Livermore Valley Wine Country is home to more than 50 wineries.
Wineries range from small family-owned operations to historic leaders of the California wine industry. You can enjoy handcrafted wines in an intimate, authentic setting in Livermore Valley. The difference. Unlike other wine regions, with long lines, large crowds, and expensive tasting room fees, most of our wineries still offer a complimentary tasting and a homespun atmosphere. We warmly welcome wine enthusiasts and novices alike. The neighborly ambience of our tasting rooms will never make you feel like a tourist. We treat our guests like old friends, creating a one-of-a-kind experience. Meet the winemaker, get a private tour, barrel taste, and get a firsthand account of the wine-making process. The experience. There are several types of wine-tasting experiences in Livermore Valley wine country, from tasting rooms in downtown to no-frills country wineries and historic tasting rooms. Downtown Livermore's Blacksmith Square has several tasting rooms offering local wines, with restaurants and shopping nearby. Taste in an old barn while the winery owner's dog naps at your feet. Picnic in the countryside at a winery where the owners greet every visitor personally. Sip wine on the lawn, and play a relaxing game of bocce ball. For an upscale experience, with a touch of history, celebrate over 125 years with Concannon Vineyard and Wente Vineyards. Hungry for more? Livermore offers everything from picnic fixings to award-winning fine dining at several wineries throughout the region.
One of the original counties of California, Mendocino County is located on California's north coast above San Francisco Bay Area and west of the Central Valley. Most notable in Mendocino are the distinctive Pacific Ocean coastline, Redwood forests and quality wine production.
Mendocino's history in winegrapes began following the California Gold Rush in the 1850's. Immigrant farmers, in lieu of riches in gold, turned to farming; choosing the slanted, roughed up, sun-drenched hillsides for winegrape growing. Production started small and then grew with successes.
The more southern markets of Napa and Sonoma proved to be tough competition. Their proximity to distribution channels in larger cities like San Francisco gave them an advantage over the locally sold Mendocino wines. Then, during Prohibition, wine production all but stopped in Mendocino. Only one small family vineyard kept production alive, until the 1960's. Mendocino winemakers had their work cut out for them!
Sunstone Winery & Vineyards With its picturesque setting overlooking the Santa Ynez River and mountainous backdrop, Sunstone feels like a bit of Provence in Santa Barbara County. The winery's reputation for big, beautiful reds doesn't hurt the illusion, either. The award-winning lineup of fully organic wines includes wonderful reserve Pinot Noir and Syrah.
The grounds feature sprawling picnic grounds and vine-covered walls. It's a slice of French Countryside life, without all the fussiness. The tasting room is welcoming and the unpretentious staff is eager to discuss the day's pouring, or the weather, or most anything at all.
Tasting fee: $10 Tasting room open daily: 10am-4pm 125 Refugio Road, Santa Ynez, CA (805) 688-9463 www.sunstonewinery.com
Props to Sasha Paulsen over at the Napa Valley Register for penning a
on the top trials, travails and triumphs of the last ten years in
wine. Beginning with a nod to the two economic downturns that
"bookended" the decade, Paulsen explores everything from the departure
of legends (RIP, Robert Mondavi)
to the erection of Tuscan castles
to a move towards producing wines with environmental and sustainable
cues in mind.
Stroll on any afternoon through the Vintage 1870 shopping complex
in Yountville and you'd never know ghosts surround you. The shops,
restaurants, and art galleries give little hint of the building's past.
But the structure is actually living its second life. As the name implies,
the first life was in the late 1800s--more than 130 years ago. Back then,
this building contributed to Napa Valley's original winemaking boom. Today
the old winery enjoys a reincarnation, its winemaking past gone but not
A relationship has transpired over the years between Livermore and the full and vigorous wines of the area. The Livermore Valley serves California as its oldest wine region but what is even more unique and special about the area lies in the connection between the two. Over the decades, a rapport has developed in which one supports the other and one in which each would not be what they are without the help of the other.
In 1997, the city of Livermore adopted the South Livermore Specific Plan which to date has permanently preserved over 5000 acres of vineyards. Livermore has supported the wineries over time and is very proud of the resulting outcome that is now the Livermore Valley Wine Region.
Happily, the more things change in Napa,
the more things stay the same in Napa. And so it goes that as one legendary
winery changes ownership hands, another emerges from the chrysalis to spread
its wings anew.
In September, the Mondavi family will celebrate the renewal
of the Charles Krug Winery--officially unveiling an $8 million restoration
to the two historic national landmark buildings at the winery while also
honoring the patriarch, Peter Mondavi.
There are more than a few ways to interpret the news from
Napa. You might think it ironic. You might think it sad. Or you might think it
adulation. And that's the way I chose to interpret the recently announced
news that Chateau Montelena was purchased by Cos d'Estournel, one of
Bordeaux legendary winemakers.
Texas has long been known for many things - BBQ, the Alamo, Dynasty, a fantastic music festival called South By Southwest (to name just a few) - but until recently something the Lone Star State most certainly was not known for was its wine. On the heels of this year's well-attended Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival (texaswineandfood.org), however, that's all changing.
The recent passing of the man who was widely known as the patriarch of California wine caused us to reflect on just what it means to have been Robert Mondavi. Frequently described as larger than life, the Minnesota-born son of Italian immigrants was a marketing mastermind who can be credited not only with putting California on the global wine map, he also with leaving an indelible mark on the American wine scene. Read on for highlights of Mondavi's most significant contributions to wine as we know it.
By Robert Farmer If you enjoy or even appreciate a little, California wines,
then Robert Mondovi has impacted your life. It may not be in an obvious way,
but the legendary vintner and wine-making pioneer has left his mark so
indelibly upon the California wine industry that even a casual fan of wines
from the Golden State has been influenced in some way by the man.
So as an
industry offers an ongoing toast in honor of the late Mondavi, who passed away
recently at the age of 94, I encourage everybody to raise a glass and salute
him in their own unique way and honor one of life's true visionaries.
Without the life of Robert Mondavi, one could strongly
argue, the California Wine Industry would not exist in its current form. And so
it is more than appropriate in light of his recent passing, that the praise
being showered on the man in his wake be commensurate with his lasting impact.
Perhaps no single person had such a pronounced impact on California Wine Country.
With remarkable vision and diligence Mondavi steered the current irresistible
force that is California Wine.
It was Mondavi who led California wine producers
out of their mass-production jug-wine mentality and into the light of quality,
limited-yield wines that would ultimately be judged on par with the great
vintages of Europe.
In most films, the cast is comprised of seasoned actors who possess a vibrant screen presence and innate ability to charm the audience. But for a handful of movies in which wine itself plays a major role, we might as well add "mouthwatering" to the list of qualities a cast may claim. Encompassing major motion pictures, documentaries and even a mockumentary, our list of top films for wine lovers covers lots of territory - affording viewers plenty to digest when it comes to wine and the silver screen.
Blame it on Ravenswood. With their irresistible Zinfandel, Cab and Chardonnay flowing freely, the audience was well primed for 'Corked', one of the 75 films featured at this week's 11th Annual Sonoma Valley Film Fest. Created by local winemaking millennial/GenXers Russ Clendenen and Paul Hawley, Corked leaves no stone unturned in a hilarious spoof on the wine industry. While Sideways took aim at the wine tourist, this little gem nails the insider's perspective.
When it comes to sustainable wine practice there are those who talk the talk and there are those who walk the walk. For those interested in know more about the latter, there is Kunde Estate Winery & Vineyards (www.kunde.com). The winery that has been a staple in California's Wine Country for a century has also been farming sustainably for five generations. And they are more than happy to show you how it works.
Once upon a time, there was a wine so big, so bold and so outrageously
outsized that its fans felt ashamed admitting it was their favorite.
"Oh no," naysayers would insist, "a wine that big just can't be good
with food. Why, it's so ridiculously over the top as to hardly even
resemble what I think of as a wine."
Despairingly, lovers of Petite Sirah would retreat to enjoy their
prodigious darling in the privacy of their own homes, away from the
prying eyes of fellow drinkers who insisted that a wine must have
impeccable balance - meaning it could harbor neither outsized fruit nor
high-octane alcohol - in order to be enjoyed.
they're gnarled and twisted with age, a little hunched over and not at
all interested in new-fangled ideas like, say, trellises and grafting,
there's still plenty of life left in the wise, old vines of Jessie's
Grove. They've made it 115 years, after all.
Given names like Yoda and Royal-tee, these relatively ancient vines
are the oldest in Lodi--and among the oldest in the state. Planted in
the late 1800's, not long after the madness of the Gold Rush and some
of the earliest plantings by the viticultural Johnny Appleseed of the
California's Central Valley--Captain Charles Weber--the vines continue to
produce intensely flavored, highly prized Zinfandel and Carignane wines.
more passionate adherents got some wind knocked out of them in 2002, when
the premium wine grape they described as "America's own"
turned out to be European - and from a never-heard-of-it neighborhood
In the years leading up to this discovery, Zin fans
had become increasingly creative in defense of their chosen vine. When
a southern Italian grape called Primitivo turned out to be genetically
almost identical to Zinfandel, some Zin fans came up with a "reverse immigration" theory:
the American grape was so good, they said, that Italian-Americans must
have exported it back home to their winemaking cousins. (As if Italy,
with more than 2,000 indigenous grape varieties, needed another one.)
of wine tradition are ending in a single generation. In just the past
few years we've been given premium wine in boxes and cans, $160
Cabernet with screwcaps and imported wine named for small marsupials -
and it's all wonderful. Wine is good for us and the earth, and today's
trends toward an easier, friendlier wine experience are all positive.
But just a short time ago, almost none of them were on the
horizon. In fact, some of the grapes we now take for granted were still
struggling for a place in American wine.
Syrah. In the early 1970s, there were a few Syrah vines scattered here
and there in northern California, but they were usually mixed in
anonymously with other varieties. No one made anything with "Syrah" on
the label. The University of California at Davis had vines which it had
propagated from cuttings taken from a famed French vineyard in the
northern Rhône Valley, but the faculty was divided on whether Syrah was
worth planting in California. So the vines remained in the university's
For generations around the world, families made their
own wines, sometimes tending small vineyards behind their homes
or just checking on a ceramic crock of fermenting juice hiding
in a closet. It was a tradition for everyone--from mom and dad,
to the smallest children--to be involved in everything from growing
the grapes, to crushing and bottling (or jug-ing, perhaps) these
rustic wines. Today, many small-production, boutique wineries
continue that tradition in Napa.
Though technology has made the
process easier, and many hire some of the valley's most prestigious
winemakers to help craft exceptional, rather than rustic wines,
the homegrown feeling is much the same. Walking into tiny tasting
rooms, often run by the family themselves, the air is less
of a corporate machine, and more of an extended living room where
visitors can casually sip a glass of wine while chatting with
the folks who know the wine from the inside, out.
now anyone who has been paying attention has heard the details in the
discussion about screw caps. Once vilified in fine wine circles as the
bellwether of bad taste, winemakers and wine lovers alike now embrace
the ordinary screw cap. The reasons for this are myriad. But the
practice, supported by evidence and sound science, still have yet to
gain widespread acceptance in the wine industry.
It's one of the most
heart-warming wine stories of recent times: a tale of love and loyalty,
family tradition, and the perilous passage through deserts of neglect
to reach the lush garden of commercial success. The hero of this romantic
journey? A forgotten prince known as Petite Sirah.
Petite Sirah was born of French parents in the 1800s.
His father was Syrah, long renowned for the famed red wines of Hermitage
Rôtie. His mother was the less noble but passing fair Peloursin.
Yet somehow they abandoned or lost their offspring. He finally turned
up in Livermore Valley east of San Francisco, planted by Irish immigrant
James Concannon in 1883. But no one knew who he was.
federal government late last year approved the establishment
of the San Bernabe American Viticultural Area (AVA), located
in southern Monterey County. Delicato Family Vineyards applied
for the 24,796-acre area that includes its famed San Bernabe
This is the "the world's most diverse" vineyard,
according to Delicato. Almost two dozen grape varieties are
grown there, including: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah/shiraz,
sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, barbera, gewürztraminer,
white riesling, lagrein and valdiguié. More than 5,580
acres are planted to wine grapes, which is divided into 135
unique vineyard blocks, each farmed individually to maximize
Chardonnay's attraction is like that of a movie star.
It's the most widely planted premium wine grape in America, it
has millions of fans and it shines in any setting--from backyard
barbeques to presidential dinner parties. In fact, one of the surest
signs that Chardonnay currently leads the fine-wine parade in that people
are starting to jump off the bandwagon. While some of them simply seek
a change (a trend known as ABC--"Anything but Chardonnay"),
others have a bone to pick. Chardonnay, they complain, just doesn't
taste like Chardonnay anymore.
There are some who think that Americans should get past an obsession with Chardonnay and
start drinking other white wines, such as Viognier, as a white wine of choice.
Granted, many of the people who put this thought forward have a vested interest -- they
make Viognier and would like nothing else than to be in the position of not being able to
make enough of this wine, made from the white Rhône grape variety of the same name. But
having tasted through a number of Viogniers from around the United States recently, I'm
beginning to see the light as well.
Pinot Noir may be one grape, but it has developed two distinct personalities in this country.
They have as much to do with each other as a string quartet and heavy metal; both are music,
but one was designed to decorate the status quo and the other to shake it up. That's how it
is with Pinot Noir in America.
Thirty years later, how do California wines stand up against
their French counterparts? You make the call.
Thirty years ago, a young British wine retailer had the
big idea to put a group of unknown Napa wines up against some
the Grand-Cru wines of France in a blind tasting. So utterly
outrageous was the premise that almost no one, but a single journalist
from Time Magazine, bothered to even attend the event. At the
time the idea that these young, New World vintners--including
Chateau Montelena and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars--would even be
considered in the same class as the Bordeaux and White Burgundies
of France was utterly implausible. C'est impossible.