In a quiet light-industrial neighborhood of Berkeley, CA, Chris Brockway is making expressive, highly-drinkable, natural wines from unsung vineyards. Broc Cellars defies most people's idea of what a winery looks like, how it operates and for those familiar with Californian wine, how the wines should taste. Earlier this spring we caught up with Chris at his low-watt winery and got friendly with some of his newest wines.
Utilizing outsider grape varieties like valdigué, picpoul, and counoise as well more common Cali fruit such as syrah and zinfandel, Chris creates subtle and streamlined wines. He says, "picking early but not making picked early wines." Wine that is lithe and acid driven without the awkward green and often flawed qualities some natural wines made here and abroad tend to exhibit. His graceful wines and natural approach to wine-making has won him many fans, particularly in the wine-industry. The high-demand for Broc in the competetive and trending scenes of CA, NYC and Japan, have made his wines difficult to acquire. Especially considering average production is a scant 6,000 cases.
Even then, Chris is trying to pare down his offerings because that tiny production is sometimes spread across 10-15 or more bottlings. But he has a hard time saying no when he stumbles upon forgotten vineyards that he feels have something to say. Using "what's drive-able in a day" as way to create a managable radius of grape sources, his passionate and experimental nature constantly pushes the limitations of time & space. Any given day may see him driving entirely across counties to check in on tiny and scattered vineyards then return long after sunset to manually bottle and label his bubbly cabernet franc to free up precious space in the winery.
An unlikely Nebraskan-connection is the reason Broc wines made their way to Nashville 6 years ago. We've been lucky to have the rare chance to witness the arc of a talented winemaker coming into his own. Developing his own language and style.
Assuming we know what something should be only detracts from our ability to experience it for what it is. Dulling the shimmer of surprise, curiosity and an open mind. These wines are not only delicious but remind us to question our assumptions.
Current Stock From Broc
Grenache Noir, Grenache Gris
Santa Lucia Highlands, California
Russian River Valley & Sonoma County, California
Los Alamos, Santa Barbara, California