California’s Livermore Valley Wine Country is a short trip from either San Francisco or San Jose and offers over 50 local wineries and tasting rooms spanning more than 5,000 acres of expansive, picturesque views.
Livermore Valley is located within California’s Central Coast wine region, and proudly boasts one of the original appellations given to wine regions of the United States by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, or BATF. The region is noted for its unique, gravelly soil, which provides excellent drainage, and the marine winds which blow into the valley from San Francisco Bay daily. The valley’s east to west orientation makes its climate unique among most of the California wine regions. The foothills and coastal mountains that frame the valley to the east trap the cool ocean breezes, and create a climate that is ideal for grape growing.
Wineries in the region span from small, 100-case local operations, to 400,00-case commercial growers. As one of California’s oldest wine growing regions, many Livermore Valley wineries are now in their fifth generation of operations. Spanish, Rhone, and Italian varieties of grapes complement more traditional varietals such as Merlot and Chardonnay.
Designated drivers are suggested for those planning to visit the tasting rooms. Several local transportation companies provide tours for groups of all sizes, in trolley cars, limousines, town cars, or chartered buses. The Niles Canyon Railway operates during the summer. The historic train serves several Livermore Valley wines, served by wine educator Steve Ferree of the Wine Pro Guy blog, and partnered with hors d’oeuvres. The vintage train runs from Sunol to Niles through the Livermore Valley wine region.
History: Wine grapes were planted in the Livermore Valley by Spanish missionaries as far back as the 1760’s. The first wine grapes planted by California settlers looking for a proper wine growing region, were planted in the 1840’s, by Robert Livermore himself. The British-born rancher once owned most of the land that makes up the city of Livermore today. Among the first commercial wineries was Cresta Blanca Vineyards, established in 1882 by Charles Wetmore, who was commissioner of the California Viticultural Commission at the time. By 1889 Wetmore’s vineyards had placed Livermore Valley on the map by winning the Grand Prix at the International Paris Exposition with their dry white wine. As one of the oldest wine regions in California, Livermore Valley was instrumental in influencing California wine culture, and has been home to several “firsts,” including Wente Vineyards’s first varietally-labeled chardonnay in 1936, and Concannon Vineyard’s varietally-labeled Petit Syrah in 1961.
In the early 1980’s the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association was formed, and soon after had designated the borders of Livermore Valley as an official Viticultural Area. The number of wineries in the region has steadily grown from 13 in 1993, to 25 by 2003, to over 50 today.
The Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association sponsors a variety of annual events. Wine Wednesdays takes place weekly. Each week a different Livermore Valley winery stays open from 5-8pm for after-work tastings. Spring’s Barrel Tasting Weekend takes place each March. Participating wineries sample wine from the barrel, most of which are still in development. Local wineries decorate the main roads with painted barrels, and the weekend kicks off with Wine Country Brunches, a partnership with area restaurants. Wine and Wags is a summer event, now in its third year, which partners local animal rescues with wineries to showcase pets available for adoption, and allows guests to bring their four legged friends to the tasting rooms.
September hosts The Livermore Valley Wine Foundation’s annual fundraiser for underserved children in San Francisco’s East Bay. The event offers dinner, live music, and silent auction items ranging from wine, to exclusive tastings, private winery dinners and wine vacations. Many of the region’s wineries participate in the City of Livermore’s annual air show, located at the Livermore Airport each October. Holidays in the Vineyards takes place the first weekend of each December. The annual event allows each winery to showcase their holiday décor, and guests are encouraged to donate toys at any winery to support the local Toys for Tots program.
What’s Nearby: In addition to the wineries, Livermore Valley is home to three golf courses, the San Francisco Premium Outlets, and is surrounded by several hotels, resorts and spas. Restaurants in the area offer everything from fast food burgers to upscale fine dining.
3585 Greenville Road Suite 4 Livermore, CA 94550, website, Phone: 925-447-9463