floor and a little barnyard. Dark cherry and berry flavors with a hint of oak. Decent richness, supple tannins and bright acidity. Good value.

2006 Taft Street Garagistes Mendocino Ridge Vineyard Mendocino County Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH at 3.27, 326 cases, $36. Sourced from Joe Keith’s vineyard in the Mendocino Ridge AVA.Fermented in open-top stainless steel tanks with three daily punch downs. Pressed to 30% new French oak for 14 months aging. · Lovely, demure aromas of cherries and berries. Bright, intense raspberry fruit on the attack with an underpinning of earth and oak. Soft and sensual like a cashmere sweater. Harmonious with ephemeral tannins and admirable persistence on the finish. A generous, enjoyable wine.

Taft Street wines can be enjoyed at the winery’s tasting room located at 2030 Barlow Lane in Sebastopol. Open Monday through Friday from 11:00 to 4:00 and on weekends to 4:30. The wines are sold online at

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