Raise a toast to San Fran­cisco’s mil­i­tary past

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FEATURES - By Michelle Locke

SAN FRAN­CISCO » Look­ing for a taste of this city’s rich mil­i­tary his­tory? You’ll find it, along with some rather good wine, at one of sev­eral winer­ies set up in for­mer mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions. The Armed Forces may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you pic­ture San Fran­cisco, but be­fore it was a tech cap­i­tal, be­fore it was a hip­pie heaven, this was a mil­i­tary town sur­rounded by sev­eral bases set in the re­gion.

Down­siz­ing and con­sol­i­da­tion led to a wave of base clo­sures in the 1990s, which, after some tidy­ing up, cre­ated a num­ber of in­ter­est­ing spa­ces that have been turned into parks, sound stages, of­fices and other com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions, and, in what may be the tasti­est de­vel­op­ment, set­tings for ur­ban tast­ing rooms.

Here are a few places that have made the tran­si­tion from bat­tle-ready to bot­tle-ready.


Housed in an old Navy brig, this win­ery is one of sev­eral set on Trea­sure Is­land, an ar­ti­fi­cial is­land in the San Fran­cisco Bay built for the 1939 Golden Gate International Ex­po­si­tion World’s Fair. Taken over by the Navy in 1941, the is­land hosted strate­gic com­mand and com­mu­ni­ca­tions cen­ter head­quar­ters and re­mained a mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tion un­til 1997. It was sold to the city of San Fran­cisco in 2007 and is now home to about 2,000 peo­ple.

Fat Grape, which makes only red wines and does not add sul­fites, a preser­va­tive, of­fers free tast­ings and is open Thurs­day-Satur­day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (It’s a small op­er­a­tion, so you may want to call ahead to check that it’s open be­fore you go: 415-613-8925.) Also on the is­land: Trea­sure Is­land Wines, a col­lec­tive, and The Win­ery SF. Go here for more de­tails on is­land winer­ies, http://sftrea­sureis­land.org/Is­land-winer­ies .

You can get to Trea­sure Is­land by car via the Bay Bridge, or take the MUNI 25-Trea­sure Is­land bus from San Fran­cisco.


This is one of the new­est ur­ban winer­ies and is set in the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front Na­tional Park in Rich­mond on the east side of the bay. The build­ing was an ac­tual boat-riggers loft in the for­mer Kaiser Ship­yard where real Rosies put to­gether Lib­erty ships and Vic­tory ships dur­ing World War II. In fact, the SS Red Oak Vic­tory, last sur­viv­ing World War II-era ves­sel of those built at the Kaiser Ship­yard, is moored nearby. Riggers Loft has a col­lec­tive tast­ing room that is home to R&B Cel­lars, Car­ica Wines, Ir­ish Mon­key Cel­lars and Far West Cider Com­pany.

Set on the wa­ter­front, this is a great place to visit around sun­set. Hours are 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thurs­day and Fri­day, noon-9 p.m. Satur­day and noon-6 p.m. Sunday. Food avail­able and live mu­sic most Fri­days and Satur­days.


About 25 miles north­east of San Fran­cisco, in Vallejo, is the for­mer Mare Is­land Naval Ship­yard, which has a mil­i­tary his­tory go­ing back to 1852. Dur­ing World War II it be­came a sub­ma­rine port and later built and re­paired nu­clear subs. It was closed in 1996. You can get there by car or, more sceni­cally, by ferry from the San Fran­cisco Ferry Build­ing. The Vino God­fa­ther Tast­ing Room, housed in a for­mer of­fi­cer’s man­sion on the base opened about a year ago. The tast­ing room is open noon-6 p.m. on Tues­day, Wed­nes­day and week­ends and noon-8 p.m. on Thurs­days and Fri­days. Live mu­sic Satur­day af­ter­noons.


Peo­ple toast and taste wine on the ve­ran­dah at the Vino God­fa­ther win­ery on Mare Is­land in Vallejo. The win­ery is lo­cated in a man­sion on of­fi­cer’s row. Mare Is­land was the site of the first Naval Yard on the Pa­cific Coast. Long be­fore San Fran­cisco was a tech cap­i­tal or hip­pie haven, it was a mil­i­tary town, and some of the re­gion’s winer­ies are lo­cated in the foot­prints of what were once mil­i­tary bases.

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