The Wine Mine is a Fine Find
In the past, I've left wine stores with the same slightly nauseated feeling that I'd get after leaving an auto mechanic—the feeling of spending too much money on something I don't know a lot about.
Fortunately I discovered The Wine Mine not too long ago. This wine store, located in Oakland's Temescal district, is a sweet find for people like me who love wine but don't know enough about it to feel comfortable spending much more that $20 on a bottle. Started a year and a half ago by Oakland resident David Sharp, a self-proclaimed "reformed MBA type," the shop specializes in offering bargain deals on wines ranging from $5 to $205. And from its warehouse location to the funny, irreverent placecard descriptions accompanying many of the wines, the atmosphere is intentionally mellow and non-intimidating for the oenophilia-challenged.
That wine-for-the-masses spirit is probably best embodied by The Wine Mine's popular weekly $1 wine tastings on Saturdays from 2–5pm. As a newcomer to the scene, I was impressed by the downright festive (teetering on rowdy) atmosphere of the store on the Saturday afternoon I wandered in. I was also impressed by how much my dollar got: generous sips of five different wines with free snacks, like cheese and crackers, thrown into the mix. As Sharp says: "It's a buck: if you find a great wine you're happy, and if you don't find a great wine, you're still happy."
It's really a great deal, and likely a reason that the store has already started building a solid reputation among wine-loving East Bay locals. Another nice aspect of the store is it's family-operated, community feel. Sharp is almost always manning the shop, and on any given Saturday you might find his wife and son pitching in by bringing out more cheese, bussing away empty wine glasses, or ringing up purchases at the front.
The Wine Mine is worth a visit, and it's easily accessible (if a little hard to find at first), located just off the Telegraph Ave. exit of Highway 24, at 5427 Telegraph in a cool industrial brick building—if you're looking for a place to sober up after a tasting, Mariposa Baking next door in the same building has good coffee and (gluten-free) baked goods. Also, check out The Wine Mine's website, which is packed with useful information and has frequent blog updates from the owner.
There's a ton of great deals to be had but Sharp says his best-selling, and perhaps best bargain, is an '05 Charamba Douro Tinto, Quinta de Aveleda, a tasty Portuguese red for just $6.5427 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, (510) 547-9463, winemineco.com