#1 Take Water to
2900 Main Street (at Gateway Alameda)
Proprietor of Rosenblum Cellars
of the smartest deals going Ė for tourists and
Bay Area residents alike Ė is to take the Alameda/
Oakland ferry for an afternoon of wine tasting at Rosenblum Cellars.
Wine aficionados tout Rosenblum zinfandel as some of the
finest produced in California. Rosenblum also produces highly regarded
Merlot, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon, plus small amounts of Chardonnay,
Syrah,and other dessert wines. Whatís equally pleasing is the low price.
Rosenblumís Zinfandels, some of the most honored wines in the country, retail
prices vary from $9.50 to $40 depending on appellation, vineyard designation and
rarity of the wine. Incidentally, Kent Rosenblum, the proprietor of Rosenblum
Cellars, is a respected Alameda veterinarian.
And getting to Rosenblum Cellars is at least half the fun.
Alameda/Oakland commuters know well that they enjoy one of the most
astonishingly beautiful ferry rides in the world. As the boat departs from the
ferry building, making a lazy arc towards the Bay Bridge, a stunning view of the
San Francisco skyline unfolds. The sight is so impressive that crowds routinely
form on the fantail, watching quietly, as if in church. Passing beneath the
mighty Bay Bridge is an awesome experience; you can hear the hum of traffic and,
not infrequently, get a quiet sense of satisfaction at the sight of backed-up
traffic. Huge ocean-going container ships are a common sight, along with all
manner of working craft like tugboats and barges. Before long, the ferry slows
as it enters the misnamed Oakland Estuary. (Itís actually a man-made channel.
An estuary is a water passage where the tide meets a river current. In fact, all
of San Francisco Bay is an estuary).
The first stop for the Alameda/Oakland ferry stop is Gateway
Alameda. Alameda, once part of the East Bay mainland, became an island when the
Estuary was dug to create the Port of Oakland. In the early 1900ís, Alameda
was promoted as the "Isle of Style", and many successful San Francisco
businesspeople moved to the island, attracted by its long beaches and hundreds
of stately Victorian homes (some of the finest anywhere). Until recently, a
Naval Air Base occupied the western third of the island. Now decommissioned, the
base is rapidly being developed into a center for high-tech business. The
Gateway Alameda ferry terminal is located on land that had once been part of the
After the Gold Rush, and until the opening of the Bay Bridge,
the ferry routes that operated between Alameda and San Francisco were some of
the busiest on the Bay. A rail network called the Red Trains connected
seamlessly with ferries. In a shortsighted belief that cars were the be-all and
end-all, the Red Trains was torn up and the ferries retired to make way for the
Bay Bridge. Indeed, ferries were outlawed until 1989. It was only when the Loma
Prieta earthquake severely damaged the Bay Bridge that ferry service resumed.
After the Bridge was repaired, the City of Alameda took the lead in making
possible continuing service.
Leaving the ferry at Gateway Alameda, itís impossible to
miss Rosenblum Cellars. Itís just a few hundred steps from the terminal in a
large historic structure that once was the Todd Shipyard Building where Liberty
Ships were cranked out during World War II.
The truth is there isnít much to do at Gateway Alameda
besides go to Rosenblum Cellars. Redevelopment of the Air Base is in its early
stages, though plans eventually call for a large nature preserve that will
surely become a tourist destination. There are many interesting things to do in
Alameda, but public transportation to the Gateway Alameda ferry terminal is
But for now, the spectacular ferry ride Ė a bargain at just
$9 round trip, $3.50 for children Ė and the fine wines of Rosenblum Cellars
make this day trip an unbeatable bargain. The best weekday bet is to take the
4:10 boat (from Pier Ĺ at the Ferry Building) and return on the 5:40. The
Winery closes at 5:00, so youíll have a half hour to enjoy the San Francisco
skyline and working waterfront. On weekends you could leave San Francisco at
either 1:00 or 3:30, returning at 4:15 or 5:45 respectively.
The Winery is open for tasting and sales 7 days a week from 12 to 5 p.m.
except for major holidays.
#2 The Best Damn Bar
in San Francisco
The Conference Room
5 World Trade Center (The Ferry Building)
Leakakos, owner of the Conference Room Bar at the Ferry Building. Note
the tennis balls in the windows (mid- left).
All matter of
redevelopment is happening along the Embarcadero waterfront. Thereís no
stopping it, nor should there be; San Francisco has been reinventin itself from
Day One. But for those with a taste for the old-time working
waterfront you need go no further than The Conference Room any afternoon after
Tacked onto the front of the Ferry Building just at the main
portico, the Conference Room is hardly a trendy eatery catering to dot-comers
and ad executives Ė far from it. Tubes of green tennis balls completely block
all natural light from entering the barís casement windows. Fishing and
baseball caps cover one wall; 8 by 10ís of racetrack scenes take up another.
Thereís a small bar, or you can chose to sit in one of the mismatched used
It may be a dive barĖthe radio plays 40ís classics
non-stop and racy pictures are unapologetically posted on the wall. But itís
an authentic waterfront bar that has earned its place as a genuine San Francisco
The Conference Room is pretty much unchanged since it opened
28 years ago, thanks to owner/bartender Andy Leakakos. Stepping into his bar
takes you back, back to when the waterfront was the economic engine of
California, pulsing with cargo, travelers, and working stiffs like Andy Leakakos
who had to work their heart out to make it all go right.
Not surprisingly, many of his customers are ferry riders, and
have been since ferry service resumed in 1972 with the Sausalito run (for which
Andy ran the concession stand).
Major renovations are set to begin soon for the Ferry
building and what the future holds for Andy and the Conference Room is unclear.
With any luck, he and his lovely San Francisco institution will be with us for a
#3 A Sunday Afternoon Jaunt to
from Point Isabel Shoreline Regional Shoreline to Miller Knox Regional
1: Start out
going Southeast on ISABEL
miles (0.4 km)
2: Turn LEFT onto CENTRAL AVE.
miles (1.6 km)
3: Turn LEFT onto CARLSON BLVD.
miles (4.0 km)
4: Turn SLIGHT LEFT onto CUTTING
miles (4.1 km)
5: Turn RIGHT onto E
miles (0.2 km)
6: Turn LEFT onto WASHINGTON
miles (0.3 km)
7: Turn LEFT onto CREST
miles (0.6 km)
Turn LEFT onto MARINE VIEW AVE.
miles (0.1 km)
from Golden State Model Railroad to downtown Point Richmond.
1: Start out
going North on DORNAN DR towards
WESTERN DR by turning left.
2: DORNAN DR becomes
S GARRARD BLVD.
3: Turn LEFT onto
E RICHMOND AVE.
from Hotel Mac to Richmond Ferry Terminal
1: Start out
going Southwest on WASHINGTON AVE towards COTTAGE AVE by turning left.
Turn SLIGHT LEFT onto PARK PL.
Turn LEFT onto W RICHMOND AVE.
Turn LEFT onto W CUTTING BLVD.
Turn RIGHT onto HOFFMAN BLVD.
Turn RIGHT onto HARBOUR WAY S.
Turn LEFT onto HALL AVE.
Turn RIGHT onto MARINA WAY S.
service to Richmond is limited (just two runs; one in the morning and the second
in the afternoon). So be sure not to miss the 10:30 AM departure from Fishermanís
Wharf Pier 43 Ĺ. The fare is $10 for adults and $5 for children (round-trip).
For recorded information on the Richmond Ferry, please call 510-464-1030.
The ferry ride is spectacular Ė straight across the Bay
with peerless views of natural vistas and the working Richmond waterfront
Youíll need a bike for this jaunt unless youíre up for
some pretty long walks, because the Richmond Ferry Terminal doesnít have much
in the way of public transportation.
As the ferry approaches the dock you canít miss the
extraordinary building jutting into the Bay just to the south. It seems a mile
long, and with its beautiful brick construction and breathtaking views of San
Francisco to be just crying out to be converted in loft spaces. Which, in fact,
is about to happen. The building was designed by Albert Kahn and built in 1929
as a Ford Motor plant. Ground will be broken in January 2001 on a redevelopment
that will include 250 live-work units and 200,000 square feet of office space.
Plans for the site also include a World War II Home Front
Visitors and Education Center to be operated by the National Park Service.
The Center will anchor a 3-4 mile long waterfront trail of monuments
commemorating those who worked in wartime industries, including the planned
"Rosie the Riveter" monument honoring the special role played by women
Exiting the ferry terminal area, take a right at the corner
past the Harbormasters Office and there will be the start of Marina Bay
Waterfront trail, a recently opened addition to the Bay Trail (Bay Trail
Youíll go past Saluteís, a great Italian
restaurant on water heartily recommended by regular Richmond ferry riders (1900
Esplanade Dr., 510- 215-0803). Just a bit further along is Point Isabel where
youíll find a Rollerblade park popular with locals.
Next up is a 7 mile bike ride to the incomparable Miller
Knox Regional Shoreline (see turn-by-turn directions below).
This beautifully landscaped shoreline area includes a
secluded cover with swimming beach and a hilltop with excellent panoramic views
of the North Bay. The 295-acre park also incorporates Ferry Point, place
of embarkation for ferry riders headed to the North Bay until the Richardson/San
Rafael Bridge brought an end to ferry service in the 1950ís. Incidentally, the
park is named in honor of the late State Senator George Miller, Jr. and
for John T. Knox, a Point Richmond resident and former State Assemblyman.
The Golden State Model Railroad is a canít-miss. Itís
located in Miller/Knox Park, at 900 Dornon Drive (call 510-234-4884
or 510-758-6288 for information). Itís 10,000 square feet house one of
the largest collections of model railroads in the nation and is only open Sunday
afternoons from 1-5 from the beginning of May through the end of October.
Next head to downtown Point Richmond, just a half-mile
away and truly one of the most charming and least-appreciated places in the Bay
Area. This utterly charming historic district is chock-a-block full of fun shops
and interesting turn-of-the-century architecture.
Our informants Ė Point Richmond residents who commute on
the Richmond ferry Ėsay the best breakfast in town is to be had at the Hidden
City Cafť (109 Park Place, 510-232-9738). Your correspondent has personal
knowledge of the exquisite Gold Coast-era bar at the Hotel Mac (510
Washington Ave., 510-233-0576). Itís the unmistakable large brick building
that genially dominates the downtown square and is so perfectly a restored
period piece that you almost expect Bat Masterson to walk out the front door.
Donít have too good a time at the Hotel Mac, because thereís
only one ferry back to San Francisco and it leaves at 6:20, arriving at
Fishermanís Wharf, Pier 43 Ĺ at 7:05.
World War II Home Front
Education Center (Proposed)
2.- Ford Motor plant
3.-Bay Trail (Bay Trail info:
4.- Rollerblade park
5.- Miller Knox Regional Shoreline
6.- Golden State Model Railroad
City Cafe (109 Park Place, 510-232-9738)
8.- Hotel Mac (50 Washington Ave, 510-233-0576)