February 10, 2014
I’ve lived in the Grand Lake district of Oakland for four years now, and we’ve never had a proper wine shop. Popular restaurants like Camino dot Grand Avenue, along with nail salons, bike shops, a wonderful book store, Oaktown Spice Shop — but if I ever wanted a bottle of wine, I would have to drive to Market Hall in Rockridge or, god forbid, Whole Foods. The Punchdown sadly closed last year, but no fear: Ordinaire is here!
The opening of Ordinaire was incredibly long and full of upsets. For some reason, the city of Oakland really does not make it easy for snazzier wine, beer, or liquor shops to open its doors. Although there is a sizeable number of liquor stores per capita in Oakland, they are really just run-down, sleazy corner liquor stores cum bodegas. It’s sad. But thanks to Ordinaire owner Bradford Taylor’s perseverance, we now have a wonderful wine bottle shop and bar, right in the middle of a fun, bustling area in Oakland.
I usually pop into Ordinaire on the weekends, when I’m strolling around the neighborhood. It’s so nice to be able to walk to a proper wine shop! Its shelves host a carefully curated selection of wines from Europe and the U.S. I love seeing all the wines lined up that I’d never heard of before! The price points are reasonable, and Bradford is usually there to help choose the exact wine you are craving (buttery but not oaky please!).
I wondered if Ordinaire only carries organic wines, and here’s Bradford’s response: “I carry “natural wines,” which means a lot of different things to different people. I have a fairly broad definition: wines made by people who farm responsibly and put as little shit as possible into their barrels and bottles. Very few wines in my shop have commercial yeasts (less that 10%), many only receive sulfur additions at bottling. I’m allergic to dogma of all sorts, so I keep an open mind, taste every wine that I sell, and ask a lot questions about where and how the wine is made. As my palate matures, I just buy wines that taste really good — and these tend to be wines that are natural, made from organic grapes and bottled without any additions.”
Again, I love that I can walk into a shop filled with wine varietals and wineries I’ve never heard of before, and Bradford can tell me about each bottle in a casual, unpretentious way. And the prices are budget friendly — I could walk in with a $20 bill and come out with a nice table wine for dinner, and feel great about it. You can always stay on top of their new wines by joining their wine club too.
Ordinaire is not just a bottle shop, but also a wine bar. Like neighborhood wine bars in Europe, it offers small plates of charcuterie, cheese, and daily specials.
And wines on tap!
Often, Ordinaire hosts wine tastings, which have become must-dos in the neighborhood during the weekends. On the particular day, I rode my bike from our Oakland Umami Mart shop to visit Cory for a Selection Massale tasting.
Cory in blue, Wolfgang in stripes.
Bradford, owner of Ordinaire. He’s also juggling to finish his PhD in English literature at Cal, crazy.
Don’t mind if I do!
The shop is actually quite big, and there’s an upstairs area for private events.
Cory and Bradford were kind enough to invite me up for a quick post-event supper of mussels, fine wines, and chit-chat.
Josh of Percy Selections prepared succulent, perfectly-steamed mussels with an accompanying aioli. It was lovely.
For the next few months, Bistro Ordinaire will pop-up on Thursdays and Fridays, with Chris Kronner of Kronnerburger on the burners. Expect classically prepared bistro dishes: large portions at low prices, low-key but friendly service, and ridiculously well-priced wines by the glass and bottles. Menus are posted on the Ordinaire website every Monday.
There’s never a dull moment at Ordinaire. They’ve got a fun, reservation-only dinner for Vday coming up and they will also be hosting a huge Central Coast tasting on Thursday 2/20. Thanks Bradford for creating a community for wine-lovers and wine-novices alike!
And make sure to ask Bradford about the meaning of the hanging red whale!
3354 Grand Ave
Oakland, CA 94610