What could glow like the warm winter flame in a fireplace or remind one of a sunset over a sandy beach during a long-needed vacation?

That’s what I pondered when I looked at the three balloon wine glasses in front of me filled with orange wine.

Orange wines have started to pop up around wine bars and restaurants around the country in the last couple of years, but they’ve been made in certain parts of the world – mostly in eastern Europe, it seems – for many, many years.

The color (commonly referred to in the wine world as orange but I definitely feel they’re more amber) comes when the grape skin is left in contact with the wine during the wine-making process. Sometimes they’re left in for a few days and other times it could be as long as a year.

2009 Pheasant's Tears (Rkatsiteli), fermented in qvevri, from Kakheti, Republic of Georgia

I tried a flight of orange wines at the new Punchdown wine bar in the Uptown neighborhood of Oakland. I went during happy hour after work one day and ordered the “adventurous” flight ($20), which featured three wines from the Republic of Georgia, Italy, and Slovenia. (Another bonus is Punchdown selects what it calls “natural” wine, or wine that uses very little, if any, chemicals in the cultivation and processing of the wine.)

Each wine had distinctive characteristics, some carrying the body of a good Chardonnay but without the oak undertones and others with such complexity you’d think it was brandy if it had more alcohol to it.

2009 Monastero Cistercensi Coenobium "Rusticum" from Lazio, Italy

My favorite was the orange wine from Italy – a 2009 Monastero Cistercensi Coenobium called “Rusticum.” It was the one that reminded me of a light brandy, with the aroma of butterscotch.

Side note: Punchdown has maintained the layout of the previous wine bar, Franklin Square wine bar, but the menu is definitely limited to only some cheese, charcuterie, spreads, and paninis. I tried the “ciccioli,” which is a pork rillette ($12).

I could never get into rosés or blush wines, but I’m really enjoying discovering orange wines. It’s a wine that can be full-bodied, clear or cloudy, and with a tint of gold.

Punchdown, 2212 Broadway (near Grand Avenue in Franklin Square), Oakland. PH: 510.251.0100. Open Tuesday through Saturday. punchdownwine.com

Ciccioli or pork rillettes

2009 Batic Winery "Zaria" from Vipava Valley, Slovenia

Orange Wine Flight at Punchdown

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