Peninsula Wine Scene Gains Urban Traction

June 23, 2016
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By Laura Ness

You might not expect to find booze flowing in the industrial zone of a busy Peninsula city like San Carlos or Belmont, just two blocks off the freeway. But this is 2016, it’s Silicon Valley and anything is not only possible, it is entirely plausible. 

Welcome to San Carlos-Belmont Wine Row, a concentration of six winetasting rooms that are augmented by two breweries (Alpha Acid and Devil’s Canyon) and a distillery (Old World Spirits). On Friday evenings, it’s Sipping Central.

Meet Scott Sisemore of Waxwing Wines, whose boutique winery is hidden in an industrial park in Belmont. He started, like many of his fellow winemakers in this area, at Domenico, the original winery in the region. 

Sisemore is a 22-year veteran of the California wine industry with a master's degree in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis, and an impressive worldwide winemaking resume, including stints in India, Chile and Australia. When his scientist wife went to work at Genentech, he quit a corporate winemaking job, became a stay at home Dad, and started making his own wine. 

Waxwing focuses on cool climate Pinot Noir, Syrah, Riesling and dry rosé. His Lester Family Pinot Noirs have scored 94 points for two years in a row, making them an instant sellout. His cool-climate Sonoma Coast Syrahs are sinewy vanguards of white pepper and plum, making them cellar candidates. The 2015 Rosé of Counoise is as delicately floral as a cherry blossom, yet its kiss of Alpine strawberries laced with racy red currant comes across saucy and assertive. He champions Riesling as well, to brilliant result and holds regular Friday evening tasting hours. 

Domenico: Weddings, Italian Varieties & A Café On the Way

This full-fledged winery incubator started it all. New Jersey natives, Dominick Chirichello and his wife, Gloria, brought their co-op winemaking concept here nearly two decades ago, providing the equipment, space and grapes for amateurs to pursue their winemaking dreams.

Specializing in Italian varieties, they produce a selection of wines for their thriving wedding and event business, which they’re in the process of expanding from 250 to 500 guests. An outdoor café is in the works, perhaps by year’s end. They’re planning to have a pizza oven and offer lunch and dinner items. If proprietor, Dominick, gets his way, the town may as well rename Industrial Blvd “Wine Way.”

Flying Suitcase Takes Off

Vikki and Anders Vinther brought their mutual love of wine to California from Denmark. Trips to Napa and Sonoma cemented their fondness for Sauv Blanc and Chardonnay, and a visit to Flora Springs led them to the vineyard in St. Helena where they source their Chard, a well-tanned butterscotch babe. 

Anders, a biopharm quality engineer, spends 60% of his time on the road: hence the winery name, which also draws inspiration from a favorite Hans Christian Andersen story. All the wine names are inspired by travel, and Vikki took the time to find pithy quotes for each back label. “It’s so much work, and I don’t think most people appreciate it,” she shared, indicating she’s curtailing the process going forward. Current vintages will become collectors items, but the quotes will be immortalized on the walls, joining travel memorabilia like old airline signs. 

The 2013 Amador Syrah (from Dominick’s vineyard) won a silver medal at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and is as creamy as a blackberry custard milkshake.

Another local entrepreneur, Paul Rogerville of Cuvée Cellars, hosts half a dozen wineries at his facility about a quarter of a mile from Domenico. He’s been busy filling his cellar with blends, and is renowned for his command of Bordeaux varieties, including Cabernet from Napa, Carneros and El Dorado. Try the 2012 Saralee’s Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Russian River or the 2013 Syrah from Flocchini vineyard on the Sonoma Coast, a Gold medal winner. He’s working on some fine blends, too.

The label on Russian Ridge wines depicts the view owners Scott Townsend, his wife, Joan, and their son, Spencer, enjoy from their home off Skyline. Just a few steps from Domenico and next door to Flying Suitcase, their friendly tasting bar is flowing Friday – Sunday with good cheer, along with well-priced Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah and a Bordeaux blend called “Concerto,” inspired by a friend of Scott’s. It really is a concert in a glass. Lovers of Petite Sirah will resonate with the blueberry pie flavors of the 2012, which won Double Gold at the 2015 SF Chronicle Competition. Scott and Joan are retired nurses who got their start at Cuvée Cellars. Now the whole family is “living the winemaking dream.”

Another Cuvée alum, Old County Cellars, is the joint effort of four Apple cohorts, Dan Peterson, Jeff Struthers, Toni Trujillo Vian and Jim Walters. Their goal is to produce single vineyard gems, including Carneros Pinot and Merlot, along with Barbera from Amador and El Dorado. Their 2014 Napa Semillon does this delicate, textural white proud. They also offer Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Albarino. 


Cuvée Cellars 
1001 Washington Street
San Carlos, CA 94070
Hours: First and third Saturdays, from 1:00 — 4:30 and by appointment.

Domenico Winery
1697 Industrial Rd
San Carlos, CA 94070
(650) 593-2335
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 12 – 5pm

Flying Suitcase
915 Washington Street, San Carlos
Planned hours: Friday, 5 — 9pm: Sat & Sun 1 — 5pm

Old County Cellars  
1001 Washington Street
San Carlos, CA 94070
Hours: Saturdays – see Facebook

Russian Ridge
919 Washington St, San Carlos 94070
(650) 851-9690
Hours: Friday, 5 – 9pm; Sat & Sun, noon — 5

Waxwing Cellars
111 Industrial Rd, unit 8, Belmont
Hours: Friday, 6 — 9pm during summer months


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