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Drink Like a Wine Pro in Livermore Valley

Ian White | August 26, 2014 | Story Wine and Spirits

Let's say you've tasted wines in Napa more times than you can count (or remember, wink wink). Time to get off the beaten path. How about a region that is particularly underrated? Try Livermore. It's home to more than 50 wineries—the highest number since Prohibition. With some on-the-ground research and a little help from our friends at the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association, we planned the ideal day trip:

Late morning
Start your day with a crash course in wine blending at the Wente Winemaker’s Studio, the newest wine experience in Livermore Valley, from one of its oldest and most respected families. This is your opportunity to blend your own wine and gain an understanding of what has gone into the wines you’re about to taste throughout the day.

From there, arrange for a barrel room tasting at 3 Steves Winery, winner of the 2014 Chronicle's “Red Sweepstakes,” a top-notch award from one of the largest competitions in the country, and comes right on the heels of a big 2013 “Best Red” win for Livermore Valley’s McGrail Vineyards.

By this point you’re probably getting hungry, and buzzed, so stop for lunch at Garre CafĂ©’s new location for some simple, tasty local foods. Try the chicken ciabatta sandwich or caprese salad, and play a little bocce ball while you sober up. Or try Underdog Wine Bar at Concannon Vineyards for refined bites like the Ricotta Gnudi with pea basil pesto, cherry tomatoes, pea shoots, and parmesan.

After lunch, Occasio Winery offers an expansive list of delicate, well-made wines. The telos, sauvignon blanc and petite sirah are the primary standouts, but you can’t go wrong with this balanced portfolio.

Newcomer Cuda Ridge Wines pretty much made it onto this itinerary for their 1970s purple Plymouth Barracuda. Ok, that and their down to earth nature and bold, silky wines. Make sure to try the big merlot and spicy malbec.

Las Positas Vineyards recently won an award at the State Fair for their tempranillo, and is a prime spot to chill and take in the historic view. If you happen to be in the market for an event space, this Tuscan-style winery was literally built for weddings and parties.

If you’re still thirsty, scoot over to Steven Kent Winery and their sister winery on the same property, La Rochelle. While the tasting rooms are understated and casual, the wines, from zesty sauvignon blanc to chocolaty cabernet franc and earthy soft pinots, are perhaps the most complex in Livermore Valley.

Given the close proximity of wineries in the area, you may have time for one more and Retzlaff, Darcie Kent, and Page Mill are all great.

Finish your day with dinner at local favorite Double Barrel Wine Bar and the summer curried chicken salad, “hella wicked West Coast lobster roll,” or daily flatbread. Other highly recommended options are the Winemaker’s Pour House, which is right downtown and the spot to go for small bites with fun comedy nights. And Sauced is a hip place with beer, spirits, and all kinds of creative barbeque options with slaw, baked beans, and cornbread on the side.

Plan a day hike around Mount Diablo State Park, Nobel-Prize-winning playwright, Eugene O’Neill’s Tao House, the Blackhawk Auto Museum, and the charming downtown shops on Hartz and Prospect Avenues. You might also stop at the Livermore Premium Outlets or catch a play or concert at the Bankhead Theater.

If you don’t want to schlepp it back to the city, stay the night at the Purple Orchid Inn & Spa.

Upcoming Seasonal celebrations
Harvest Wine Celebration: Labor Day Weekend. 40+ wineries (Sunday, 8/31)
Sunset Sip & Shop: Livermore Premium Outlets (Saturday, 9/27)

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