Looking at Livermore

Notes from a Day Trip to Livermore

 


Liver what? It’s that great wine region you’ve never heard of. Less than an hour from San Francisco. A growing wine scene based on a century and a half of history. Great climate, friendly people, tasting rooms that are not filled to capacity with people you don’t want to be rubbing shoulders with. You know, one of those regions that is truly up and coming and makes you think of the wine business as it was twenty or thirty years ago. Livermore, That’s it.

OK, so maybe I shouldn't go so far as to say that Livermore is the wine world of the past. Their wines do have some of the attributes of less modern wines, in a good way, but the industry here is entirely up to date. Great wines, modern facilities, so why do we hear so little about Livermore? It’s a valid question and one worth asking. Simply put it was zoning. Yes zoning, which seems improbable but until recently the vast tracts of Livermore’s agricultural land could not be subdivided into lots smaller than 100 acres. What was a noble effort at preserving agricultural land and the lifestyle that accompanies it was simply not good for growing the wine business.
You see the wine business, or at least a lot of the growth in the wine business, is driven by smaller operations and people living the dream of becoming gentleman farmers. That is not entirely true, but in a place like Livermore it most certainly is. Consider this. If you have a couple of millions and want make wine you could afford 100 acres in Livermore and all the expenses that would come with it, but if you’re that flush we know where you’re going. Napa most likely or perhaps Sonoma. On the other hand if you’re looking for a big spread to add to your production of Chardonnay, the Central Valley is probably where you’ll be buying 100s of acres, or perhaps in Lodi. But if you’re scraping together enough dough to make your dream a reality, you ain’t buying 100 acres nowhere, no how.

And Livermore was, and perhaps remains that place where dreams can come true, but not with 100 acre zoning. That is why Livermore remains obscure, though it’s less than an hour from San Francisco, produces great wines, and is a lovely place to visits. Simply put, until recently there just was not a lot to see here.

All of that is changing. Today the zoning requirements have been lowered to 20 acres, allowing many more small producers to move in and begin to take advantage of what Livermore has to offer. Vineyards in Livermore tend to be planted on a large valley floor or the gently rolling hills that frame the valley. Mechanical maintenance of the vines and harvesting of the fruit is easy and often practiced here, allowing Livermore wines to remains great values.

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Comments

  • For you golfers out there, the Wente golf course is not to be missed. Nice to follow up golf with a trip to the tasting room and/or lunch or dinner.

    Jan 29, 2014 at 1:39 PM


  • Don't miss Steven Kent for their awesome Cabernets and divine Lineage blend, Caddis (blockbuster new brand), Nottingham Cellars (rockstar Rhones and fantastic Petite Sirah), Occasio (just won Best of Class for their superb 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, $40 - $50 category in the 2014 SF Chronicle Competition) or 3 Steves (Best Red of Show at 2014 SF Chron) - you will be impressed with the friendly, welcoming and unpretentious atmosphere at these and many other smaller producers in this region. The wines are amazing and well-priced. There's a lot to love about Livermore!

    Jan 29, 2014 at 4:42 PM


  • Snooth User: napagirl68
    Hand of Snooth
    87843 2,846

    Sorry, GdP, but you I think you really missed the best ones! Living here, and socializing in the local wine world, I do not seem to be in the minority with my opinions. And every wine or winery has its fans... there are even those that love 2 buck chuck and swear by it- so it is very individual. I have given page mill a few tries, but no go. Wente is just ok, and the visitor center is probably good for tourists. They also mass distribute some wines, so that is good for those outside of CA. There are many more wineries here that demonstrate the "wide range" of wines from Livermore. The poster above is spot on.

    Jan 29, 2014 at 10:57 PM


  • Snooth User: vin0vin0
    Hand of Snooth
    357808 7,413

    I visited the Livermore area back in 2011 and had a very enjoyable time. I'll second the rec's on Steven Kent and La Rochelle and will also recommend visiting the McGrail (smaller) and Concannon (larger) wineries. McGrail was fun and relaxed and the folks there were really friendly. Concannon produces great a petite sirah and I really enjoyed their wine bar.

    GdP, we'll be looking forward to a tour of the Alameda hot spots next.

    Jan 31, 2014 at 7:07 PM


  • Snooth User: napagirl68
    Hand of Snooth
    87843 2,846

    vin0vin0, I can recommend Rock Wall in Alameda. Shauna Rosenblum (Kent's daughter) is winemaker. There are mostly zins, and I am not drinking a lot of zins now, but their others wines are nice, and she makes a decent Pinot from RRV. Will actually be there next weekend to pickup wineclub and the case I just bought- as a wineclub member, during your birthday month, you get all wine 50% off.. whoo hoo!

    Jan 31, 2014 at 10:27 PM


  • Snooth User: vin0vin0
    Hand of Snooth
    357808 7,413

    NG, thanks, I also visited the Rock Wall winery back in 2011. Had a great time chatting and tasting with Roger Rosenblum. Very laid back atmosphere and some great zins. Back to Livermore, here are a couple more places I was able to visit during the week I was out there, can't remember having anything bad - John Christopher Cellars, McGrail Vineyards and Winery and Ruby Hill Winery. Also, JC Cellars and Dashe in Oakland were great.

    Feb 01, 2014 at 10:31 AM


  • Snooth User: wooby98
    312902 4

    That's so funny I was just tell my husband and my resent trip to Livermore. I meet my sister and nephew there and we went wine tasting. ( My sisters first time ever. I think I've got her hooked.). We had time to visit three wineries. Garre, Eagle Ridge/Dante Robere and Rois-Lovell. I loved Garre and Eagle Ridge wonderful wines and great people. It every much reminded be of the Napa Valley atmosphere 20 years ago. I bought a couple of cases at both places. Didn't care for Rios-Lovell as much wines were nice just not the homey feeling. Love your story getting a bit more history on the area. We had a great time can't wait to get my husband to go for a trip.

    Feb 04, 2014 at 4:30 PM


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