The East Bay Express voted Solano Cellars the best of 2004 calling it the crème de la crème of East Bay wine stores. The El Sobrante location is pretty impressive as well. Link to review at end.
These shops have a nice selection of wines that are priced well. There are wine, vodka and beer tastings. They also host private events and an enthusiastic Chowhound post about a private party is at the end as well.
The Albany shop serves food Wednesday through Saturday. (5pm 9pm) Menus change on Wednesday. Last weeks menu included:
Gougeres: Gruyere cheese puffs
House marinated olives
Soup of the day: potato and leek with blue cheese croutons
Winter Salad: Arugula, endive, Satsuma mandarins and shaved fennel
Plate of three artisanal cheeses
White bean tartine with bacon and sage
Cornmeal flatbread with winter squash, bacon, roasted red peppers & gruyere cheese
Roasted Portobello mushroom with crab, meyer lemon aioli and herb salad
Cookie Plate: spiced madeleine, Scharffen Berger brownie & blackberry jam cookies
Blood orange and mascarpone tart with raspberry-Muscat glaze
Both stores are owned by Raj Ghuman who, along with his staff, is extremely helpful. He said he notes customers tastes and will make recommendations based on that.
The El Sobrante store on San Pablo Dam Road, has a selection of over 3500 wines, beers and spirits. Even though it is a large store about the physical size of K & L, the better wines are not on display and the staff will assist you with those if you are interested.
I like Champagne and Sparkling wines and was really impressed the variety and quality of those wines. I havent been to the Solano Cellars location yet, but Raj says if I like the El Sobrante store, I will love the Solano store.
There havent been many mentions of Solano Cellars on Chowhound, the last I could find was in 2003, but these have been the positive comments
A great staff, great selection of wines, especially good with more-bang-for-your-buck value wines
a selection of good wines for under (some well under) $10. They don't turn their noses up at bargain hunters.
In a May 08, 2003 post, foodfirst said
I once attended a private party at Solano Cellars in Albany, and it was relaxed and lovely. The layout of the level around the bar is perfect for mingling before dinner, service was personal and attentive (but not too), the setting is not too formal and not overly casual. Needless to say the before-dinner wines were lovely (they also have a great selection of hard-to-find beers). A choice of two entrees and two desserts was offered (all same appetizers), all matched with wines (and ports etc for desserts). I think they are doing "small plates" now but if you speak with Craig the owner they might be willing to do a regular dinner for a large group.
As for price, they fall in the medium range, and you'll have fun choosing wines --- tasting required of course!
3550 G San Pablo Dam Road
El Sobrante, CA 94803
1580 Solano Avenue (between Ordway Street and Peralta Avenue)
Monday & Tuesday: 11am 7pm
Wednesday Saturday: 11am 9pm
Sunday: 12pm 6pm
Below is the link to the East Bay Express Review with a link to the Sonoma Cellars website.