SAN FRANCISCO, June 26, 2015 – The San Francisco Bay area is chock full of excellent choices when it comes to artisan wine, beer and food. Often locals and visitors alike think first of Napa and Sonoma for wine tasting, Sonoma County and San Francisco for craft beer and of Yountville or San Francisco for food.
Let’s turn our attention away from the norm and what we know about these fine artisan regions, and focus on a lesser known area, the Livermore/Tri-Valley area. This region holds over 50 wineries, five craft beer houses and countless artisan restaurants. From charming downtown areas to rolling hill vineyards, here is your guide to the Livermore/Tri-Valley area.
First, a little education. The Tri-Valley is an area east of San Francisco in the East Bay and consists of the five cities: Livermore, San Ramon, Danville, Dublin and Pleasanton. The Tri-Valley is only 33 miles east of the Golden Gate Bridge, so it is one of the closest areas outside of San Francisco in which you can wine- and beer-taste.
Perhaps you’ve already tried the bold and luscious Cabs of Napa Valley, the elegant Pinot Noirs of the Sonoma Coast, and the robust Zinfandels of Dry Creek and Lodi. The Livermore wine region is one of the oldest in California and is home to over 50 wineries. Spanish missionaries first planted grapes in Livermore Valley in the 1760s. Robert Livermore was the first to plant vines for commercial use in the 1840s (you can see where the town gets its name).
There were three families that really established Livermore as a premier winegrowing region back in the 1880s: Concannon, Wente and Wetmore, two of which are still in operation today. Livermore’s weather is Mediterranean-like and the soils, Bordeaux-like, which makes for a very interesting combination. What grows here best are Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as other robust red varietals like Petite Sirah, Syrah and Zinfandel.
Livermore is synonymous with firsts in the wine industry. Wente was the first to bottle varietal labeled Chardonnay, and the Wente Chardonnay clone can be found all around the world. Concannon was the first to produce the Petite Sirah (commonly called Durif). Family patriarch Jim Concannon, named after his great- grandfather who founded the winery in 1883, first bottled this big juicy bomb of a wine back in 1968 with his brother Joe.
Since then the Livermore winegrowing region has continued a steady pace of growth and now features over 50 wineries. Here are a few not to miss, in addition to Concannon and Wente:
Concannon Vineyard & Winery — Try Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve Merlot and a flight of Cabernet Sauvignon (including their Mother Vine), Conservancy Crimson & Clover, and don’t leave without trying Captain Joe’s Reserve Petite Sirah. Come to taste and stay for a snack at the Underdog Wine Bar. Check out their active event calendar to find something cool and unique to do. Open daily. Location: 4590 Tesla Road, Livermore, Calif.
Wente Vineyards — A trip to Wente wouldn’t be complete without trying their Chardonnay. They make quite a few; try many different ones to find one that suites your palate. If you visit in the summer, check out the outdoor concert series too. Open daily. Location: there are two locations in Livermore; be sure to head to the main estate, where the restaurant and golf course are for a full sensory experience. 5050 Arroyo Road, Livermore, Calif.
Steven Kent Winery: According to Steve Heimoff from Wine Enthusiast, “Steven Kent is producing today’s greatest Livermore Cabernets, wine that hearken back to the valley’s roots as one of California’s best wine regions.” Tasting suggestions include “The Premier” Cabernet Sauvignon, BDX Collection Cabernet Franc, Ghielmetti Vineyard, “Lola” Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend. Open Daily. Location: 5443 Tesla Road, Livermore, Calif.
Thomas Coyne Winery: Produces award-winning Rhone Style and Bordeaux wines and one of the few Petit Verdots that won’t knock you over with epic tannins. Tom is always at the winery. He is easy to spot; just look for the tall guy wearing a Penn State ball cap. Tom believes in producing good wines at affordable prices. Open Saturdays and Sundays only. No appointment required. Tasting suggestions: Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Mourvédre and Petit Verdot. Location: 2405 Research Drive, Livermore, Calif.
Nottingham Cellars: A relative newcomer to Livermore Valley, Nottingham Cellars is a boutique winery with unique winemaking practices that are a hybrid of old world and new age techniques. By keeping their production small they are able to have an intimate experience with every barrel in their cellar. The tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday or by appointment. Tasting suggestions: Supremacy Bordeaux Blend, Micro-Lot Reserve Malbac Ghielmetti Vineyard and Vineyard Designate Cabernet Sauvignon Harris Tesla Vineyard. You can also taste the Vasco Urbano wines at Notthingham. Tasting suggestions: Riva Vineyard Viognier, “The Sheriff” GSM, and “Norm” Marina Ranch Grenache Noir. Location: 2245 C S. Vasco Road, Livermore, Calif.
Murietta’s Well: With a deeply rooted history and rich winemaking heritage, Murrieta’s Well promises a unique and unforgettable experience for all. This boutique tasting room is actually part of the Wente Collection, but quite different wines and worth a visit. Tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday and by appointment. Tasting suggestions: “The Whip” White Blend, “The Spur” Red Blend, Los Tesoros Semillon/Chardonnay Blend, and Los Tesoros Cabernet Franc. Location: 3005 Mines Road, Livermore, Calif.
CRAFT BEER TASTING GUIDE
The Tri-Valley is also well known for craft breweries. Quietly over the past few year it has racked up quite a few quality producers. Nearly all of these craft beer houses are still family owned and masterfully craft ales, porters, stouts and pilsners of such a wide range, they will please any beer enthusiast.
Schubros Brewery, San Ramon: This East Bay brewery was founded in San Ramon in 2011 by four beer and food industry veterans who, together, possess nearly 50 years of industry experience. At Schubros, they are committed to hand crafting high quality brews. From the hops in the beer to the glass they serve it in, they tend to every detail. So each time you visit the taproom, you can expect a fresh brewski in its optimal glass. You can purchase beers to go as well as fill growlers. Tasting suggestions: Nico Wheat, Little Devil Belgian Pale Ale, 680 IPA and Rock City Amber Ale. But suggest trying them all. Get a boot and settle in. Location: 12893 Alcosta Blvd, San Ramon, Calif.
Eight Bridges Brewery, Livermore: Eight Bridges is a family affair. From Justin (son) brewmaster to George (dad) president and Caitlyn Taproom Manager, and Debbie marketing and event manager, the Beardsley’s keep it in the family. Their beers combine traditional ingredients to create unique flavors, which roll through your mouth and cover all styles from hoppy ales to malty lagers. As you may have guessed, Eight bridges represent the primary eight bridges around the Bay Area (Golden Gate, Bay, Richmond, Dumbarton, San Mateo, Carquinez, Benecia and Antioch). Kid-friendly, dog-friendly, this is truly a family experience. Sip beer while playing games or just sit and enjoy some family time. Tasting suggestions: Golden Nektar Bavarian Pilsner, Nottingham Brown English Brown, and when they have it, Das Mutt Kolsch and Brewno Marzen Oktoberfest. Again, try them all and see what sparks your fancy. Location: 332 Earhart Way, Livermore, Calif.
Altamont Beer Works, Livermore: There is definitely something very hipster about small craft breweries, especially those that are in unexpected locations and feature artful wall murals. And at Altamont, you will be in hipster and biker heaven. Their motto is “Local beer tastes better.” Pack in to the often busy petite tasting room and see for yourself. Varying hours, closed Monday and Tuesday. See website for specifics. Tasting suggestions: Left Coast Session, Woodstock West, Maui Waui IPA, Dirty “D” and Mac Drizzle. Location: 2402 Research Drive, Livermore, Calif.
All five of the cities that make up the Tri-Valley are packed full of wonderful restaurants, cafes and eateries. Whether you are looking for a chic brunch spot or a romantic dinner for two, the Tri-Valley will surely please. Livermore seems to be the epicenter of foodie heaven in the Tri-Valley with more choice and range of options.
Uncle Yu’s, Livermore: Chinese. Open for lunch and dinner with a more extensive menu for dinner. Dinner suggestions: barbecued sea bass, Mongolian beef, crab meat cheese puffs, BBQ pork bun and the hot and sour soup. Location: Village Square Shopping Center, 39 S. Livermore Ave, #125, Livermore, Calif.
Esin, Danville: Mediterranean and American. Open for lunch and dinner. Suggestions: Grilled prawn cobb salad, meze platter to share, good local wine list, gnocchi, flatbread, roasted pork loin and applewood-smoked bacon Panini and Saffron Risotto. Location: Rose Garden Shopping Center, 750 Camino Ramon, Danville, Calif.
Farmhouse Eatery & Bar, Pleasanton: Breakfast and bunch. Start with yummy French press coffee, brioche French toast, eggs benedict, and amazing chicken and waffles. 600 Main Street, Pleasanton, Calif.
Underdog Wine Bar, at Concannon Winery, Livermore: great for a light lunch or dinner, wonderful heated patio for year round enjoyment. The menu consists mostly of small plates that are meant to be shared. Be sure to try spinach and artichoke dip, almond crusted brie, cheese board with a meat board, salmon BLT sliders, lobster mac and cheese and awesome mushroom flatbread. Pair with a lovely flight of wine. Location: Concannon Vineyard, 4590 Tesla Road, Livermore, Calif.