Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 24, 2014

There was something so special about that place

Filed under: Alameda, Business, Election — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

Sometimes Facebook has the best stuff.  On my newsfeed yesterday, someone shared a photo snapped at Alameda Wine Company.  Now, I have to say that the husband and I used to go to Alameda Wine Co. and whenever we were lucky enough to have someone watch the kidlings it used to be a stop during our infrequent date nights because the husband really liked the place.  I don’t drink — I think I’ve mentioned this before — but the non-alcoholic offerings were always lovely.

Fast forward and about a year and a half ago someone posted on Yelp a really horrible tale about an interaction she had with the owner of the Alameda Wine Co.   I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually write about the incident as a separate blog post, but I think I did tweet about it.  I can’t find my tweet now, but it probably came up on the feed in the corner.  Someone else recounted the story in my comments section here which was a bit of a detour from the original topic, but seems to happen a lot with you folks.

In response, the owner of Alameda Wine Co. went a little, um, scorched earth shall we say in the comments section under the handle: Vilma Flamm.  I’m not sure how John Russo got dragged in the whole mess, but suffice it to say the husband and I have not been back to Alameda Wine Co. since.  The original Yelp posting has now been relegated to the “unrecommended reviews” as have numerous one-star reviews and other five-star reviews too.  The Yelp algorithm for not recommending reviews is kind of weird.

Anyway, if you read through some of the reviews and some of the responses from the owner too, it’s sort of a surreal exercise.  Because most of the bad reviews talk about how nice the place is — it really is very charming — but how unprofessional (to put it tactfully) the owner is.   As you can imagine, the less than graceful responses from the owner to the negative yelp reviews don’t really make one necessarily want to give the place a whirl.

So, in other crazy shenanigans, the owner of Alameda Wine Co. decides that a good business decision would be to put up this sign:



Which as you can imagine went up on people’s FB pages and was circulated widely.   Now, she’s welcome to her opinion about any political issue, but is this really the best way of presenting your counter arguments?  By talking about fucking grandmothers and calling kids fat?  I realize that some people think that somehow the behavior displayed by the owner is “sassy” or whatever cutesy adjective they think describe her, but between her numerous feuds (check out the long ranting response she wrote about Pappos on Yelp) with other local Alameda businesses and her erratic and inconsistent behavior it really is quite a surprise that she has managed to hang on for this long.


  1. Wow – unbelievable! I’ve never visited this place and won’t ever visit it. How did she ever get a liquor license?

    Comment by Karen Bey — October 24, 2014 @ 6:15 am

  2. I stopped in a few months ago at approx. 2 or 3PM to buy a bottle. The owner was falling down drunk, barely able to form a sentence, too drunk to scan my credit card.

    Perhaps that may explain her erratic behavior?

    Comment by Anon cuz that bitch is CRA CRA — October 24, 2014 @ 6:20 am

  3. I think that sign is “inappropriately” funny, and with no Senior citizen exemption available for a bond measure, it’s also true that adding $500 per year to the average property tax bill on top of the taxes paid for the last parcel tax, and the on going hospital tax, and having to pay back commercial real estate owners for the previous mistake by the school board in making a discriminatory assessment, we are paying a very heavy price for our politicians being unable to correct long term inequities in school funding, or spend our money on something other than the world’s only “earthquake fence” while paying $30,000 a month to rent fancy office space for administrators, and giving a big raise to the Superintendent. I have yet to speak to anyone who is planning to vote for the bond measure. Election day will be a shock to the usual suspects.

    By the way, kids are fatter, and soft drinks and fast food are mostly responsible, although coca cola is no longer sold in school vending machines. But the new In-n-out represents “progress,” right? Don’t shoot the messenger with an ad hominem attack on the owner of Alameda Wine Co. These types of gossipy personal attacks are characteristic of our provincial little town, and add nothing to the discussion of the real issues.

    Comment by Unbelievable — October 24, 2014 @ 6:46 am

  4. 3

    The maximum amount of the tax is $60 per $100,000 of assessed value. That’s assessed value, not market value. Your ASS-umption of a $500 average means an average of approx. $833,000 of assessed value across the island, which we all know is well above the average P13 assessed value. In the case of the seniors you pretend to be so concerned about, nearly all of them have significantly lower values than that. It is not uncommon for them to have assessed value less than a tenth of their market values.

    assessed values can be searched here:

    Comment by dave — October 24, 2014 @ 7:00 am

  5. Nothing necessarily wrong with being “outrageous” if it encourages conversation. But someone needs to take a “Marketing 101” course. Instead of raising awareness about Measure I & fostering discussion, the focus is on how batshit-crazy this business owner is.

    Then again, that sign may big give a huge boost the the “yes” on Measure I vote.

    Comment by greenefree — October 24, 2014 @ 8:35 am

  6. I don’t care which business or which issue it is, I don’t want this kind of thing being posted in any Alameda business. It does not reflect well for anyone to do this. again, common sense.

    Comment by John P. — October 24, 2014 @ 8:45 am

  7. I’m pleased when businesses post that sort of stuff. It’s helpful to know who to avoid.

    Comment by dave — October 24, 2014 @ 8:55 am

  8. I’m pleased when businesses post that sort of stuff. It’s helpful to know who to avoid.


    Comment by Lauren Do — October 24, 2014 @ 9:00 am

  9. Never been there , never will not my cup of te per say , one must admit she has a very vulgar way to make a point , just got my property taxes yesterday compared my assessement with the 8 unit {which we support via our taxes”not to be jealous but I cannot afford a new mercedes suv as one do” the assessed value is only $100 000.difference or so , somewhere along the line the assessor missed the purpose of prop 13 which was to protect older folks single family house , Do yourself that favor look up tax assessement for rental unit preferably larger one you will be shocked .
    As far as that joint let them dig themselves into obscurity , only peoples which will miss them will be the one again in asistance from the state for Alcohol rehab .
    As far as yelp is concerned they gave a 5 stars to that other booze joint with an owner in probabation who actually not only assaulted a Police Officer but like a primate took a bite through the uniform , can anyone explain how a felon in probation can hold a liquor license {al capone}

    Comment by karl — October 24, 2014 @ 9:04 am

  10. I’m very offended by how she used that semicolon.

    Comment by semicolonsconnect2independentsentences — October 24, 2014 @ 9:29 am

  11. Just got my property tax bill…the School Measure A is the most expensive line item on it…can’t dispute that fact. Why is it the more money we give the Alameda schools, the less their physical plant improves? Didn’t attend Alameda schools past kindergarten…have no kids or grandkids attending public schools…Wish there was an Opt-Out for residential parcel owners who sent their kids to parochial or private schools or home schooled them…If AUSD had to depend only on the people who actually USE public schools for funding, things might be very different. I don’t see how teachers or administrators who spend so much of their time thinking up & marketing new ways to swap around property they haven’t developed or whether to make the next public assessment a bond or a tax, accomplish much in the way of education.

    Comment by vigi — October 24, 2014 @ 9:52 am

  12. How do you know the owner put the sign up? Could have been whoever snapped the picture…I assume it wasn’t you.

    Comment by Jack Richard — October 24, 2014 @ 9:56 am

  13. vigi, you benefit plenty from good public schools even if your family doesn’t attend. good schools attract good people who spend their money in the community. they produce kids who grow up to be the gentle citizens of the community that you interact with every day.

    Comment by ajryan — October 24, 2014 @ 10:10 am

  14. Anyone else remember the time that this “lady” shaved her hair and painted herself blue to protest some restrictions in the rental agreement that she signed and then decided that she did not like. Those were the days- that was entertaining and odd – this is just bad taste: a sign of her increasing slide. I stopped going there after the racist rant that she pulled and there are just too many other places that serve good wines without a side of bigotry.
    She can have her opinion and I have the right to drink somewhere else so all good – but the children…who will protect the children…..someone should alert Alameda Peeps to get on that.

    Comment by librarycat — October 24, 2014 @ 10:17 am

  15. yeah, ajryan… I beg to differ.. good schools don’t make good people, better schools don’t make better people, and the Best people [whatever that means] don’t necessarily come from the “Best” schools. I went to SJND, my cousin went to Encinal, we both ended up at MIT for graduate school…BFD.

    What makes a school “good”, in your opinion? I did not mention quality in my post at all. I questioned the method of funding. Do you think throwing more money at something necessarily makes it better?

    Maybe expensive private schools are “better” because the people actually using the education are directly funding it.

    Comment by vigi — October 24, 2014 @ 10:25 am

  16. Actually I can’t wait to go to the Wine Shop now to see this broad in action.

    Comment by AJ — October 24, 2014 @ 10:35 am

  17. O.K. one more time. There is no senior exemption on this bond because it has a 55% threshold for passage and state law forbids exemptions on 55% bond issues. It allows them on the bonds that have 2/3 passage vote thresholds. So please, please stop the business of criticizing this measure on the basis of no senior exemption. Even if they wanted to put one on it, they couldn’t.

    And, this woman certainly has rights to free speech, even though her sign is uncivil and her behavior has been pretty bad for some time. Those of us who find this unacceptable also have the freedom not to patronize her shop and to suggest to our friends and neighbors not to patronize her either.

    Comment by Kate Quick — October 24, 2014 @ 10:39 am

  18. 11

    It’s on the inside of the window, up rather high. It’s hard to think the owner didn’t put it there. And it was still there 5 minutes ago when I walked by.

    Comment by dave — October 24, 2014 @ 10:46 am

  19. I find comment #41 in your my “comments section here” above more gross than the one dave saw on the window 5 minutes ago. Shame on someone for not deleting it.

    Comment by jack — October 24, 2014 @ 11:24 am

  20. I never delete comments that are critical of me, wouldn’t want to be accused of censoring.

    Comment by Lauren Do — October 24, 2014 @ 11:30 am

  21. This year we will pay $15,000 per year in property tax and assessments of which $1,200 is Measure A, $300 in Healthcare Dist. which is I believe for the Hospital. We don’t have kids and most likely never have kids nor do we use the Hospital. It seems like every year they want more. With property taxes rising on newer housing again, all the resales raising the property taxes on those parcels and all the new business coming to Alameda they should have enough. We already voted no. There is a certain point where you need to draw the line. I would have to agree with #12 virgi on this one. We pay more in property taxes than I paid for rent before buying a house.

    As for the sign it shouldn’t be posted, unless you want it to effect your business, but that is the owners choice.

    Comment by Jake — October 24, 2014 @ 12:06 pm

  22. vigi, the reason it’s the largest item on your tax bill is because many of us are subsidizing you via Prop 13. Be grateful.

    Comment by BC — October 24, 2014 @ 1:56 pm

  23. #22. It is called the “social contract”. Even though you may have no children in school and don’t use the hospital, your fellow citizens do. It is called “the common good” and we agree (the contract) in our democracy to support, via taxation, that which benefits us all. An educated citizenry is a common benefit. Access to health care is a common benefit. Roads, police, fire, restaurant inspection, building permits, road and bridge and streetlight maintenance, crossing guards, nuisance abatement, recreation (parks and services), animal control, coroners, libraries, clean air and water – all public benefits. Paid for by the public (us) in the form of taxation. There are many, many government services, federal, state, regional and local which provide us with a relatively clean, stable and safe environment. I agree that paying taxes hurts but we get a lot in return, and those who believe that government serves no purpose or that we should only pay for what we personally use don’t get the foundational principles on which our nation rests.

    Comment by Kate Quick — October 24, 2014 @ 3:19 pm

  24. What the reason for Prop 13………Oh yeah so older people would not be Taxed out of their house……

    A large contributor to Proposition 13 was the sentiment that older Californians should not be priced out of their homes through high taxes.[4] The proposition has been called the “third rail” (meaning “untouchable subject”) of California politics, and it is not popular politically for lawmakers to attempt to change it.

    One explanation is that older Californians with fixed incomes had increasing difficulty paying property taxes, which were rising as a result of California’s population growth, increasing housing demand, and inflation. Due to severe inflation during the 1970s, reassessments of residential property increased property taxes so much that some retired people could no longer afford to remain in homes they had purchased long before. An academic study found support for this explanation, reporting that older voters, homeowners, and voters expecting a tax increase were more likely to vote for Proposition 13.[6]

    It’s your fault Vigi

    Comment by John — October 24, 2014 @ 3:22 pm

  25. 94501 94502 Salary and Wages

    40% make under 30,000 in Salary and Wages both single and filing jointly
    70% make under 50,000 in Salary and Wages both single and filing jointly
    These were part of IRS study that looked at Wages and Salary ONLY for 94501 and 94502
    What It shows me is many people not making enough money working to make it…..Draw your own Conclusions
    Simple Stuff without the Noise.

    Total Tax Returns in 94501 and 94502
    24,822 make less than 50,000 out of the 35,445 in Salary and Wages or 70%

    Comment by John — October 24, 2014 @ 3:28 pm

  26. 70% of Single and Joint tax returns in 94501 and 94502 made less than 50,000

    IRS Data of Salaries and Wages in 94501 by those filing jointly and single…..28,822 Total Returns

    4104 made between 0-10,000 With the average making 3,952 in Salary and Wages
    5158 made between 10,000 -25,000 with the average making 12,483 in Salary and Wages
    7229 made between 25,000-50,000 with average making 30,040 in Salary and Wages
    4830 made between 50,000 -75,000 with average making 48,730 in Salary and Wages
    2688 made between 75,000-100,000 with the average making 67,253 in Salary and Wages
    3757 made between 100,000-200,000 with average making 103,913 in Salary and Wages
    1056 made more than 200,000 with the Average making 198,888 in Salary and Wages

    IRS Data of Salaries and Wages in 94502 by those filing jointly and single…..6623 Total Returns

    999 made between 0-10,000 With the average making 3658 in Salary and Wages
    653 made between 10,000 -25,000 with the average making 9,775 in Salary and Wages
    922 made between 25,000-50,000 with average making 23,977 in Salary and Wages
    927 made between 50,000 -75,000 with average making 41,356 in Salary and Wages
    742 made between 75,000-100,000 with the average making 58,996 in Salary and Wages
    1642 made between 100,000-200,000 with average making 106,493 in Salary and Wages
    716 made more than 200,000 with the Average making 232,395 in Salary and Wages

    Total Tax Returns in 94501 and 94502

    24,822 make less than 50,000 out of the 35,445 in Salary and Wages or 70%

    Comment by John — October 24, 2014 @ 3:30 pm

  27. Not that this will change any of your prejudices, but I didn’t benefit from Prop 13. When my dad died suddenly in 1985, the house I inherited was reassessed because he hadn’t made estate plans to die so soon.

    Comment by vigi — October 24, 2014 @ 4:43 pm

  28. Prop 13 was formulated primarily to assist the fortunes of Mr. Jarvis and Mr. Gann, who owned a lot of LA real estate in the form of houses and apartment buildings. There were many ways the very real problem of seniors being taxed out of their homes could have been handled, which would not have resulted in the gross inequities the Jarvis vs non-Jarvis properties now have, created by Prop 13. One was to keep seniors at their current rate and assess the difference between that rate and the higher rates when they died or sold their property as a lien at time of sale. So all properties were assessed the same, but the tax was collected in a deferred way so the senior could continue to pay a stable tax. There are other reasonable mechanisms too, but what passed, passed.

    Comment by Kate Quick — October 24, 2014 @ 4:52 pm

  29. So when they die the State comes in and just takes their entire house? A lot of Property would be ‘underwater’ owing more in Taxes than the Property was worth. Many Seniors today are living off their Reverse Mortgages which would be unavailable under this Taxation Lien idea. Prop 13 Passed 64.8% to 35.2%

    Comment by frank M — October 24, 2014 @ 5:17 pm

  30. SSA Reports 50% of American Workers Make Less Than $28,031 A Year

    50 percent of wage earners had net compensation less than or equal to the median wage, which is estimated to be $28,031.02 for 2013.

    SSA Reports 50% of American Workers Make Less Than $28,031 A Year

    Here are some more numbers from the report that the Social Security Administration just released…

    39 percent of American workers made less than $20,000 last year.
    52 percent of American workers made less than $30,000 last year.
    63 percent of American workers made less than $40,000 last year.
    72 percent of American workers made less than $50,000 last year.

    Comment by John — October 24, 2014 @ 6:13 pm

  31. #24 Kate, I understand that but it gets old that some people are paying next to nothing and others are paying more…and are in equal financial situations. I don’t actually mind paying for schools and health care, but with prop 13 it take the equality away. Take away prop 13 and I will vote for schools, ect. We did vote to pass measure A, but enough is enough.

    Comment by Jake — October 24, 2014 @ 7:06 pm

  32. 24
    Aw Kate, you’re so cute when you recite 4th grade civics… you remind me of that pig-tailed cutie who sat in front of me. Sorry I just couldn’t help myself from pulling your tails.

    Comment by jack — October 24, 2014 @ 7:09 pm

  33. #32 What you don’t seem to understand that if ‘you do away with Prop 13’ YOUR taxes will go up too. Everyone’s Taxes will go up.

    Comment by frank M — October 24, 2014 @ 7:24 pm

  34. So if someone bought a house in 1985 for $150,000 their current assessment would be close to $300,000. I am guessing that individual is currently benefiting from Prop 13. It is Prop 13 that diverts local property taxes to Sacramento. As a result, school districts like Alameda are subject to ups and downs of the California economy. During the Great Recession of 2009-2013, Alameda Unified experienced annual declines of $5 million in revenues from the State.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — October 24, 2014 @ 8:08 pm

  35. I have been a patron of the Alameda Wine Company since it opened and I absolutely love and admire the owner, Karen Ulrich. She has been in business as long as she has because she knows wine, inside and out, and knocks herself out to get her patrons great quality wines at good prices.

    When times are bad, Karen goes without a personal income to make sure her employees are paid. She gets in the face of patrons who don’t tip the servers and if your demands are unreasonable, (“Our movie starts in 15 minutes. We’ll have a wine flight and a cheese plate and make it snappy.”) she’s only to happy to refuse to comply. She can also be wise, generous, witty, and loyal to those who prove themselves worthy. Pretty much everything you read about her is true, so pearl clutchers should definitely steer clear. The passive aggressive should be especially wary. She will make mincemeat of you. If you’re a straight shooter, appreciate the value of a wine merchant with a world-class palate, have a taste for the outrageous, and a low tolerance for pretense, you’ll fit right in at AWC.

    It takes all kinds of people to make Alameda an interesting place to live. I think it’s refreshing to talk to someone who isn’t afraid to voice her opinions because someone might take offense and withhold their business. Karen refuses to conform to what society expects and she has had to suffer the consequences. She makes no apologies for who and what she is. Like most of us, she has good points and bad. The only difference is that she doesn’t hide any of it. If that’s appalling to you, you can go elsewhere. Nobody will mind.

    By the way, if you are afraid to meet her in person, sign up for the AWC newsletter. Sometimes loopy, usually R-rated, but always filled with excellent tips on good wines to try, it’s a great read–if you have a sense of humor that is. Also remember, it’s a bar. Only people over 21 are allowed so we need not worry too much about the lack of a family-friendly environment. I totally understand if some of you don’t like to be around so much brutal honesty. I should point out though, that she is 100% professional 90% of the time so you are not guaranteed a floor show if you go, so don’t expect to see her in high gear on any given night.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — October 25, 2014 @ 5:42 am

  36. #34 frank M. my taxes won’t go up because we bought in 2005. They went up a few years stabilized because of the market and then went down slightly and this year and this year went up 10%. Our assessment can still go up 10% more, which will most likely be next year, before we will benefit from prop 13. After that it will be 2% each year. Prop 13 is unfair for new homeowners which are many are first time buyers and families just starting out. The burden is on them and not on those who most likely can afford it. If you do away with Prop 13 everyone is on the same level playing field. In 10 years we have not seen any benefit from prop 13, but just more assessments. We voted for Prop A and it doubled our assessment because they based it on square feet.

    As Mike pointed out in #35 it Alameda Unified experienced declines but this is not because of people who have owned their properties for a while (because decline/increase in assessed values didn’t affect their properties) but because of new homeowners which property values went up and down and now back up because they don’t benefit from prop 13. In theory the school districts should base their budget at 2% increase per year as well and be tied to prop 13 and older homeowners not the newer homeowners. If the State would do away with sales taxes and tied the budget to property taxes you would have a much more stabilized source of income.

    Comment by Jake — October 25, 2014 @ 6:33 am

  37. #35 My point Mike is that EVERYONE eventually benefits from Prop 13. And with the exception of the pre 1978 Homeowners it is an even playing feels with the same rules and %’s for all. I just wonder how many of the pre 78 adjusted rate residential properties are still on the books. For those who were not around when Prop 13 passed their was no State formula in place for assessment. It varied County by County and was totally arbitrary. Many people were being taxed out of their houses and certainly our Legislators could of come up with a solution but they didn’t. So people passed Prop 13. So Mike you MUST know people in your neighborhood who would be forced to sell their house if ‘an even playing field’ was established. Is that what you want??? I know I would be forced to leave the house I’ve owned since 1979. I’m not worried because despite all the vitriol it will not change (at least in my lifetime). Mainly because the majority of Politicians are gutless.

    Comment by frank M — October 25, 2014 @ 10:45 am

  38. Prop. 13 was originally designed to protect homeowners. However, it has actually benefited large commercial property owners the most. When Prop. 13 passed, commercial property paid 40% of the property taxes in California and residential property paid 60%. Now, homeowners pay 72% and commercial properties only pay 28% of the property taxes in California. For more background Prop 13 you can read this:

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — October 25, 2014 @ 5:50 pm

  39. Bottom line, the consumer pays all commercial property’s taxes and all their other expenses.

    Comment by jack — October 25, 2014 @ 7:22 pm

  40. Yes taxes are just another operating expense for a company. Consumers can decide where to spend the monies and as a result they can determine how their tax dollars are collected. So if you believe in an efficient market then competition spreads the pain.

    Comment by Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonAUSD) — October 25, 2014 @ 9:22 pm

  41. Anyone who wants to volunteer to pay higher property taxes can just send in more money; I’m sure they won’t turn you down. Otherwise, just be thankful that you don’t get reassessed at market rates every time someone sells a house in your neighborhood for more money than you paid, or when your spouse passes away.

    Comment by Linda on Otis St. — October 26, 2014 @ 12:33 pm

  42. 41)

    ” So if you believe in an efficient market then competition spreads the pain.”

    Maybe or Maybe Not

    We will Pump you Up…..900 Bil to 4.4 Trillion

    Comment by John — October 27, 2014 @ 5:50 am

  43. Going back to Prop I, I think that the premise of the poster is mostly wrong. The proposal will not hurt the majority of grandmothers, since even if they buy a new house at a different location, they take their Prop 13 low assessed property valuation with them. This was a later amendment that sort of makes the whole idea of fairness sort of … outdated. So unless your grandmother just recently moved to California, she should be OK with this tax.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — October 27, 2014 @ 2:37 pm

  44. #44 It’s not quite that simple. Here is information about Proposition 90, referenced in #44

    Click to access PDF-Proposition-90.pdf

    Comment by A Neighbor — October 27, 2014 @ 9:45 pm

  45. #45 Since Alameda is in Alameda County, it appears that Prop 90 provisions apply.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — October 27, 2014 @ 11:13 pm

  46. For those keeping score at home, the sign is no longer in the window.

    Comment by dave — October 28, 2014 @ 11:48 am

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