One of the best views of the San Francisco skyline can be seen from Treasure Island, in the middle of San Francisco Bay. We have been there many times while giving a visiting friend or relative a local tour about town. Usually we just take the Treasure Island exit from the Bay Bridge for a quick drive by or photo stop but, on some occasions, we stop and take in more that the island has to offer.
Treasure Island was constructed as part of a series of massive, bold building projects in the midst of the Great Depression. In an act of complete insanity or self-importance or whatever it was, the construction of three major engineering milestones occurred simultaneously in San Francisco. The Bay Bridge was going to be the largest bridge of its time. The Golden Gate Bridge was going to be the longest suspension bridge main span at the time. Treasure Island was going to be a WPA project to put men to work creating a man-made island in San Francisco Bay to house a World’s Fair when all three projects were completed. The plan was for several of the buildings that would be constructed for the fair to become hangars and a control center for a San Francisco airport when the Fair ended.
The two bridges opened in 1936 and 1937 and the Golden Gate International Exposition was held in 1939 and 1940. As part of the Exposition, the Pan Am Flying Clippers were housed in the two hangars as planned. Everything was on track for Treasure Island to begin operating as San Francisco’s airport…and then the war came. The long and the short of it was that the US Navy took possession of Treasure Island for defensive purposes and didn’t give it back until 1997 when the US military went through base restructuring and downsizing. At the time, they also confiscated the Pan Am Flying Clippers and used them to shuttle supplies to troops in Hawaii. Full focus turned to supporting the needs of the war.
Fast forward to today. The hangars and the administration building are still there. The navy has moved on. San Francisco’s airport is sited in a location much better suited to serving the needs of the Bay area. The Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge still provide much-needed access in and out of San Francisco. And the wineries have moved in on Treasure Island!
Yes, the wineries.
As of today, there more than half a dozen wineries on Treasure Island. Yes, wineries…not just tasting rooms.
Sitting in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, experiencing the cool ocean breezes from the Pacific, Treasure Island’s temps stay a pretty wine-friendly 60 degrees all year long. If you have ever toured a winery, you already know that this is right in line with the target temperature for a good wine cave in wine country and, on Treasure Island, you don’t need to build the cellar! Just bring in the grapes grown in surrounding wine country, do the sorting and the processing on site, stack the barrels to age until you are ready to bottle and you are in business.
One such operation that has done just that is Winery SF. I mention this winery not because I am declaring it the best on the island (I still have more research to do!) but because they set up residence inside the Pan Am Flying Clipper hangar. It is a fun afternoon to wander around and to enjoy a tasting of nice wines in the original structures that hold so much history. And, if you have a whole day of it, you have several other wineries on the island that you can visit as well.
It is incredibly handy to have the wineries in the middle of San Francisco Bay. If you are in the area and you don’t have time to drive to Napa, Sonoma, Lodi or Livermore, well, go to Treasure Island. The wines are good. The views are great. Just remember to bring a jacket ‘cuz the temps are like hanging out in a cool wine cave all day.