It's surprising but true: Treasure Island, with its dazzling light and crystal-blue San Francisco Bay views, is home to 14 wineries (with a 15th in the works). The wine scene started less than a decade ago, and, once word spread that the island remains a wine-friendly 55 to 65 degrees year-round, making it perfect for producing and aging wines, vintners from around Northern California began setting up cellars.
The wines are as diverse as the winemakers who craft them -- from Patrick Bowen, who specializes in sulfite-free wines at Fat Grape Winery, to Pat Hoffman of Hoffman Family Cellars, zinmaster for the Headbanger wines and board president of the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance.
The majority of the wineries are open weekends only and can be found in two warehouses (Treasure Island Wines and Bodega Wine Estates) that are walking distance apart, with Sol Rouge, Vie, and The Winery SF located in a cluster at the island's entrance. Here's a sampling of the wineries we felt had the most interesting wines and stories on our visit -- plus a few suggestions for lunch. Hop around and taste for yourself.
Vie: Winemaker Bryan Kane's mid-tier wines (he also owns The Winery and Sol Rouge), housed in a tasting barn with an outdoor bocce ball court, are very impressive, from the bracing 2009 Lake County Roussane to the 2008 L'Imaginaire Santa Barbara Grenache, a dead ringer for Chateauneuf-du-pape. Vie's focus is on Rhone and zinfandel-based wines made from coveted sources, like the Beatty Ranch Vineyard on Napa's Howell Mountain. (400 California Ave., Building 448; www.viewinery.com)
Sol Rouge: Next door, the wines are ultra-premium and sourced from Kane's estate vineyard in Lake County. Wine educator and tasting room manager Tony Collins plays tunes from The Smiths and Morrissey while having you taste through revelatory wines, like the 2009 Syrah, made from a combination of four clones, to the double-gold medal winning 2008 Petite Sirah. Ask for a bonus pour of 2007's The Keep, a syrah-based Rhone blend of Kane's best lots. (400 California Ave.
Lunch: Wine tasting requires sustenance. For a simple hamburger and fries, head to Treasure Island Bar & Grill (60 Clipper Cove Way) or, on the last weekend of every month, brave the crowds when the flea market draws dozens of food trucks, like Cluck It Up and Frozen Kuhsterd, to the island. Otherwise, bring a picnic, grab a bench outside Vie and Sol Rouge or anywhere on the island, and enjoy those killer sailboat views.
Morningwood: Former Russian River Valley grape grower Robert Amox started his winery, housed inside his collective, Bodega Wine Estates, to share the joy of drinking aged wines with consumers. Amox's current releases are vintages older than the industry's standard, including his reserve 2006 Russian River Valley chardonnay and the 2005 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, which were both showing beautifully on our visit. Interesting concept. (751 13th St.)
Leaf & Vine: UC Davis-trained Timothy Keith showcases his single vineyard-designate wines inside Bodega Wine Estates along with Stein Family Wines and Mosswood Distillers. Serious white-wine drinkers should make the trip for Keith's stunning, Bordeaux-style 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. His micro-production of Lodi and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon also will wow you. (751 13th St.; http://leafandvine.com)
Bravium: Derek Rohlffs specializes in cool-climate chardonnay and pinot noir from California. Located inside Treasure Island Wines, a collective including Eristavi, Heartfelt and the flagship Treasure Island Wines, Rohlffs' wines are elegant, unfined and unfiltered; ask for the creamy 2011 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, which has an oceanic minerality, or the newly released, juicy 2011 Rosé of Pinot Noir from Dry Creek Valley. The collective has benches outside so you can fuel up with leftover picnic snacks before hitting the road. (995 Ninth St.; http://bravium.com)
-- Jessica Yadegaran