A quick winter wine tasting trip to the Livermore Valley, and wine tasting in the Livermore AVA seemed like a good way to break the monotony. A small group of us are wine tasting and cycling* here in Livermore this weekend. Wine grapes have been cultivated here since 1882 with the founding of Cresta Blanca Winery. In fact, its first vintage (1884) won the Grand Prix at the 1889 Paris Exposition, becoming the first California wine to win a competition in France.
In the 1960s, Livermore had as much area under vine as Napa Valley, led of course, by Wente Vineyards, with 700,000 cases annually. Wente and Concannon were both established in 1882. Raindrop Wine is the third largest producer. The rest are mostly new and considerably smaller. These wineries include Murrieta’s Well, The Winemakers’ Studio, Steven Kent Winery, Wood Family Vineyards, McGrail Vineyards, Cuda Ridge Winery, Retzlaff Winery, Fenestra Winery, Occasio Winery, Stony Ridge/Crooked Vine Cellars, Longevity Wines, Rodrigue Molyneaux Winery, 3 Steves Winery, Rosa Fierro Cellars, Big White House/John Evan Cellars, Charles R Vineyards, Garre’ Winery, Ehrenberg Cellars, The Singing Winemaker, Chouinard Vineyards, Elliston Vineyards, Las Positas Vineyards, Dante Robere Vineyards, Ruby Hill Winery, Rubino Estates, Bodegas Aguirre, Nottingham Cellars, Vasco Urbano Wine Company, Page Mill Winery, Bent Creek Winery and Nella Terra Cellars.
We went to the three that are highlighted.
Though I buy and consume my fair share of wine, I admit some unfamiliarity with Livermore wines. So, after this weekend, I hope that changes. The climate here is conducive to the Petit Sirah, Livermore’s best-known red wine. But the area is conducive to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, and Rhone varieties.
Wente, of course is the 250 pound bully. But I have enjoyed their summer concerts, golf course, and restaurant in the past. Wente was the first winery to import chardonnay cuttings from France. Experts say the Wente clone is responsible for 75% of all California chardonnays. Concannon is best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, which James Concannon brought back from Bordeaux in 1893, after his vineyard was damaged by pests. A newcomer to the Vallet is McGrail Vineyards, which began in 2008. Their small batch approach has resulted in multiple awards in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
We will start with lunch (very nice surprise!)at Garre’ Vineyards, then move on to Wood Vineyards. Our third stop will be Page Mill Winery, just a 3 wood away. But when we are in unfamiliar territory, everything looks good. The Livermore Valley has a Napa Valley feel to it. In fact, it reminds me of the Napa Valley of the late 60s and early 70s.
We found a very nice sparkling wine at Garre’, and a definite keeper, a Sauvignon Blanc at Page Mill. I also bought some of their BYOB White wine. You probably want to know why they call it their BYOB (available in both a red and a white wine). Both are blends, as you might imagine. But the BYOB comes from a special program. On the third Sunday of every month, wine club members can bring their empty bottles, and have them refilled for about $10 a bottle!!! Clever idea.
In the meantime, the weather has turned spectacular and sunny.
- we opted to see the van Gogh Immersive exhibit in the City instead.