Wine for the Here & Now: Berkeley’s Broc Cellars
Industrial Berkeley is the last place you’d expect to find a winery, but Broc Cellars has made this factory-filled region its home for the past eight years. Broc Cellars occupies what was once an ink plant, from which owner and winemaker Chris Brockway produces about 10,000 cases annually of organic red and white varietals and blends that are widely distributed throughout the Bay Area and the United States. Known for his creativity and restraint in making approachable wines in a natural way, Brockway has amassed a loyal following of fans who appreciate the immediacy and food friendliness of his wines.
A long time East Bay resident, Brockway, a philosophy major at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, began making wine in the early 2000s for other wineries. In 2005 he struck out on his own with a desire to create simple, drink-now, food-friendly wine that partnered well with the exceptional produce and ingredients available throughout the Bay Area. Restaurateurs took immediate notice and acknowleded the versatility of Broc Cellars varietals, as evidenced by the vast number of East Bay restaurants that feature the brand within their wine lists.
Brockway uses spontaneous fermentation, with only the native yeasts and bacteria that exist on the grapes. He works with partner vineyards in Oregon and California to ensure that 100% of his grapes are grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or fertilizers. Nothing is added, no nutrients, yeast, bacteria, enzymes, tannins, or other popular fermentation agents. Each wine is slightly lower in alcohol than those made with traditional methods.
Broc is typically known for its single varietal offerings, but the Love Series blends in particular are a great introduction to Brockway’s streamlined style that allows the grapes to shine. Love Red is a chuggable blend of heritage, dry-farmed, organic California grapes - a mix of carignan, valdiguie, and syrah. The unfiltered and unfined Love White looks like spun honey and tastes like liquid sunshine. This organic blend is a mix of marsanne, grenache blanc, rousanne, and picpoul all from Love Ranch in Madera, 35 miles south of Yosemite. Love Rose is a rich, watermelon flavored wine made mostly from valdiguie (one of Brockway’s favorite grapes) with a touch of zinfandel and trousseau.
In addition to the delicious wines, Broc Cellars labels are reason enough to purchase and display these bottles. Works of art each, the whimsical labels are designed by Brockway’s friend, Berkeley artist Marta Elise Johansen, who works hand-in-hand with Brockway in creating the Broc aesthetic.
Broc Cellars will soon reopen its 5th St. Berkeley outdoor tasting patio, utilizing a new reservation system. The Broc Door is open Thurs-Sun for pick up orders and in-person shopping.
Photos courtesy of Broc Cellars