Cheers to Mom! Beers, wines, sakes and spirits from East Bay mom-run businesses

We asked eight mothers in the drinks industry for a bit of motherly advice and to share what they’ll be sipping this Mother’s Day.

Umami Mart co-founder Kayoko Akabori with daughter Mion. Credit: courtesy of Kayoko Akabori
Umami Mart co-founder Kayoko Akabori with her daughter. Courtesy of Kayoko Akabori

As pandemic restrictions begin to lift and vaccinations are becoming more widely available, it’s time to, dare we say, celebrate a bit. And what better way to take in our new hope-filled reality than with a Mother’s Day celebration fit for the queen in your life.

We chatted up eight badass mamas in the beer, wine, spirits (and beyond) industry for a bit of motherly advice and to hear what they’ll be sipping this Mother’s Day. From naturally fermented bubbles to whiskey aged in an apple brandy barrel and Japanese sake made by a 25-year-old woman brewer, here are eight different ways to say, “Cheers to you, Mom.”

Kayoko Akabori, Umami Mart

As the co-founder, editor and shochu expert of Oakland’s Umami Mart, Kayoko Akabori (along with her cohort Yoko Kumano) has thoughtfully curated a beautiful array of Japanese-made barware and a bottle shop featuring sake, shochu, Japanese whiskey and beer. She’s passionate about supporting other BIPOC women leaders and entrepreneurs.

What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?

I’m able to live in the present like never before. My daughter’s two now and she is changing every day, physically and mentally. When we are together, she doesn’t really give me an opportunity to think about anything else except for what’s in front of me. (Book time! Feed me! Stickers on the floor! Drawing on the walls!) On the flip side, I am eternally grateful for any personal time I can get and the opportunity to escape to work. I’m forced to focus on the moment and appreciate everything I have.


Any motherly advice?

My mother-in-law told me once that I need to do one thing for myself every day. And that was before I had a kid! As women — mothers, wives, daughters, sisters — there is so much juggling we are forced to do every day while taking care of others. We gotta take care of ourselves too. Current alone time indulgences for me include swimming, listening to podcasts and writing letters. And I try to call my girlfriends as much as possible!

Can you recommend a drink Umami Mart carries that you think moms and others will enjoy?

Hakurakusei Junmai Ginjo sake. Credit: Umami Mart
Kayoko Akabori says your mom might like Hakurakusei Junmai Ginjo, a sake made by Nanami Watanabe, a 25-year-old female brewer at Niizawa Jozoten. Credit: Umami Mart

I love Hakurakusei Junmai Ginjo and recommend it to other moms who want a drink to relax with at the end of a long day. It’s bright and easy drinking. The sake is from Niizawa Jozoten, made by toji (head brewer) Nanami Watanabe, who is only 25! She is not only one of the few female tojis in Japan but also one of the youngest tojis in general.

What are its tasting notes?

This grapefruit-forward junmai ginjo has an aroma of green melon and watermelon rind. In addition to having several females on its brewing team, Niizawa Jozoten believes that happy workers create better sake and grant its workers nine days off each month during the brewing season. Watanabe’s food pairing recommendations include one of her favorite foods, menma (seasoned bamboo shoots), and prosciutto draped in melon. I recommend having this bright, citrusy sake chilled.

Is there another mom-run drinks business we should know about?

When I’m not drinking shochu and sake, I prefer Champagne and sparkling wine. My favorite local sparkling wine is from Berkeley’s Broc Cellars, run by fellow El Cerrito mom Bridget Leary. I will be popping a bottle from Broc on Mom’s Day! Cheers!

Umami Mart, 4027 Broadway (between 40th and 41st streets), Oakland

Shauna Rosenblum, Rock Wall Wine Company

Rock Wall Wine Company founder Shauna Rosenblum. Credit: Mike Rosati
Rock Wall Wine Company founder Shauna Rosenblum. Credit: Mike Rosati

Hailing from an impressive wine lineage, Shauna Rosenblum is the winemaker and president of Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda. The label is well known for its big, juicy zinfandels, but Rosenblum loves the classics, like chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, and a bit of bubbly.

What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?

I love the pure joy and jubilance my daughter has for all her endeavors. She is genuinely curious, and amazed by the mundane things in life that we adults sometimes forget to appreciate.

Any motherly advice?

Listen to your mother.

Can you recommend a Rock Wall wine you think moms and others will enjoy?

Rock Wall Wine Company's sparkling wines. Credit: Rock Wall Wine Company
Rock Wall Wine Company founder Shauna Rosenblum suggests a splash of 2019 Sparkling Rosé in a mimosa. Credit: Rock Wall Wine Company

Our sparkling wines are fun and festive. They are perfect for a Tuesday pizza night, a ladies brunch or a proper celebration. I am in love with the 2019 Sparkling Rosé right now.

What are its tasting notes?

The 2019 Sparkling Rosé is a blend of grenache and counoise with notes of hibiscus flower, jasmine tea, watermelon and a touch of strawberry. I generally don’t like mimosas, but this rosé with a little splash of O.J. is its own vibe. It doesn’t taste like a mimosa — it’s just delicious.

Is there another mom-run drinks business we should know about?

I love the La Cruz Sonoma Coast Chardonnay that CĂ´te West is making. It’s a family-run East Bay winery. And [check out] Faith Armstrong from Onward/Farmstrong Wines.

Rock Wall Wine Company, 2301 Monarch St. (at W. Tower Avenue in Alameda Point), Alameda

Hillary Rose Huffard, Roses’ Taproom

Roses Taproom founder Hillary Huffard. Credit: Courtesy of Hillary Huffard
Roses’ Taproom co-founder Hillary Rose Huffard with daughter in arms. Courtesy of Hillary Rose Huffard

Roses’ Taproom general manager and co-founder Hillary Rose Huffard always felt that the East Bay community needed a family-friendly gathering place that was both comfortable and affordable. So she and her husband opened their taproom in 2017 in Temescal and serve up a wide variety of house-made brews. 

What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?

There are too many to name just one, but definitely one of my favorite things about being a mother is getting the chance to see my children experience things for the first time! The look of wonder and excitement when they experience something new is unmatched! Having been through the pandemic this whole year left our 2 1/2-year-old daughter pretty isolated so now that it’s safer to be out in public with her, little things that I would normally find mundane, like grocery shopping, become these epic adventures for the both of us. It’s pretty awesome. 

Any motherly advice?

One piece of advice I find myself trying to give to myself again and again is to be OK with lowering expectations of myself. I find that I can get really hard on myself for little things like, for example, keeping the house really tidy, and it can build up so much stress and anxiety that I miss out on things that I could otherwise enjoy. So, even though it might sound cliche, I think the old adage of  “don’t sweat the small stuff” really holds a lot of merit. 

Can you recommend a Roses’ beer you think moms and others will enjoy?

Roses' Taproom's Piñata Extra Pale Ale. Credit: Roses' Taproom
Hillary Huffard loves a good, strong West Coast IPA, and suggests your mom might like Roses’ Taproom’s Piñata Extra Pale Ale. Credit: Roses’ Taproom

Well, everyone has their own preferences, but luckily at Roses’ we aim to always have beers available catering to the full spectrum of styles! Personally, I enjoy West Coast IPA’s that are strong and have a lot of hop quality. Right now I am really enjoying our Piñata Extra Pale Ale.

What are its tasting notes?

It’s bitter, crisp and super refreshing with aromas of pine needles and resin with punchy pineapple and citrus flavors.

Is there another mom-run drinks business we should know about? 

One of my favorite pre-COVID nights out used to be heading over to Bay Grape and splitting a bottle of rosĂ© with a buddy while tearing chunks off a baguette and slathering it with cheese! I really look forward to being able to do that again soon. I love Stevie Stacionis and what she has done with that business. 

Roses’ Taproom, 4930 Telegraph Ave. (between 49th and 51st streets), Oakland

Cathy Gabel, Blindwood Cider

Cathy Gabel of Blindwood Cider. Credit: Erin Gabel
Cathy Gabel, head of sales at Blindwood Cider, with her baby. Credit: Erin Gabel

Blindwood, a small family-run cidery is operated by just three people, so Cathy Gabel plays a crucial part as head of sales to ensure her team’s dream runs smoothly. After the cidery moved into its new digs in San Leandro last year, Gabel is on a mission to quench the Bay Area’s thirst with some good cider.

What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?

When I learned I was pregnant, I had no idea that I was about to experience the greatest feelings of love that come immediately when you hold that baby in your arms. It’s a rush of intense feelings and an extreme dedication to that life in your hands. I love that, and I never take it for granted.

Any motherly advice?

Play with your children; get on the playground with them, get down to their level and lean into your childhood. 

Can you recommend a Blindwood cider you think moms and others will enjoy?

Blindwood Cider's Jonathan cider. Credit: Blindwood Cider
Cathy Gabel says Blindwood Cider’s hand-pressed cider made with dry-farmed Jonathan apples is a mom-pleaser. Credit: Blindwood Cider

The obvious answer would be to say, all of them! But I’ll break it down to three. We have a lovely hand-pressed cider made with Jonathan apples; a new seasonal that’s perfect for the tea lover, Earl Grapefruit; and lastly, an amazing floral cider coming out this May, Elderberry Flower and Lemon Verbena. Definitely, something new and different to look out for. 

What are their tasting notes?

Jonathan: This single varietal is made with dry-farmed Jonathan apples from Sonoma County. Naturally fermented and aged in barrels for eight months, this cider is unfiltered, unpasteurized, crisp and bright with a ripe apple flavor. Aromas of tropical fruit, vanilla and pineapple.

Earl Grapefruit: Loose-leaf Earl Grey tea was added to our dry cider, post-fermented with grapefruit zest to round off a fruity bite. With aromas of marmalade and caramel, this golden cider tastes of tart bergamot and tangy grapefruit, giving way to juicy ripe notes of apricot, roasted almonds and brisk leather.

Elderberry Flower and Lemon Verbena: We aged our dry apple cider on elderberry flowers and lemon verbena. This gives a beautiful bouquet of sweet flowers and hints of pear before rounding out with a whisper of herbal lemon. 

Is there another mom-run drinks business we should know about? 

Another local mom that makes great cider is Jenn Martell, owner of South City Cider. Jenn has been such an amazing resource for the local cider community and has become a great friend. I love that South City just did a new collab with Laughing Monk Brewing called Apfel Boss. 

Find Blindwood Cider online and at local retailers.

Therese Agnew, Mosswood Distillers

Mosswood founder Therese Agnew. Credit: Terrance Warner
Mosswood Distillers co-owner Therese Agnew. Credit: Terrance Warner

Therese Agnew, co-owner of the independently owned and operated Mosswood Distillers, leads up quality inspection and blending thanks to her extra-keen sense of smell. She and her partner, Jake Chevedden, can take credit for bottling Berkeley’s first-ever barrel-aged rums and whiskeys.

What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?

I love that kids remind me to live in the moment and stay curious. Not to mention the magnitude of unconditional love I felt the moment my child was born, and now feel every day. It blows me away. There’s nothing quite like it. And now I have a new biking buddy!

Any motherly advice?

With only one year of experience, I’m definitely still learning. It is evident that everything is a stage that will soon pass. Enjoy it and be easy on yourself. We’re all doing our best.

Can you recommend a Mosswood spirit you think moms and others will enjoy?

Mosswood's Apple Brandy Barrel-aged Whiskey. Credit: Therese Agnew
Therese Agnew recommends Mosswood’s Apple Brandy Barrel-aged Whiskey, neat and topped off with soda with a squeeze of lemon. Credit: Therese Agnew

I love our Apple Brandy Barrel-aged Whiskey — a nice little wind-down sip. We are all staying busy, so I love the ease of pouring the whiskey in a glass. I like drinking neat because the whiskey maintains itself when I get wrapped up with other things (it might take me all night to sip and tastes just as good). If I want to feel more celebratory, I put it in a fun glass. If I want something cold, I’ll pour it over ice. Sometimes a top off with soda water, a little squeeze of lemon and a sprig of mint when I’m looking for an easy thirst quench on a warm day.

What are its tasting notes?

Tasting notes are subjective so I always like to encourage people to use their imagination and intuition when trying to come up with tasting notes. Our Apple Brandy Barrel is the most traditional profile of the whiskeys we make. I like how the oak, vanilla and sea-salted caramel come through with fresh citrus, baked apples and spices. It reminds me of taking it easy after an adventure-packed day amongst pine trees. 

Is there another mom-run drinks business we should know about? 

So many great mom makers out there, it’s tough to pick one! In the spirit of the exercise, I’ll mention a couple I’m into right now. Haus makes some delicious aperitif wines with good ingredients (and, dare I say, pair wonderfully with our whiskeys). Iron Horse Vineyards, which I fell for after visiting for a tasting, was started awhile back and is now run by the founder’s daughter. All its wines are delicious, but I especially love the sparkling wines. 

And our warehouse neighbors and friends at Home Base Spirits!

Find Mosswood Distillers at local retailers.

Tracey Brandt, Donkey & Goat

Tracey Brandt, co-owner of Donkey & Goat in Berkeley. Credit: Donkey & Goat
Tracey Brandt, co-owner of Donkey & Goat in Berkeley. Credit: Donkey & Goat

Donkey & Goat’s winemaker Tracey Brandt was bottling natural, biodynamic vinos before it was cool. Since founding her Berkeley-based winery in 2004, Brandt hasn’t shied away once from creating her naturally fermented, vibrant and lively wines, and continues to source organic and biodynamically grown grapes from vineyards in the top growing regions of Northern California.

What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?

Experiencing the world with my years of experience (wisdom?!) through the eyes of my child and marveling at how wonderful life can be.

Any motherly advice?

Guide. Lead. Let your actions speak far louder than your words.

Can you recommend a Donkey & Goat wine you think moms and others will enjoy?

Donkey and Goat's Isabel's Cuvée Grenache Rosé and Lily's Pet Nat Sparkling Chardonnay. Credit: Donkey and Goat
Tracey Brandt named Donkey & Goat’s Isabel’s CuvĂ©e Grenache RosĂ© and Lily’s Pet Nat Sparkling Chardonnay after her daughters. Credit: Donkey & Goat

No, I can recommend two equally! 

Isabel’s CuvĂ©e Grenache RosĂ©: 2020 was my 16th vintage and her namesake turned 16 in February.

Lily’s Pet Nat Sparkling Chardonnay: 2020 was my 10th vintage and her namesake turned 10 in March.

What are their tasting notes?

Isabel’s CuvĂ©e Grenache RosĂ©: Strawberry lemonade, honeydew, and watermelon aromatics entice! Isabel’s is fresh and juicy like a homegrown mandarin orange, yuzu and freshly picked strawberries, with undercurrents of … is that a roll of Smarties candy? But honestly, if kisses were a color, it might resemble a fresh bottle of Isabel’s. Pair with fresh pasta and a bolognese sauce, or grilled shrimp and chorizo sausage with a cardamom marinade. 

Lily’s Pet Nat Sparkling Chardonnay: Small fine bubbles awaken your palate, and the citrus flavor profile is contrasted by a hint of vanilla sweetness that makes this sparkler easy to love. Aromas of sweet brioche and yeasty homemade bread that shout SUNDAY BRUNCH. But make no mistake, this sparkling chardonnay makes her French ancestors smile with pride. She stands up to classy dinners, backyard shindigs and matrimonial celebrations. Every day is a Lily’s day.

Is there another mom-run drinks business we should know about? 

Samantha Sheehan of Poe Wines and Mommenpop.

Donkey & Goat, 1340 Fifth St. (between Gilman and Camelia streets), Berkeley

Ali and Sam Blatteis, Home Base Spirits

Home Base Spirits co-founders are twin sisters and new moms Sam (left) and Ali Blatteis. Courtesy of Sam and Ali Blatteis
Home Base Spirits co-founders Sam (left) and Ali Blatteis are twin sisters and moms who gave birth to their first child six weeks apart from each other. Courtesy of Sam and Ali Blatteis

Ali and Sam Blatteis, co-owners of Home Base Spirits in Oakland, are a twin sister team that are switching up the spirits game. The sisters use sustainably farmed grains and California botanicals in all their spirits and liqueurs, and believe whiskey should be fun and accessible to everyone. Plus, they each had their first child just six weeks apart!

What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?

Ali: Creating my own favorite person.

Sam: It’s hilarious.

Any motherly advice?

Ali: Give yourself a lot of credit! You’re doing great. 

Sam: Have a kid at the same time as your twin sister. 

Can you recommend a Home Base spirit or liqueur you think moms and others will enjoy?

Bottles of Home Base Spirits. Credit: Home Base Spirits
Ali and Sam Blatteis suggest Home Base Bitter Spirits in a spritz for moms in the mood for a refreshing low ABV beverage, or a cocktail made with Home Base bourbon, for those looking for something stronger. Credit: Home Base Spirits

Ali: Home Base Bitter in a spritz is a really easy, low ABV beverage that you can enjoy even through a witching hour and still get them to bed. 

Sam: All parents deserve a strong bourbon cocktail at any time. 

What are their tasting notes?

Ali: The bitter with bubbly water is bright and refreshing with a settling bitterness. 

Sam: Tasting notes will vary with the cocktail, but our bourbon neat will give you warm, buttery biscuit and dark fruity notes. 

Is there another mom-run drinks business we should know about? 

Ali: I love the apple brandy barrel-finished whiskey that Therese of Mosswood Distillers makes. 

Sam: We love all of the beers, but especially the ones aged in Home Base Bourbon barrels by Hillary and Luke at Roses’ Taproom.

Find Home Base Spirits online or at local retailers.