Hello everyone! Because I am now a working stiff again, I have felt the need to stay local in my efforts to find you great mini-adventures on a budget. For this article , I took a short but noteworthy trip to Mare Island’s “Wet Mile” here in the North Bay. For those of you who don’t know, Mare Island is an up-and-coming little region of the town of Vallejo that encompasses a century-plus year old Naval shipyard (in fact I saw a Navy vessel at dock right across the river from one of the taprooms I visited). The peninsula that is Mare Island is almost a step back in time as many of the structures from the old Navy days still stand. Much of the industry in that area is gone but now Mare Island is now home to four different new libations businesses: Mare Island Brewing Co., Vino Godfather Winery, a new craft distillery named Savage & Cooke (I will look into them once they open) and Napa Smith’s taproom close by in Vallejo proper. You can easily get to Mare Island from San Francisco by taking the Vallejo ferry and then Ubering around the area.
The lone wine ranger here on Mare Island is Vino Godfather Winery’s tasting room. Vino Godfather is a beautiful early 1900s style house right behind one of the shipyards and is a sight to see both inside and out. Upon walking up the steps I was greeted by two plush seating areas with patrons enjoying the shade. Inside was a very tasteful 50’s themed tasting parlor with an interesting wooden bar (unlike many of the concrete bars I see further north). Two absolute gentlemen Frank (the owner) and Thomas (the tasting room manager) took time to chat with me about their interesting wines.
Vino Godfather sources its whites from the up-and-coming Suisun Valley and their reds from their own vineyards in Clarksburg (to the south-west of Sacramento). All were fun to taste but the Chardonnay/Viognier was particularly interesting as well as a couple of great Tempranillos (the 2014 Prohibition Tempranillo won double gold at the SF Wine Chronicle). They also showed me a 2015 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon that smelled like raspberry candy and wine made from a unique Italian blending grape called Teraldego (a flavorful and nearly effervescent red). When you visit keep your eyes peeled for that one, it was very compelling.
Along with this great space, Vino Godfather hosts live music on Saturdays (be sure to check the website before you go for times and closures). Vino Godfather is closed Mondays and Tuesdays so be sure to hit it up over the weekend. I will gladly be back and at $15 to taste eight wines, I was sold. Get ‘em while they’re hot. Seriously.
Find them online at https://vinogodfather.com
Mare Island Brewing Co.
Mare Island Brewing Co. actually has two facilities in Vallejo. One in the Vallejo Ferry building and their brewery on Mare Island itself which is open for private tours by appointment. I visited the taproom in the ferry building and was impressed by the view of the Napa River and their concrete and wood outdoor seating. The indoor seating was casual but clean and visually appealing. The outdoor seating I could tell was a big draw as there was a view of the Napa River and the old warehouses/shipyards. I did their beer tasting and was impressed with their 6 different beers at 5oz per each beer (equal to 30 oz, a regular pint is 16 oz). The service was great and the server had great little stories to go with each beer. The slightly fruity and sour Farmhouse Ale stood out as well as the Shipwrights Porter and the delicious Benny Sugs Red Ale (made by beermaking students at their Mare Island brewery) was also a great shake up.
All in all this is a great first stop if you come over on the ferry from San Francisco. Be sure to look up this brewery on your short tour of the “Wet Mile”!
Find them online at: http://www.mareislandbrewingco.com
Napa Smith Brewery
Napa Smith and I go back a little ways since they had their taproom in Napa for many years and I was an occasional customer-usually bringing friends from out of town. Because I always had good experiences, I decided to give their new taproom a shot since it was super close to Mare Island.
There were more than a few people at Napa Smith on the Thursday afternoon I was visiting. The taproom was much more open and spacious than their previous Napa location and it suited them well. And with windows to their distribution center, it made the space seem larger than it was.
Napa Smith had a very wide range of beers on draft and you can order a larger sampler. I chose several to taste but the ones that stood out were the light and refreshing Pilsner, their notable Golden Gate IPA and a nearly-chocolatey Amber Ale. I think it’s awesome that Napa Smith has smaller glass sizes for their samplers (around 1 oz) so that you can really get wrap your brain around the quality of all the beers without overdoing it on the alcohol.
This taproom is great for big groups with lots of seating and bar games like shuffleboard, darts, giant Jenga and even a couple pinball machines. They are also pet friendly so feel free to bring Fido. I highly recommend this as a side jaunt going to or from Mare Island or the Napa Valley!
Find out more at: http://www.napasmithbrewery.com
Beer and wine are making their way into Mare Island and there are whispers there might be even more development coming to the area in the realm of adult beverages. So be sure to keep an ear out for more from this little area. Even now it makes for a great day trip!