Situated on the water’s edge in Richmond on the Bay, Riggers Loft Wine Co. is a wine and music destination in Richmond with views you cannot beat! And dreams that paint the city with optimism in hues of orange and magenta. What was once an empty shipyard building is now transformed into a venue for jazz and learning about wine and cider, as Richmond becomes part of the urban wine movement in the East Bay. In days gone by, Richmond was home to Wine Haven, the largest winery in the world. The winery existed during the bulk wine-making era with huge warehouses on the shore of San Francisco, which closed down due to the 1906 earthquake damage and eventually prohibition.
Sitting down with today’s wine makers and main players in the transformation, we unveiled their history and vision for 1325 Canal Blvd. in Richmond’s Portrero Point.
“What you see here is mostly the product of R&B Cellars’ owners Kevin and Barbara Brown’s vision of what can happen here,” asserts Margaret Dollbaum, resident owner of Carica Wines with her husband and winemaker Charlie. “They deserve credit for how beautiful this place is.“
The two couples had been making their own wine originally in the facilities of Rock Wall Wine Co. on Alameda Point. “We had worked in the same facility in Alameda,” continues
Margaret, “making our wines and both of us at that time belonged to the East Bay Vintners Alliance and Alameda Vintners Club.” Rock Wall expanded their operations and the Browns eventually found this space in the Port of Richmond. They had looked at the old Del Monte building in Alameda, which would have been a fun twist – from tomatoes to grapes – but that building did not work out. Eventually Richmond’s Port Director showed them a space with possibilities, now called home – Riggers Loft Wine Co.
The Riggers Loft building had originally been a support mechanism for the naval shipyards’
companies during World War II. They did prefab inside this building, fitting out the top part of the vessels – including the rigging, which was picked up by the whirley cranes. These workers could get their ships out in 28 days. Today there is a museum dedicated to Rosie the Riveter, an icon representing the American women who worked in the shipyards during World War II. A 10-story high Whirley Crane monument exists in Kaiser Shipyard #3 to tell their impressive tale of women working in the Riggers Loft building. “Interesting thing,” continues Margaret, “Women were working on the cranes in this space back then and in our two wineries now, women are involved in wine making in this same space.” No whirley cranes now, just women driving forklifts!
There had been talk about razing the building, but then, “The mayor decided to bring it back,” said Kevin. “The City restored it, recognizing its potential.”
According to Barbara, “They were waiting for the right business to come along and we were it. The fit was good and it still accommodates moving forklifts around – it really was and still is a functional space.”
Riggers Loft was looking for a tenant at the same time when Andy Chinciolo, co-owner of Far West Cider Co., was searching for space to produce cider from his fourth generation family farm in San Joaquin County. He had looked in San Francisco and Oakland for a long time, but the rent was prohibitive, not to mention the additional costs of improvements that needed to be made. His regulatory compliance consultant was also helping out Riggers Loft at the time and the owners showed him the space in the Port of Richmond and talked about their model.
As soon as Adam saw the space and the view, he was in. “The Tasting Room was really fantastic for us,” said Adam, “as cider is a unique beverage and a lot of people have preconceived impressions of what cider is. I get to teach them what cider really is and can be. I connect it to the earth and it then has a real sense of space.” He sells Far West cider much like wine in the tasting room and has his own flights of cider, with also one of his ciders included in the Tasting Room’s suggested wine flights each week.
Though the space at 1325 Canal has had a rebirth, this East Bay urban wine movement, Riggers Loft Wine Co., is continuing the Old World wine making philosophy where you can walk in and taste wine among the winemakers, their families and barrels. You are not glassed off from the production process, as is so common today on the various wine country tours. Kevin compares it to an artist colony. “People can come here and perfect their art, their craft. There’s lots of diversity here. And a lot of fun. We have several wineries and a cidery. It has become a destination.”
“Much like breweries,” continues Adam, “I am always experimenting to craft different ciders and always have three or four ‘on tap’. One other great thing Riggers Loft brings to the table is that we get to share equipment and advice – which is extremely helpful.”
When Kevin and Barbara first looked at the space, the SS Red Oak Victory (which had been built here) was tied up on the water in front of the building, blocking the view of the water and San Francisco – it filled up the window space. The Port moved the ship out to another berth, as they knew they would need to if a tenant came along, and the view opened up into something more beautiful than anyone had imagined. This view is the beginning of immersion into the magical beauty of 31 miles of shoreline that surround the City of Richmond.
Richmond is now honoring its roots of being driven by music, innovation and community. As part of this movement, Riggers Loft Wine Co. sees access from the water being easy. Ferries and water taxi services are coming to Richmond and everyone has high hopes for guest berths being built in the Port to access Canal Blvd.
Outdoor patio plans include a 3,000 sq ft space with a base of stamped concrete, wind breaks, picnic tables, umbrellas and a dog watering fountain – did I mention they are dog-friendly? Perhaps fire pits. lots of half wine barrels filled with herbs and flowers and of course, wine and food. They envision also a new entrance to the winery. Being passionate jazz musicians themselves, the Browns are pursuing more music groups, open mic nights and jam sessions.
Current Hours, Music & Happenings:
Fri.: Nov. 18 – 5:30-8:30pm – Tauber & Browning’s melodic jazz
- Fridays 5:30-8:30pm – Music (usually mellow Jazz) with Street Eats Food Truck
- Saturdays 2:30-5:30pm –Music (a little more vibey) with Street Eats Food Truck
- Thursdays 6:45pm – Juice Up Your Brain with Quiz Night!!! Teams form at 6:45pm. The pursuit of pulling trivial facts out of your brain begins at 7:00pm. Their wines definitely help make it a fun evening. “We are also looking forward to Open Mic night on Thursdays. And maybe jam sessions with the house band,” says Kevin.
- Oyster Sundays once a month from 1-3pm; $10 = 2 oysters & a glass of wine; hosted by Riggers, starring Michel Rehayem, a local oyster aficionado (need a reservation for this)
Riggers Loft Wine Company Tasting Room Hours:
- Thursdays & Fridays: 4-9pm
- Saturdays: 12-9pm
- Sundays: 12-6pm
Riggers Loft Wine Co.| 1325 Canal Blvd., Richmond, CA 94804.
By car from the East Bay or from Marin, take Highway I-580 towards Point Richmond, and take Exit 8 at Canal Blvd/Garrard Blvd. Head west on Canal Blvd (towards the Bay), following marker signs to Shipyard #3 and the SS Red Oak Victory, a restored WWII ship. The 2.5 mile drive on Canal Blvd takes you under the “Point Potrero” sign, alongside some dry docks at the water’s edge, and finally up to the historic red “Whirley Crane”. Parking is abundant alongside the building. The adjacent Bay Trail beckons you to ride your bike or walk along the Bay. (Directions courtesy of caricawines.com)
About The Winemakers:
R&B Cellars: Barbara & Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown is a 30+ year veteran of the wine industry, and has handled all aspects of the business including, winemaking, sales, marketing, distribution strategies and brand-building/promotion. In keeping with the R&B Cellars philosophy, Kevin believes that drinking wine should be fun, and like music, is a creative pursuit. He is the winemaker for R&B Cellars, and is a frequent educator and lecturer on winemaking and brand strategies in the industry. His passion and respect for winemaking as an art are but one of the many drivers that feed his consistent success in the industry.
Carica Wines: Margaret & Charlie Dollbaum
Charlie Dollbaum started Carica Wines in 2005, building on a decade of private winemaking and a career in scientific research in biotech and medicine. His passion is making small lots of premium wine in a style that is true to the grape, with finesse and restraint. Choosing to concentrate on Rhône varietals grown in Northern California, Dollbaum has produced critically acclaimed Syrahs that are noted for balance and intensity.
Dollbaum’s academic training includes a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis, a Ph.D. in microbiology from U.C. Berkeley, and an M.D. from UCLA.
Far West Cider Co.: Adam Cinchiolo
Far West Cider. Co – Californian Ciders from a 4th generation family farm. After harvest and pressing on Chinchiolo Family Farms in San Joaquin County, every batch of Far West Cider is fermented, aged, and packaged in our working cidery within the Riggers Loft building in the historic Port of Richmond. Adam Cinchiolo is the cider maker and his father and brother run the family farm off River Road between Escalon and Ripon. Cider tastings and flights, growlers are available now and bottle sales coming soon. Tours available.
Irish Monkey Wine: Bob Lynch
Most everyone asks, “Why Irish Monkey?” Wine maker Bob Lynch began monkeying around with the fruit of the vine in 1996, having successfully made dozens of competition-winning beers with friends. And so it was. Irish Monkey specializes in both the “Princes” of reds – classic Cabernet Sauvignon, barrel-aged Merlot, rich/dark Syrah and pasta-friendly Sangiovese and the “Upstarts” – those zesty Zinfandels, assertive Primitivo, deep Tannat and spirited Sauvignon Blanc. Grapes plus yeasts, manual labor plus long barrel ageing.