A TRUE URBAN WINERY IN BERKELEY
Broc Cellars, founded in 2006 by owner and winemaker Chris Brockway, is an urban winery located in Berkeley, California. What is an urban winery (you may ask)? Well in this case, it is a place where California grown grapes, from literally all over the state - are transported to, and turned into wine.
Broc is part of two wine camps that you’ve certainly heard of lately. Firstly, they’re a part of the “New California” movement of making wines that aren’t overly tempered with. The winemaker chooses a less interventionist style to let the beauty of the grape and the California terroir speak for itself. They are not overly oaked, overly alcoholic, or overly handled. Leading us to the second camp you’ve probably also heard of, “Natural Wine”. Dan Souder, Sommelier and owner of Pleasantry, describes this best. “Natural wine is wine by definition; a beverage made from fermented grape juice. Nothing added, nothing taken away.”
ETHOS AT THE CORE
Broc works with farmers all over California - and they partner with grape growers that share a similar philosophy on the fruit and wine in general. They shy away from farming that isn’t organic or biodynamic, and they carry that philosophy to the crushpad in Berkeley as well. No commercial yeasts are welcome into their garage, and little to no sulphur is implemented in the wine-making process.
Some people view natural wine as a walk on the funky side - and that is certainly true for some of the Broc bottlings (like their Lagrein Rose with tastes like squash & rosemary). Since they have wines in their portfolio from a wide range of AVA’s in the state (American Viticultural Area) - the bottlings and varietals they work with are vast.
THE STYLES OF JUICE
My all-time favorite Broc bottle was around a couple years back called “CouCou”, French slang for “hello”. The vintage was 2016 and CouCou was a carbonic style Cabernet Franc, sourced from Santa Barbara. It was heaven. With a slight chill the wine was absolutely crushable and tasted like swedish fish with a hint of pine forest (description courtesy of Jason Hamel, Boca). They returned the next year with a bottling called KouKou done in the same style, that was just as fun. It’s a quintessential Thanksgiving wine - working just as a cranberry sauce cutting through fatty stuffing and gravy. Broc’s Cab Franc bottling from Happy Canyon are the same grapes, but made in a non-carbonic style.
They also make wines a bit more textbook and on the straight(er) and narrow(er). Their Chardonnay from Michael Mara vineyard in Sonoma Coast is reminiscent of a stellar Chablis - and their Shell Creek Chenin Blanc tastes like it’s straight from the Loire Valley. It is linear, with a zesty minerality, and tons of lemon. Like the name implies, there are actual seashells in the soil, making it absolutely perfect with shellfish - and as we know, any month ending in “r” is the right time to eat raw oysters.
They also make wines for the everyday. The “Love” collection includes a white, rose and red and is available pretty much year round (the rest of the bottlings come and go - and most of the Cincinnati wine nerds grab them up for their wine programs).
The Love White is a Rhone style blend of Marsanne, Rousanne & friends, coming from the Madera Foothills near Yosemite National Park. The Love Rose is classic & yummy (and now comes in a can, too), made primarily from Valdiguie (aka California Gamay). Love Red is my fav of the three. It is mostly Carignan, Valdiguie & Syrah and is scrumptious. Coming in at 12.5%, the wine is balanced, shows great fruit with a distinctive notes of pepper and spice. In my opinion, it’s one of the best values in natural wine today - and reminiscent of their (KILLER) single varietal Carignan bottling.
The thing I like most about Broc, and about natural wine in general - is that you’re getting something different. Every bottle is an adventure, and when other wine can sometimes start to meld together and taste the same - these wines wake up my taste buds and make me yearn for more.
THE WINES OF BROC CELLARS
SPARKLING CHENIN BLANC PETILLANT : 100% Chenin Blanc from Shell Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles - 600 cases made
ROSÉ LAGREIN : 100% Lagrein from Lone Pine Vineyard in El Dorado - 100 cases made
CHENIN BLANC : 100% Chenin Blanc from Shell Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles - 200 cases made
PICPOUL : 100% Picpoul from Luna Matta Vineyard in Paso Robles - very little made
CABERNET FRANC : 100% Cabernet Franc from Crown Point Vineyards in Happy Canyon, Santa Barbara - 400 cases made
CARBONIC CARIGNAN : 100% Carignan from Oat Valley Vineyard in Alexander Valley - 395 cases made
COUNOISE : 100% Carignan from Oat Valley Vineyard in Alexander Valley - 400 cases made
VALDIGUIÉ : 100% Valdiguié from Wirth Ranch Solano County in Green Valley Sonoma - 1000 cases made
ZINFANDEL : 100% Zinfandel from Sonoma Valley and Russian River - 968 cases made
KOUKOU : 100% Cabernet Franc from Crown Point Vineyards in Happy Canyon - Santa Barbara - 840 cases made