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Wineries rise on vintage military sites

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People taste wine on the veranda at the Vino Godfather winery on Mare Island in Vallejo, Calif. The winery is in a former naval officer’s mansion. Mare Island was the site of the first naval yard on the West Coast.

SAN FRANCISCO >> 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 might 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, soundstages, offices and other commercial applications, and, in what might be the tastiest development, settings for urban tasting rooms.

Here are some 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 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 2,000 people.

Fat Grape, which makes only red wines and does not add sulfites, a preservative, offers free tastings and is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (It’s a small operation, so you might want to call ahead: 415-613-8925.) Also on the island: Treasure Island Wines, a collective, and The Winery SF. Go here for more details on island wineries: sftreasureisland.org/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 Co.

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, on the waterfront. 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, the 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 Co.

Hours are 4 to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, noon-9 p.m. Saturdays and noon-6 p.m. Sundays. Food is available, and there is 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. 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 Tuesdays, Wednesdays and weekends, and noon-8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. There is live music Saturday afternoons.

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