It’s no easy feat operating an organic urban winery

It’s no easy feat operating an organic urban winery

Best Local Wine Club

When you think of organic, you may think of beautiful open fields, gently blowing the breeze towards the vines. Birds and bees fly lazily around as grapes start to appear.

You would be forgiven for leaving cars honking and traffic lights blaring out of this vision. Somehow, they don’t seem compatible with an organic winery.

John and Katie of Cellars 33 turned all of this on its head.

Interestingly, John originally wasn’t into wine at all – it was beer that he was after. However, it wasn’t long before Katie helped him come to his senses. With a few trips to California under their belt and a pivotal moment in Italy, they sprung the idea of an urban winery.

With a harvest internship in 2007, John set about bringing their plans to fruition. This began with two more full-time internships and ended with John, Katie, and Max the dog taking the plunge and moving all the way out to San Francisco.

They quickly got their winery licensed and started selling their wine to a mailing list that was already loyal – and substantial. Nowadays, they’re producing over 1,000 bottles every year.

John and Katie care so much about how their wine is made that they don’t ever take shortcuts. While they may be in the middle of urban city, they don’t let this get in the way of their environmentally-friendly strategies.

Cellars 33 produces some of the finest Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay that you can get from an urban winery in San Francisco. However, some say that tasting it is only half the experience: you’ve got to meet the maker.

Vinely recently took a trip to visit Cellars 33 and came out more impressed than when we went in.

The wines that John chose to pour for the group were picked at random. John likes to mix up the tasting experience so that if you’re visiting for a second time, you’re not going to be getting the same wine. He also appreciates being able to check on different wines and how they’re aging in the bottle – information that’s invaluable.

In fact, John relishes the chance to host Meet the Maker and offer vertical tastings. This way, he can take a serious look at all of his wines, re-examining them at different stages of their development. This strategy is what led to Vinely being offered a mini-vertical tasting of the Cellars 33 Pinot Noirs.

One Pinot Noir is of particular importance to John. It’s the ’14 Brooks’ Cuvee, and it was named after the birth of Katie and Johns’ son, Brooks, who was born in 2014. Only one barrel has been made of this varietal and John proudly brings it out at the winery.

Now, for the coupe de foudre. Cellars 33 wouldn’t be an urban winery if they didn’t do something unexpected. What better way to celebrate the new 2018 ‘hipster’ Chardonnay than to serve it in an ostentatious concrete egg, imported all the way from France?

It’s something that needs to be seen to be believed. It’s a unique tasting experience, to say the least – most people haven’t ever been to a wine tasting where it’s served straight from a concrete egg. The chardonnay in the egg itself has only recently fermented to dryness, which means that it’s only been wine for roughly three weeks. What you taste here is hot off the press – it couldn’t be fresher if you tried.

Now, it takes a refined wine taster to appreciate wine in such a premature form. Both the shape of the egg itself and the age of the wine makes for a cloudy sample that is still slightly effervescent. In fact, John himself hasn’t even decided where he will take his Chardonnay egg wine. What he does know, though, that this creative freedom is why making wine is an art.

If you’re planning on making a weekend of it and chardonnay in a concrete egg isn’t enough culture for you, there’s always the Minnesota Street Project to whet your appetite for more art appreciation. Afterward, you can satisfy those lunch cravings at Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

What better way to start the new year than to experience a wine tasting like no other? Connect with John through Vinely and discover an urban winery with a difference that’s making waves in the world of wine. The best part? If you’re a Vinely member, the tastings are always complementary!

Rachel Sikkema

Rachel Sikkema is Vinely’s storyteller. She loves writing about all things wine and telling the story of local wineries and winemakers. When she's not testing out exciting new labels to write about, she's busy running around after her two young daughters.


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