Recently, my partner and I were at Que Syrah on West Portal Avenue tasting some wonderful small production winery offerings. Tasting these unknown wines tends to put me in the zone of experimentation, which is how a discussion of wine tasting in Livermore, CA came about. There’s been some buzz about Livermore Valley for a while and how it’s becoming a destination for wine tasting. Interestingly, the Livermore Valley has been producing wine since the mid 1800’s. Trying new wines, meeting the wine makers and learning about how a bottle of wine comes to fruition has always been fun; the decision was made to expand our horizons beyond the Avenue and the usual Napa and Sonoma trips and give it a try.
The experiment started at the Wente Vineyard for lunch. (wentevineyards.com) Wente is most definitely NOT a small production winery, creating approximately 350,000 cases per year, much of it sold in grocery stores. The setting for the Wente Restaurant is beautiful; lunch was served on the patio under a shade tree to enjoy the summer weather. This is the same spot, where each year, there is a world-class summer concert series with big-name headliners such as Don Henley, Willie Nelson and Harry Connick, Jr. Wente’s wines run the gamut from Chardonnays, Cabernets, Orange Muscats and Ports-which we enjoyed in the tasting room after lunch. Several of these offerings made their way back to San Francisco.
Murietta’s Well was the second destination, a boutique winery owned by Wente. (murrietaswell.com) The Semillon Chardonnay blend was really good (which we tried at lunch), so we were excited to try their other wines. Their tasting room and facility is beautiful, perfect for wedding receptions and the like. Of the wines we tasted, their Chardonnay and Port appealed to us the most.
The third and final wine stop was Steven Kent Winery. (StevenKent.com) This boutique winery is operated by the winemaker, Steven Mirassou with their focus mainly on Cabernets. Steven stopped by our table to welcome us and give the low down on his wine. He’s very animated and into his creations; drilling down to the detail of ‘clones’, essentially, hybrids of grapes that are used to create his wine. The winery produces one Chardonnay (Merrillie) which wasn’t available to taste, but a bottle was purchased anyway, given that they were almost sold out of it and their Cabernet was so good. How winemakers can remember the taste of each grape from year to year and make wine is beyond me, but I’m glad they do it.
The Livermore experience was truly worth the trip; it is a cute, neat town; North (and South) Livermore Ave. and First Street are the main drags with some nice shops and restaurants. The wine tasting experience was a lot of fun-the people are friendly (both the patrons and the tasting room staffs), the wineries were easy to get to and pretty close to each other. Our trip was made during the middle of the week, so some wineries weren’t open. Livermore is closer than either Sonoma or Napa and is a very comfortable day trip-if you stay the night, you won’t have to worry about drinking and driving. To get a copy of the wine map, go to lvwine.org/area_map.php Have a great time-it’s worth the trip!