St. George Spirits’ Rupf Gains National Recognition

st george

St. George Spirits of Alameda Point has been attracting lots of national attention.

Its president, Jörg Rupf, was picked as a semi-finalist for a presitigious 2011 James Beard Foundation Award earlier this year. The honors are given annually to top chefs and others in the U.S. food and beverage industry.

Though he wasn’t picked as a finalist, Rupf was one of only 20 wine and spirits professionals to be selected as a semi-finalist.

He first come to the Bay Area in 1979 to do research at UC Berkeley on a post-doctoral grant sponsored by the German Government. His family has been brewing beer and distilling fruit brandies (eau de vie) for several generations in the Black Forest city of Freiburg.

Thanks to the quality of fresh local fruit and the absence of U.S. fruit brandy producers, Rupf gave up life as a judge and an academic to open up “America’s first eau de vie distillery and start the micro-distillery movement in this country,” according to the company’s website.

He set up St. George Spirits with assistant distiller Bill Mannshardt and later began working with Lance Winters, a former navy nuclear engineer and brewer.

In 2000, the two rolled out St. George Single Malt Whiskey, and two years later, they released the first batch of Hangar One Vodka.

The team moved into a hangar out on Alameda Point in May 2004.

The distillery and tasting room are open to the public from 12 to 7 p.m. Wednesday–Saturday and from 12 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tours take place at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. on Saturday.


Alamedans Votes on Election Day – At Last!


It’s been quite an election season — and it’s not over yet.

Polls close at 8 p.m. today, Tuesday, November 2.

We encourage everyone to get out and vote. Results will be begin being posted this evening at the Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ website, and some races may not be definitively decided tonight — if absentee ballots need to be counted.


A few last minute thoughts and developments: Some residents are getting calls, including this blogger, explaining that James Pruitt is not running on a two-man-campaign team with Clay Pollard; some signs around town are carrying both their names.

Also, keep in mind that every vote really counts with so many candidates running, especially for mayor. Plus, with developments and controversies, involving the Lena Tam investigation, Interim City Manager Gallant and SunCal, there could certainly be some upsets.

Finally, it seems quite possible that candidates most “tainted” by these controversies and the associated divisiveness may have trouble at the polls.

If this turns out to be true, the city could have an easier time than it’s had lately in resolving the most important issues at hand — namely tackling city and school district budget issues and finding new ways to raise revenue, including development at Alameda Point. If this prediction is wrong, the divisiveness could continue.

Either way, Island residents and their new city leaders will need to find ways to heal — and move on.


Alameda Backyard Growers Share Green Thumbs


Alameda Backyard Growers hosted a successful Global Work Party on Sunday — it was one of 7,347 events held in 188 countries around the globe, thanks to the work of 350.org and volunteers worldwide.

Organizers say that the group attracted more people than expected. “Even Doug DeHaan came to pay us a visit,” they shared.

There were more than 20 people working at Ploughshares Nursery in Alameda Point.

Volunteers turned out to support the “beat the heat,” aka stop global warming event, which — like other events worldwide — focused on creating sustainable growing areas and other projects designed to lower our carbon footprint.


One Alameda project was the planting of a tree guild, a series of complementary trees, plants and shrubs. Volunteers also learned how to install sheet mulching and planted a black mission fig tree as the anchor point for the guild.

They also created “compost lasagna” to provide much warmth and nutrients for vegetables and other plants in the the nearby greenhouse.

Ploughshares does not have power, apart from a solar panel, so the compost pile will be very beneficial for plant life in the greenhouse, group members say.


Event organizers add that they were pleased with what the team accomplished and hope to stage similar events in the future.

The local group is set to meet from 6-7 p.m. on Thursday, October 14, at High Street Station coffeehouse, located at 1303 High Street at Encinal Avenue.


Alameda Aims to Attract Berkeley Labs to NAS

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is looking for more space. And it’s got a sizeable budget and stimulas money to use for real-estate shopping.

To attract LBNL to the Island, the City of Alameda sent a letter on August 25 thanking LBNL staff for visiting Alameda Point and sharing details with the group about several airplane hangers in the former NAS, energy supply to the area and certain geotechnical details.

Now, the city just has to sit tight and hope that it gets asked to submit a formal proposal for LBNL’s second campus. City staff members expect other nearby cities, such as Emeryville and Richmond, to be potential rivals.

City Councilman Doug deHaan, who described the city’s efforts to attact Berkeley Labs to Alameda Point on August 26 at a community meeting on the former NAS, said he “feels confident that we have the attributes they are looking for,” including 1.2 million square feet of lab space.

The laboratory, which includes 6 facilities, is apparently planning to consolidate some of its operations. Currently, it has facilities in Berkeley, Emeryville and Walnut Creek.

The Department of Energy operations employ 3,915 staff members in the area, about one-third of whom are scientists. Its fiscal 2010 budget is estimated at $774 million, including $122 million in stimulas funding from the federal government.

According to LBNL, the facilities overall impact on the Bay Area is valued at about $500 million a year in direct economic spending and $690 million in indirect economic spending.


Alamedans Get Political Survey Calls From ???

Oakland-based EMC Research called this Alameda resident last night, August 29, to see if I would answer a brief survey on issues and candidates. But since the kids had to go back to school early today, August 30, I declined.

The survey group called back this evening, at about 7 p.m. and asked again if I would take a “short survey.”

I was asked for my reactions to mayoral candidate statements, opinions on  the mayoral and council candidates, the fire chief, interim city manager, Alameda Point, SunCal, unions, etc.

With the long list of candidates, hot issues and questions in the survey, I really had to narrow down my preferences, define my opinions and figure out what was influencing my choices. This was certainly educational — though I wouldn’t call the process “brief.”   

(The only controversy that wasn’t included in the survey was the new restricted schedule for our bridge openings.) 

About 15 or 20 minutes later, I was told that my survey information was confidential. But the survey-taker could not (or would not) tell me who was paying for the “research.”

Does anyone in or around the Island know who is responsible for the query?  

Or, better said, would the candidate responsible for this “research” come forward when the results are ready — and share both the data and the financial resources behind it?

This hometown voter wants to know … as I’m sure others do.


Post-SunCal Alameda Point: What’s Next?

These community members and plenty of others went head-to-head with SunCal supporters at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. But in the end, with a 4-0 vote, SunCal’s right to continue to negotiating with the city over plans for Alameda Point came to an end.

The rowdy crowd of speakers for and against was mixed, yet requests by city leaders for paid speakers to identify themselves apparently fell on deaf ears.

It’s a sad comment on the state of the issues at hand if speakers need to be paid to speak on the future of Alameda Point. And it’s even sadder that they wouldn’t identify themselves as such.

Online commentators on the issues – who generally aren’t paid (although there certainly may be exceptions) — are full of ideas and topics that will have to be ironed out as we move forward with plans for the former Navy Air Station.

They note that many environmental issues regarding toxins in the area, endangered species and other concerns are at stake. There’s also a host of transporation matters that need further thought.

Granted, these are not simple issues. However, as the recent debate and vote over SunCal’s role and plans illustrate, the community has to come to some resolution over how many new residences it wants, if any, in order to move forward.

Furthermore, there should be some concensus on what activities and character a development at Alameda Point should have.

The latest divisiveness on the Island comes from residents’ desire to see the right plans from the right developer. We want a developer that shares a community-focused vision with us and that will work on plans that lead to beneficial results via  an open, straight-forward political process.

This is quite a task. Hopefully, we can started on it after some political (and legal) healing has taken place.

(Much appreciation to James Fryer for the donated photos.)


Alameda Point – The Real Issue Is?

With the expected vote tomorrow – Tuesday, July 20 — over whether or not to extend SunCal’s exclusive agreement to negotiate a development deal with the city, we can expect more fireworks from politicans, community members and outside organizations over the future of Alameda Point, and (not to mention) other issues. 

It seems that the Lena Tam vs. Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant debate is eclipsing a few items, which a kind assortment of Alameda residents have shared with me via e-mail, phone and other forms of polite conversation:

1. The vote over the major SunCal issue — namely its plan to develop Alameda Point, Measure B — failed roughly by 70% (about 15% for and 85% against).

2. The residents of Alameda clearly believe we can do better than what we’ve got; we also deserve a forum for moving forward to define what “doing better” is and how to make it happen.

3. A project that so divides a community — or at least some politicians in that community — may no longer be in the community’s (and the politicians’) best interests.

 4. The economic foundation for a massive project/development does not exist at the present time.

5.  Maybe — in the interim — the city leaders should spend some time defining what is and isn’t confidential information and what the city could be doing to expand or at least fully protect residents’  freedom of information, including access to city e-mail records for longer than 30 days. 

Then, residents tell me, we can hopefully all get back to focusing on the real “Alameda Point.”


Alameda Museum Keeps NAS’ Past Alive

The Naval Air Museum at Alameda Point – open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — is a good weekend spot for residents and visitors looking for a taste of the area’s history and its role in U.S. military engagement in the Pacific.

There are plenty of displays from World War II, including maps of the Pacific, objects collected by U.S. military personnel during the war and uniforms, and a running video of World War II battles, including those on Truk Island.

Early next month,  Arcadia Publishing will publish a book on Alameda’s Naval Air Station, 1940-1997.

The musem will have copies on or around July 5; the publisher has released a preview of the cover.

And on November 21, the Alameda Naval Air Museum will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the China Clipper’s first commercial flight from its base in Alameda to the Philippine Islands.

As residents help piece together plans for Alameda Point and its future, the museum serves as an important guide to Alameda’s strategic importance in World War II, as well as in the broader naval and aviation history of the past century.


Navy Shares Alameda Point Environmental Update – Tonight

The Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority is meeting tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, to discuss the clean-up efforts at Alameda Point.

Derek Robinson of the Navy’s Base Realignment and Closure office will speak at the gathering about its activities on the Island.

According to the Navy, which has posted lots of information on the BRAC website, 40 percent of the former Naval Air Station has been tranferred or is ready for transferred to the city.

About 35 percent of the NAS is actively being cleaned and 25 percent is under investigation for future clean-up.   

Contacts for information about the effort are: Derek Robinson at 619-532-0951 or derek.j.robinson1@navy.mil, Anna- Marie Cook of the EPA at cook.anna-marie@epa.gov, and Jim Fyfe of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control at jfyfe@dtsc.ca.gov.  (The Cal DTSC contracts with Terradex for the clean-up).


Sunday: Catch Film on Afghanistan

At 3 p.m. on Sunday, November 15, Alameda residents and other Bay Area community members are invited to see “Rethink Afghanistan” at Auctions by the Bay Theater, 2700 Saratoga Street, on Alameda Point.

The director of “Rethink Afghanistan” is Robert Greenwald.

Following the screening, Norman Solomon, director of the Institute for Public Accuracy — who just returned from Afghanistan — and is an Afghan War member of Iraqi Veterans Against the War will comment  on the film, respond to questions and lead a discussion about what we can do to change the current U.S. course on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Tickets are $9-$25 and can be bought online. 

The event is being held to benefit Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace & Justice (LC4PJ), United for Peace & Justice (UFPJ) and CODEPINK.

For more details, call 510-263-5303 or 415-863-3771.

Also note that this screening will be held one day after a free talk on U.S.-Iranian relations set for 7-9 p.m. on Saturday, November 14, at the Alameda Free Library. The speaker is Michael Veiluva, general counsel of the Western States Legan Foundation and author of “Burdens of Proof: Iran, the United States and Nuclear Weapons — A Global View.”