Oakley staff and Mayor Kevin Romick will host a workshop to introduce the city’s plans for its Agricultural Conservation and Viticulture Program (ACVP) on Tuesday, Oct. 30 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Oakley’s City Council Chambers, 3231 Main St. The event is intended to present the proposed draft ACVP and seek input for residents and business owners. The city will host a series of workshops to get input, and the City Council is expected to adopt a formal plan by next summer.
One of the city’s priorities is to promote its local wine culture. Oakley has a patchwork of vineyards that supply grapes to wineries such as Cline, Bogel, E.&J. Gallo and Rosenblum Cellars. While most residents are aware of the vineyards as they drive around town, few know that a winery is located in Oakley that harvests, processes and bottles its own wines.
John Dobleman’s home is nestled in a vineyard surrounded by 1,500 vines. But unlike most grape growers in Oakley, Dobleman harvests his grapes and produces wines on his property. A retired high school teacher, Dobleman is the assistant winemaker for Wedl Wine Cellars, owned by his friend Don Wedl of Pleasant Hill. Wedl has been making homemade wine for decades, so when Dobleman moved to a 2½-acre property in Oakley, the idea of growing grapes seemed like a beneficial gamble.
“Originally, my wife and I were going to have a horse on the property, but the zoning didn’t allow for livestock, so I had to figure out what to do with all this sandy soil,” Dobleman said. “Don and I talked to some other grape growers in the area, who suggested zinfandel grapes would be worth a try because they flourish in this kind of soil, so we went for it. We had no clue what we were getting into, but we were going to give our best shot.”
Dobleman and Wedl have been partners for more than 20 years. Originally they made wines from grapes purchased from Mill Creek Winery in Healdsburg. They planted their Oakley vineyard in 2001 and reaped their first harvest in 2003. By 2004, Wedl Wine Cellars was producing award-winning wines. Wedl Wine Cellars picked up gold in 2004 and ’05 at the Orange County Fair. In 2007 and ’08, the winemakers earned silver and bronze at a show hosted by Wine Maker Magazine. The zinfandels have also taken honors at the Pittsburg Seafood Festival and most recently the Contra Costa County Fair.
The popularity of the wines grew as the winemakers showcased their wines at charity events, but since it was privately produced in a residential area, Dobleman and Wedl couldn’t legally sell their wine. But after their friends pleaded with them to procure the proper permits, the winemakers decided to become certified in 2009. Wedl released its first harvest for sale in 2010, and the 2011 zinfandel is in the process of being bottled.
Wedl produced 324 cases of wine in 2010, which is available at Co. Co. County Wine Company in Brentwood and online, and is expected to increase production for the 2011 vintage. But Dobleman considers the winemaking process, which he runs out of his garage and backyard, still a hobby, though he looks forward to hearing about the city’s plans to promote Oakley vineyards and agricultural history.
“There is a wonderful history here in Oakley that very few people know about and appreciate,” Dobleman said. “I hope the local grape growers can partner with the city to help get Oakley on the map. Our grapes produce some savory wines. It’s about time people know about it.”
To learn more about Wedl Wine Cellars or purchase wines, visit www.wedlwinecellars.com. For more information about Oakley’s proposed Agricultural Conservation and Viticulture Program, e-mail Oakley Senior Planner Ken Strelo at email@example.com.