JC Cellars was the label formerly used by Jeff Cohn, of Jeff Cohn Cellars. Jeff Cohn Cellars is in downtown Oakland, at Jack London Square. The improbable urban location of this small, family-run enterprise is as surprising as the story behind Jeff Cohn Cellars. Jeff Cohn was in the hospitality industry until his 30s, when he became interested in winemaking. A few internships and a master’s degree in agricultural chemistry later, he got a job at Rosenblum Cellars. He began his own label in 1996, making Zinfandel, and in 2014 moved his operation to downtown Oakland. Cohn works with his wife, Alexandra, and assistant winemaker John Bruening. He sources grapes from throughout California and specializes in Rhone style wines and Zinfandel. Wine writers have been complimentary, with Wine Advocate often rating the wines in the mid to high 90s. Robert M. Parker has noted that Cohn is “one of my favorite producers year in and year out who still seems to fly under many people’s radar…. He has the Midas touch, it is clearly obvious. Anyone serious about wine should have some of his vinous elixirs in their cellar.”
Alexander Valley is an American Viticultural Area just north of Healdsburg, in Sonoma County. It was granted AVA status in 1984, with amendments made in subsequent years. The Russian River flows through the valley, and the region was named for Cyrus Alexander, a 19th century landowner and grape grower. The AVA includes 15,000 vineyard acres, much of it rich, alluvial soil layered on a bed of gravel, somewhat similar to many vineyards in Bordeaux. Alexander Valley is sheltered from marine weather by the low hills northeast of Healdsburg, though it is often shrouded in the morning fog coming off the Russian River. Some of the earliest commercial winemaking in the area started in the 1880s, when immigrants formed the Italian Swiss Colony cooperative at Asti. The region made jug wines until the 1960s and 1970s, when a new wave of quality-minded producers started estates. Today Alexander Valley is home to some of California’s most admired wineries, including Simi, Stonestreet and the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. Silver Oak Cellars, though based in Napa Valley, has a second winery in Alexander Valley where it makes Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Many grapes do well in the Alexander Valley, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel.
Zinfandel is a black-skinned grape, but 85% of the wine produced is made into a rosy “White Zinfandel.” Red Zin is far more complex and bold, while still being light-bodied. It grows in popularity as winemakers continue to experiment with new styles and blends.