By Linda Bausch | Derek Everhart Photography
Bay Area locals, if you’re looking for a unique, winery and tasting excursion, close to home, look no further than the end of the pier on Canal Street, in the Port of Richmond, home to Riggers Loft Wine Company and R&B Cellars. A wine bar and tasting room that is both industrial and chic, cozy and expansive, in other words, it is the wine bar and tasting room you have always searched for but never found. Now you have! The location boasts a rich history, and is part of the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park.
Three years ago local, winemaking musicians, Kevin, and Barbara Brown, a dynamic husband and wife team, were in search of a new location for the R&B Cellars winery and tasting room, a venue to showcase their Gold-medal winning wines. When Kevin and Barbara saw the worn, bayside space for the first time, to say they ‘had a vision’, would have been an understatement. As they looked out the windows to the West, all they could see was a huge, grey hulk of a WWII era ship, the USS Red Oak Victory. This is the last existing Victory cargo ship built at this very location, known at the time as the Kaiser Shipyard. The Browns knew a stunning view of the bay, and the iconic San Francisco skyline was on the other side of the historic, not-so-attractive ship.
Their ‘vision’ came into play here they asked if the ship could be moved, and their wish was granted. The spectacular view, opened up by the vacancy of the ship, which didn’t have to move very far, made the decision easy. There was no looking back. Kevin and Barbara, took a hands-on approach, and lovingly reconstructed the site to suit their winemaking needs. They restored each item to its original condition, as required, due to the historical status of the building. The fruits of their labor harmonized, and they fulfilled their dream, right in your backyard!
Riggers Loft Wine Company is an urban winemaking collective––nurtured by visionary people––who enjoy what they do, and want to share their experience. R&B Cellars have made wine at this location since 2014. This was not their first vintage. In 1997, the inaugural vintage of their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon won the Vinales D’Argent in 2000. This big win set the wheels of R&B Cellars’ success in motion. The limited production totaled only 230 cases. The Brown’s list of accolades earned since that first vintage is an impressive confirmation of the quality wine consistently produced by R&B Cellars.
Other varietals on the R&B’s wine list include: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a Bordeaux style blend, among others. The elegant, hand-crafted wines are served in the casual, and comfortable warehouse. While you sip your wine, or cider, the winemakers are busy at work, as the next vintages ferment in gleaming stainless steel tanks, or age in French oak barrels, stacked neatly in the same room.
R&B Cellars’ annual case production is approximately 20,000, with the collective included, the number climbs to 30,000 cases per year. All production happens on-site, with a portable bottling line being brought in when needed. Everyone works together, and the process is not only efficient, but cost effective, helping to keep overhead down.
Wines created by Kevin, and Barbara Brown, reflect the depth of their 30 years experience in the wine business. The wines are made from grapes sourced from some of the finest grape growers in Napa Valley, Sonoma, and Mendocino. French oak is predominantly used for their barrel aging. Each varietal and blend are hand-crafted. Barrel aging allows the fruit’s full potential to shine.The well-balanced profile assures the wines will pair well with your favorite foods. R&B Cellars is widely distributed throughout the United States, and are exported extensively in China and Africa.
They share the eclectic winemaking venue, and pour their critically acclaimed wines and cider at the tasting bars include––Carica Wines, Irish Monkey Cellars, Barrel + Ink, and Far West Cider Company––each with a unique approach to craft their wines, and cider. Charlie Dollbaum, owner and winemaker, of Carica Wines, brings a scientific approach to his winemaking, using his research, and microbiology experience in his winemaking. He creates the highest quality wine possible with sustainable, organically farmed fruit, never compromising on balance. The entire list of talented winemakers participating in this unique endeavour an be found on the Riggers Loft Wine Company website.
The tasting room staff are well versed, and knowledgeable in the of wines they pour, comfortably engaging each guest, as they navigate the tasting menus. The options are abundant, and there is no question, there will be something rich, and flavorful, such as a full-bodied Merlot, or a crisp, and light, Sauvignon Blanc, or buttery Chardonnay, something delicious to suit everyone’s taste, at a price that is affordable. Be sure to ask about the Wine Clubs, you don’t want to miss the special deals offered to members.
Aside from being the ‘winemaker’s, Kevin and Barbara’s love of music is at the forefront of everything they do. Music is more than their inspiration, for them, it is a way of life. Kevin is a jazz pianist, and Barbara, a jazz singer. Both are professional musicians. It is not unusual to find them playing, and singing with a local trio on Open Mic night. Their approach to playing music and making wine are one in the same. Wine and music are meant to be enjoyed together. The jazzy names of their wines include references related to music, minuet, serenade, swingsville, improvisor, etc. In addition to the musical themed names, every memorable wine label was painted by Mimi Stuart, an accomplished Bay Area artist. Her renditions of brilliant, crisp, colors adorned with shimmering music notes, boldly draw attention to the crescendo of flavor inside each bottle.
In case you were wondering about food, yes, they hit that note, too. Paul’s Street Eats is on-site, preparing wonderful bites during tasting room hours. The air is scented with delicious aromas of fresh made sliders, tacos, and sweet corn fritters, beckoning the guests to pair their wine with tasty treats from the food truck, stationed right outside the door. The diverse menu changes frequently. Be sure to try the fresh, hot beignets.
Riggers Loft Wine Company is available for private parties, indoors, and out. Celebrate your loved one’s birthdays, anniversaries, graduation, wedding, or everyone’s favorite, the office holiday party. Guest counts vary, depending on specifics. Fleet Week and the 4th of July fireworks display (check for actual date of celebration) afford even more opportunities to show the locals what a special place they have in Riggers Loft Wine Company.
Join the band on Open Mic Nights, with a professional trio backing the musicians throughout the evening. Instrumentalists and vocalists are welcome, the 2nd Wednesday of the month, 7 pm to 10 pm. Trivia Nights are hosted the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. Be sure to check their website as details may be subject to change. Paint night and Oyster Sundays are on the agenda too. There’s an informative calendar of events on the website.
Did I mention family friendly? No worries, bring everyone! That’s the best part. You know the old saying, “The family that plays together, stays together.” Well, there’s plenty of ‘play’ at Riggers Loft Wine Company. Two widescreen TV’s show sports games. This venue is plenty large enough to accommodate everyone’s desires. Multiple tasting bars assure room for everyone to have a seat. Comfortable, overstuffed, living room couches and chairs are spread out for multiple groups to enjoy their space. During the day music plays throughout the room, keeping the spirit lively. Ping pong tables hold the attention of father and son, each trying their best to out play the other. A zydeco band sets up near the front, preparing for what promises to be a fun evening for guests. Every Friday and Saturday evening at Riggers Loft Wine Company bands play live music, there’s plenty of room for dancing. Add delicious food, and fine wine, who could ask for anything more? During the daytime, how about a visit to the USS Red Oak Victory? Enjoy a no-cost excursion, on your own, or with a guide, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm. The ship is just a quick stroll across the parking lot. Take your turn at the helm for a history lesson in the making. The collective spirit of this group does not go unnoticed. From the first contact with the genuine, hospitable tasting-bar staff, to the winemakers introducing themselves to the guests, one-by-one, everyone is made to feel welcome.