Alameda Business Buzz: New winery headed up the 'Alley

Alameda Business Buzz: New winery headed up the 'Alley

Janice Worthen
Building 43 Winery

Coming soon: Building 43 Winery. Photo from the Building 43 Winery Facebook page.

Harvest wine season may be drawing to a close, but as wineries seal barrels, wine lovers prepare to crack open a bottle with family and friends for the holidays. Alameda’s “Spirits Alley,” which runs along Monarch Street on Alameda Point, allows Bay Area residents to enjoy tastings and buy bottles for gifting without the drive to wine country.

With the addition of a new winery and Rock Wall Wine Company’s ability to now stay open later during the summer months, the area appears to be on the brink of a growth spurt. Building 43 Winery, named after the building it occupies, is set to open in November and will be the newest addition to the Spirits Alley family, which includes St. George Spirits, Hangar 1 Vodka, Faction Brewing and Rock Wall.

Building 43 Winery is owned by Meredith Coghlan and winemaker Tod Hickman. Coghlan operated Steeltown Winery in Pittsburg before starting this venture with Hickman, who operates his own vineyard, Hickman Family Vineyards, in the Sierra Foothills. Coghlan said the pair originally intended to open their joint winery in Pittsburg as well, but when that didn’t work out, they searched for a place that understood their vision of an urban winery.

“We were looking for an area whose city officials grasped the concept of urban wineries, and how by giving customers options in a centralized location, a ‘draw’ could be created,” Coghlan said. “By doing this, we create mass, and customers, business owners and the city all benefit.

“To be honest, we had no idea how amazing Alameda and the local residents were when we first chose to come here,” Coghlan added. “Everyone has been so welcoming and helpful. This city is truly a gem.”

Coghlan and Hickman decided to name their new winery after their location as a form of tribute to Alameda Point, its history, and the servicemen and women who were stationed there. Coghlan said their building was used by the Navy as an explosive ordnance device building, and the overhead crane the Navy used is still present and operational.

Both Hickman and Coghlan have ties to the armed forces. Hickman enlisted in the Navy in 1987 and worked as a nuclear power and propulsion plant operator and a diver. Coghlan was a surgical service specialist for the Air Force Reserves; her husband served aboard the USS Enterprise and was stationed at the Alameda Naval Air Station.

“For us it is all about the wine, but you can’t be in an area with so much history without somehow recognizing and respecting that history,” Coghlan said.

Their building was in better condition than other buildings at the Point, Coghlan said, and this reduced the amount of work they had to do to prepare the space for their winery. Building their inventory, however, has taken Coghlan and Hickman a few years.

“That is what I think some people either forget or just don’t realize. To open a winery there are quite a few years of putting out significant amounts of money and effort for something that gets you no return on that investment until you open your business,” Coghlan said.

Coghlan and Hickman will process the grapes they select from Northern California vineyards – most of them in the Sierra Foothills – on site, and may bring on additional staff as the need arises. Building 43 will offer nine wines to start, but Coghlan said additional varietals such as Petit Verdot and Mourvèdre will be introduced in the future.

Coghlan said she appreciates her other spirit-producing neighbors and hopes to see more food service business, boutiques, and even art galleries move into the area because having such businesses in one area will encourage customers to visit and stay.

In comparison to neighbors like Rock Wall Wine Company, Coghlan said their operation is “miniature.” Coghlan calls their business an “artisan” endeavor, and they want to keep it small with no more than 3,000 cases being produced annually.

In contrast, Rock Wall produces about 20,000 cases of wine annually and offers 63 different varieties. Rock Wall was started by Kent Rosenblum in 2008. His daughter, Shauna Rosenblum, serves as winemaker. She said her parents chose Alameda Point because her father had a veterinary practice on the Island.

“The former Naval Air base is such an extremely unique microcosm of the Bay Area, and we feel very fortunate to have found space out here,” Shauna Rosenblum said.

Rock Wall operates in Building 24, a former air hangar, and is named after San Francisco Bay’s World War II defensive wall, which can be seen from the winery. For special events, Rock Wall has a 3,000 square foot dome that overlooks the Bay. In addition, Scolari’s has a second location at the winery called Scolari’s at the Point that provides visitors with a dining option.

Though Rosenblum said the location offers “unparalleled views of gorgeous San Francisco,” the spot has not come without its challenges. The winery shares the area with a colony of least terns, the smallest of the American terns and a species that was placed on the endangered species list in the 1970s.

Because of its proximity to the least terns, Rock Wall has had to meet special building and operating restrictions from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Besides having to work with restrictions on sound and light, Rock Wall has not been able to operate its dome after sunset during the least tern breeding season, which spans from April 1 to August 31.

Shauna Rosenblum said not being able to stay open later was affecting Rock Wall financially, so the winery’s staff met with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel last August to discuss what measures it would have to take in order to operate later during the summer months. The winery’s agreement with the service included replacing existing light fixtures with ones that have a lower illumination, agreeing not to expand existing structures and removing some of the mobile structures the winery added to the property. The winery also agreed to remove the dome, tasting room, kitchen, deck and restrooms in 10 years. Kent Rosenblum wrote a letter to the service in June stating the winery had met all of these conditions.

When asked if Rock Wall would have to move in 10 years due to this agreement, Shauna Rosenblum said she hopes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be willing to continue negotiating, but that the winery’s structures are mobile and can be moved out of the “impact zone” if necessary.

“Fish and Wildlife have been great to work with,” Shauna Rosenblum said. “They have some strict requirements, as they should. Any time humans set out to protect an endangered species, it should be taken quite seriously.

“(The terns) chose this location,” she added, “so we need to be respectful of the birds and do whatever we can to help protect them.”

When asked what she would like to see on the Point, Rosenblum said that because of its size, the Point has a lot of potential. She would like to see more restaurants and alcohol producers, but she also likes the idea of converting part of the Point into a large park like Golden Gate Park or Central Park.

“This location has such a beautiful bay breeze and view, that it almost begs for outdoor recreation,” Rosenblum said.

Rock Wall Wine Company’s tasting room is open from noon to 8 p.m. weekdays and noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. You can follow Building 43 Winery’s Facebook page for updates on the winery’s opening date.

Around Town

The Sixth Annual Alameda Zombie Crawl will take place this Saturday, October 18. Participants 21 and over are encouraged to dress like zombies and crawl to participating bars, which include Lucky 13, Fire Den, Shamrock Pub, Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge and more. Proceeds go to the Alameda Education Foundation’s Adopt a Classroom program. For those who want a professional to do their makeup, appointments can be made for a makeup session at the Tigers Blood Social Club from noon to 4 p.m. the day of the event, and a pre-party will be held there from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Video tutorials for zombie makeup and details about the event can be found at

Park Street and Beyond: There are two fundraisers coming up for those affected by the September 28 Park Street area fires. The city will hold a pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. this Sunday, October 19 at the Alameda Elks Lodge Rathskeller, 2255 Santa Clara Avenue. The city suggests donations of $20 for adults, $15 for children, and $60 for families, and proceeds will go to American Red Cross Bay Area Disaster Services.

Melanie Hartman of American Oak is also coordinating a fundraising event called “Sunday Fund Day” to help Angela’s Restaurant recover and to bring the community together to show support for all of those who were affected by the fires. On October 26, participating restaurants will offer a special item on their menu and donate all proceeds from that item to the fundraising effort. Some restaurants will also be putting out donation jars on October 26 as part of the event.

So far, participating restaurants include American Oak, Speisekammer, Pappo, TASTE at McGee’s Bar & Grill, Gold Coast Grill, East End Pizza Co., C’era Una Volta, Linguini’s, Monkey King Pub & Grub, Tucker’s Ice Cream, Café Q, Sidestreet Pho, The Beanery and Julie’s Coffee and Tea Garden. Hartman invited restaurants beyond Park Street to participate.

Hartman experienced what a fire can do emotionally and financially back in December 2012 when American Oak was set on fire. She said a feeling of defeat follows such a tragedy, but that the support she received from local businesses who reached out to her and did fundraisers for her lifted her spirits. She wants this event to be more than just a fundraising effort, she said; she wants it to show those affected by the fires that their community supports and cares for them.

Restaurants that would like to participate can contact Hartman at or 521-5862. Those interested in making donations on October 26 can check American Oak’s Facebook page for updates.

Joe Dalipe of Island Print Express has also started a Facebook page called Alameda Peeps Unite to encourage and keep the community informed about fundraising efforts.

Sway has closed its Alameda, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz locations. Their Oakland and San Francisco locations will remain open.

The Dollar Tree at Park Street Landing is now open. The Landing is at 2317 Blanding Avenue, and the store will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa will be opening a new location in the Bridgeside Shopping Center at 2661-C Blanding Avenue.

After 71 years, Thomsen’s Garden Center and its Vines Café and Gallery have closed. Owners Iris and John Watson closed the business in order to retire. Read more at

West Alameda: Michaels will be celebrating the grand opening of its Alameda Landing store with a ribbon cutting at 9:45 a.m. November 2. The new store opens at 10 a.m. that day, and customers can win prizes all day, including more than $1,000 in gift cards. Customers can also take photos at the Michaels photo booth and share the photos on social media with #GetCraftyAlameda.

Michaels will offer free craft demos from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. for the rest of their grand opening week and will be giving away a gift basket every evening for the rest of that week. This location will also be offering $2 Kids Club crafting sessions on Saturdays. The Kids Club and craft demos will continue all year.

The store will have more than 60 employees and offer wider aisles and several expanded departments. 2650 South Fifth Street.

Halloween on Webster Street will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. October 31 for kindergarten through 8th grade students. Children are encouraged to dress up in their costumes and enjoy trick-or-treating at participating Webster Street businesses, which will be marked by posters and balloons. A costume parade and contest will take place at 3:30 p.m. at the corner of Webster Street and Pacific Avenue, and prizes will be awarded.

Jan Schlesinger of the West Alameda Business Association said that Webster Street businesses are working with local artists to showcase their work. Hair Tech and Wescafe have led the effort by inviting artists to show work at their businesses. Schlesinger said that she looks forward to seeing more art in the area and possibly pop up galleries and an art and wine show in the future.

Alameda South Shore Center: South Shore will celebrate its Halloween Festival on October 25-26. Activities include the Alameda Recreation & Parks Department Teen Haunted House, face painting, flash tattoos, a bounce house, trick-or-treating, and hitting balls at the Neptune Beach Pearl Batting Cages in costume. Visit for times on each event.

Charmingcharlie is now open. 2226 South Shore Center; 263-0485. Open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Studio Grow Alameda will hold a Welcome Celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Magician Perry Yan will be performing a magic show at 11 a.m. as part of the celebration, and there will be special deals on discount cards.

Studio Grow is a play center designed for children ages 6 and under that offers open play as well as group programs in music, dance, yoga, art, story, and parachute. Studio Grow also offers parents a location to hold birthday parties.

Owner Tim Alley said South Shore invited him to open an Alameda location at the shopping center after one of its real estate agents celebrated his daughter’s birthday at the Studio Grow in Danville; he already has two other locations in the Bay Area. His Berkeley location, which opened in 2006, is his original Studio Grow.

“Many families from Alameda come to Studio Grow in Berkeley, so we knew the community needed drop-in play and programs for kids ages 6 and under,” Alley said. “We are very happy to offer Alameda families developmentally appropriate activities whenever it fits into their schedule.”

For those who haven’t visited Studio Grow before, Alley suggested paying for a day pass and then applying that pass to the discount card of choice. Check for prices and details. 2202N South Shore Center; 701-6042. Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

The Little Ice Rink will be open for skating from November 8 to January 19. Children 9 and up and adults can skate for $15, and children under 9 can skate for $10. Discounts are given to those who bring their own skates. 629-1423. Skating sessions are held from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and noon to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday.


Kimberlee MacVicar's picture
Submitted by Kimberlee MacVicar on Fri, Oct 17, 2014

Wow, Alamedan, thanks for this fantastic list. I was wondering about Sway, if there would be an ice rink again and so on. Thanks for the nod to Iris Watson. Hard to see the empty place while driving on Lincoln. Thanks for plugging the fundraiser!

Seeing this dawned on me, I gotta get you info for the November 2nd Holiday Fest at Temple Israel and the HBI Community Center.

Thanks again for this section,