Raise a toast to San Francisco's military past

By Michelle Locke

The Fat Grape winery is located in the old Navy brig on historic Treasure Island in San Francisco. Photo / AP
The Fat Grape winery is located in the old Navy brig on historic Treasure Island in San Francisco. Photo / AP

Looking for a taste of this city's rich military history? You'll find it, along with some rather good wine, at one of several wineries set up in former military installations.

The Armed Forces may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you picture San Francisco, but before it was a tech capital, before it was a hippie heaven, this was a military town surrounded by several bases set in the region.

Downsizing and consolidation led to a wave of base closures in the 1990s, which, after some tidying up, created a number of interesting spaces that have been turned into parks, sound stages, offices and other commercial applications, and, in what may be the tastiest development, settings for urban tasting rooms.

Here are a few places that have made the transition from battle-ready to bottle-ready.

FAT GRAPE

Housed in an old Navy brig, this winery is one of several set on Treasure Island, an artificial island in the San Francisco Bay built for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition World's Fair. Taken over by the Navy in 1941, the island hosted strategic command and communications center headquarters and remained a military installation until 1997. It was sold to the city of San Francisco in 2007 and is now home to about 2000 people.

Fat Grape, which makes only red wines and does not add sulfites, a preservative, offers free tastings and is open Thursday-Saturday from 11am to 6pm (It's a small operation, so you may want to call ahead to check that it's open before you go: 415-613-8925.) Also on the island: Treasure Island Wines, a collective, and The Winery SF. Go here for more details on island wineries .

You can get to Treasure Island by car via the Bay Bridge, or take the MUNI 25-Treasure Island bus from San Francisco.

RIGGERS LOFT WINERY COMPANY

This is one of the newest urban wineries and is set in the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Park in Richmond on the east side of the bay. The building was an actual boat-riggers loft in the former Kaiser Shipyard where real Rosies put together Liberty ships and Victory ships during World War II. In fact, the SS Red Oak Victory, last surviving World War II-era vessel of those built at the Kaiser Shipyard, is moored nearby. Riggers Loft has a collective tasting room that is home to R&B Cellars, Carica Wines, Irish Monkey Cellars and Far West Cider Company.

A food truck outside the Riggers Loft Wine Company. Photo / AP
A food truck outside the Riggers Loft Wine Company. Photo / AP

Set on the waterfront, this is a great place to visit around sunset. Hours are 4pm. to 9pm Thursday and Friday, noon-9pm Saturday and noon-6pm Sunday. Food available and live music most Fridays and Saturdays.

VINO GODFATHER

About 25 miles northeast of San Francisco, in Vallejo, is the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard, which has a military history going back to 1852. During World War II it became a submarine port and later built and repaired nuclear subs. It was closed in 1996. You can get there by car or, more scenically, by ferry from the San Francisco Ferry Building. The Vino Godfather Tasting Room, housed in a former officer's mansion on the base opened about a year ago. The tasting room is open noon-6 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and weekends and noon-8pm on Thursdays and Fridays. Live music Saturday afternoons.

- AP

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