Often when San Franciscans think about a romantic outing involving wine tasting, beautiful Napa Valley comes to mind. In fact, there's a place closer to SF with wine offerings as well. Last Valentine's Day, my boyfriend took me on a surprise trip wine tasting at nearby Treasure Island. The island has a handful of wineries with several of them open to the public and offering tastings. If you’re thinking about what to do for Valentine’s Day or even on a nice weekend, here’s a peek at Treasure Island’s wineries and its popular flea market.
Treasure Island is a man-made island in the San Francisco Bay. That means you have to take the Bay Bridge either from the Oakland side or San Francisco side to reach it. It’s usually an easy, hassle-free trip on a weekend morning. We arrived early and walked around the island to take in the scenery before the wineries opened.
We visited two neighboring wineries Vie and Sol Rouge. Both were located in small, renovated warehouses decorated with photography or art, giving them a cozier feel. We tried flights of five to six samples from each place for $15 each. I'm not very knowledgeable about wine (something I'm working to improve) so I can’t speak to the quality of what we tried, but I did enjoy the atmosphere and company.
Actually, I enjoyed our first trip so much that we made it a point to return to Treasure Island later in the summer to check out the flea market and visit a few more of the wineries. If you like flea markets, this is a fun one.
The flea market is promoted as more than just a typical flea market. It's a place to buy old and new goods, be entertained by performance artists, and feast on all types of food. I was actually most excited about the circus act that was supposed to perform but that didn't happen due to not having proper city permits for it. Who knew you needed permits for that?
As for the goods themselves, it was a mix of modern art and crafts and stereotypical flea market collectibles and junk. I was hoping for an old style flea market full of antique knick-knacks and found several booths of the sort. Old dentures, beer cans, medicine kits, rusty things I couldn't identify. Yep, I saw them there. There were also more typical things like second-hand clothes and books for cheap. Some of the more trendy booths featured handmade jewelry and art. I couldn't believe how many booths sold homemade dog treats.
After the flea market, we bypassed the nearby wineries, having been to most of them on our last visit to the island. Our first stop was to Treasure Island Wines.
Despite the flea market being packed, Treasure Island Wines was empty except for us and one other couple. We chatted with the staff there about their operation and enjoyed a tasting of 5 pours for $10, not a bad deal at all.
Our second stop was to Fat Grape Winery. The building was odd with what looked like old shower stalls, a janitorial area, and tile walls reminiscent of the '80s. Yet the place had plenty of visitors and we actually waited a good while for a tasting while other couples bought bottles and bottles of wine. We only tried one wine here before deciding to come back another time because it was just so busy. What's the draw? Not sure, but the tastings are free.
It's well worth the trip to some of the Treasure Island’s wineries. Even better if you can combine it with a trip to the flea market and make the most of your time on the island. Here are a few tips to make the most of your Treasure Island experience:
Wine tasting – Double check the hours of wineries before you visit. Each winery keeps its own schedule and my impression was that their hours were fairly limited. Some wineries may be rented out for events.
Transportation – I would recommend driving or getting a ride from Uber or Lyft to and from the island if you want to explore the wineries. The wineries can be far apart to comfortably walk. On flea market weekends, buses are too few and far apart to shuttle everyone comfortably to and from the island. Parking is plentiful.
Food – Plenty of food trucks are present on flea market weekends. If it’s not a flea market weekend, bring a picnic or plan for lunch off the island because there’s not much food available there.
Clothing – Best thing is to bring a sweater or a jacket. The island can be hot or it can be cold and windy. You never know when you’ll need an extra layer.
What are your budget-friendly alternatives to places like Napa Valley? Where do you like to go for romantic outings?