Wine Country Experiences Livermore Valley

SITUATED ON THE SUNNY SIDE of the Bay, Livermore Valley wine country has a colorful history that began with Spanish missionaries in the 1760s.

Published: 7/01/2016

SITUATED ON THE SUNNY SIDE of the Bay, Livermore Valley wine country has a colorful history that began with Spanish missionaries in the 1760s. This rolling region is attributed with many “firsts,” in fact it was awarded America’s first international Gold medal for a wine in 1889 at the International Paris Exposition. Today, Livermore Valley is delightfully easy to reach from the city by car, train, and BART. When you arrive, you’ll find yourself instantly immersed in vineyards that dip and climb through picturesque canyons, peaks, and ridges. Besides 40-plus wineries with more on the way, Livermore Valley has great towns, fun outdoor activities, and plenty of places to spend the night and enjoy a real wine country getaway.

Just chillin’

The friendly tasting room for The NC Collection: Nottingham Cellars is now open on Thursday and Friday evenings until 8 with live music on Thursday nights from June through October. There’s also live music on the patio every Saturday afternoon. There is plenty of seating on the patio, so bring a picnic lunch to enjoy with the wines. The winery welcomes well-behaved dogs, especially those who appreciate good music. The Evening in the Vineyards Concert Series at Las Positas Vineyards is held on the first and third Fridays of each month, May through October, with fresh gourmet pizzas you can order in advance. The winery also hosts a special Saturday tasting and picnics spring through fall on its beautiful grounds under its iconic old heritage oak tree. For an unforgettable evening under the stars, check out the calendar for the 30th season of The Concerts at Wente Vineyards. Wente’s natural outdoor amphitheater is beautiful. Guests sit at round tables with tablecloths and enjoy a delectable pairing of the winery’s offerings with fine cuisine as they enjoy world-class performances. Often, when night falls, there are stars overhead as well. For a relaxing wine country lunch followed by a game of bocce, head to Garré Vineyard & Winery. This family-owned and -operated winery is all about food and hospitality. Its charming restaurant, Café Garré, features delicious fresh breads and family recipes passed down from generations. Nearby, the tasting room and bocce courts await. The restaurant serves dinner too. Purple Orchid Wine Country Resort and Spa provides an utterly relaxing atmosphere with quiet, luxurious rooms, made-to-order breakfasts, and a little gem of a spa out back. Make an appointment for a Signature Aroma massage that uses a blend of essential oils and natural extracts with the resort’s own estate olive oil. About 40 acres of Manzanilla olive trees grow on the property and each year they are harvested and pressed to make Handprints Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Terrific tastings

The Steven Kent Winery offers two memorable tasting experiences. Open daily, the Barrel Room features the Steven Kent Winery Cabernets and Bordeaux varietals. On weekends, the Reserve Room opens its doors to wine enthusiasts eager to sample the winery’s small lot and library wines. Both experiences require advance reservations. For a change of pace, try beer tasting. A collection of the area’s craft breweries, taprooms, and restaurants have created the Tri-Valley Beer Trail. At each stop, you can taste local beers from ultra-lite brews to IPAs to brown ale. There are seasonal favorites too. Many of the craft brewers offer tasting flights and growlers to take home and refill on your next visit. Downtown Livermore has an abundance of exciting food and wine offerings. A great way to discover them is with a tasting and cultural walking tour led by Tastes of the Neighborhood Food Tours. It’s amazing how much you’ll find in less than a mile. At each stop, you’ll sample local wines or culinary creations and learn more about Livermore, past and present. Boasting more than 150 wines by the flight, glass, and bottle, Double Barrel Wine Bar gives you the chance to expand your palate with an award-winning wine list and a seasonal, tapas-style menu that ranges from flatbread to paella. Sample a regional Malbec alongside a Malbec from Argentina and another from France while you listen to live music—there’s a great artist or band playing nightly.

Wine savvy

For a hands-on, interactive, educational winemaking experience, look no further than The Winemakers Studio at Wente. This friendly little campus offers a variety of seasonally inspired classes and seminars. Sharpen your sensory skills, hone your palate, and uncork your inner winemaker. These experiences are fun to do solo, as a couple, or with a small group of friends. On an ongoing basis Tenuta Vineyards offers themed interactive cooking classes on how to make delicious dishes and pair them with great wine. In each class, students roll up their sleeves and engage in hands-on learning, sampling ingredients and wine along the way. In the heart of downtown Livermore is First Street Wine Company, featuring hundreds of wines, each tasted and approved by its owner, Mike Allen. But you don’t have to rely solely on Mike’s judgement. The wine shop’s tasting bar features select wines for you to sample each day. Comfortable seating is provided so you can enjoy a relaxing tasting experience.

Picnic perfect

Rolling hills and vista views greet you at Cedar Mountain Winery & Port Works, making you glad you thought to bring along a picnic. Settle in at one of the picnic tables out front and savor the views and the wines. This boutique winery specializes in Port wine, so be sure to save room for a glass of your favorite with fruit and cheese. On weekends, 3 Steves Winery is open for tasting at the very top of Greenville Road. Guests are encouraged to come prepared with a picnic lunch and enjoy the stunning 360-degree views of the Livermore Valley. The whole family is welcome—including pets! Plenty of shade trees, long picnic tables with benches, and a rolling lawn bordered by a creek set the stage for a great picnic at Fenestra Winery. Inside the historic winery building a nice range of varietals are available to taste and purchase.

Fun tours

The Livermore Wine Trolley is a great way to experience Livermore Valley wine country. The new Wine Shuttle is a system of trollies that start in downtown Livermore and stop every 25 minutes at a list of wineries around Livermore Valley. You wear a trolley wristband that entitles you to all-day access to the trolley as well as discounts at the wineries and several downtown restaurants. Cyclists love the rolling hills of Livermore Valley wine country. If you’d like to pedal from vineyard to vineyard, All Together Mobile Bike Rentals has you covered. The owner meets you at a mutually agreed upon location and outfits you from his trailer with a bicycle (tandems and cruisers are available), lock, helmet, and information about the area and which roads to take. After an exhilarating day, he will meet you again to retrieve your gear. Livermore Tour Co. offers several Segway tours that include an orientation, a scenic ride from one winery to a second and back again, with tastings at both wineries. The Ravenswood + Winery Tour takes you on a beautiful ride from a winery to Ravenswood Historical Site where you are led by a docent through the enchanting 1885-era Victorian country estate and gardens. Upon your return to the winery, you’ll enjoy a delightful wine tasting experience.

As seen in the issue Summer/Fall 2016 of Touring & Tasting Magazine.