The “Other” Wine Country – Livermore Valley

By: Jim Walberg, staff writer for The Bay Area Team

In Northern California, the world’s attention is on the Napa and Sonoma wine regions. Each wine region in the United States has an appellation designation; Napa, Sonoma, Willamette Valley, etc. Well, there is another wine region / appellation in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area – the Livermore Valley.  You can be wine tasting at 67 different wineries within 25 minutes from Danville.

The Livermore Valley wine region has a long and rich history. The first winery, Cresta Blanca Winery, was founded in 1882. This winery was the first California wine to win a Grand Prix ribbon at the 1889 Paris Exposition. It was also the first California winery to win a wine tasting competition in France. Years ago the Wente family purchased Creata Blanca, and it is now the location of Wente’s Sparkling Wine Center, restaurant, golf – The Course, and the location of their Summer concert series.

I became personally involved in the Livermore Valley wine region in 1996 when I represented a long-time client, Ricardo Aguirre, in the purchase of 20+ acres on Tesla Road.  Ricardo had the dream of being the wine maker of a world class winery, and he did. Mr. Aguirre is the proud owner of the award-winning winery, Bodegas Aguirre. And, he is still the winemaker. If you stop by, drop my name. It will put a big smile on his face, and he may even serve you a glass or two of his award winning Petite Syrah.

You can’t talk about the Livermore Valley wine region without mentioning Wente Winery. Wente was founded more than 125 years ago, and is the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery, with the fourth and fifth generations running their entire operation today. They are the “elephant in the room” in the Livermore Valley by producing 300,000+ cases a year. Much of their wine is exported, and I have even enjoyed a bottle or two when sailing in the Caribbean. Wente has the largest number of acres under production in the Valley – almost 3,000 acres!  Wente Vineyards is actually a destination spot in the East Bay, not just for wines, but for concerts and a world class restaurant. 

And, did you know that in the early 1960s, Livermore had as much land under grape vines as the Napa Valley? However, it never has had the status of Napa and Sonoma. Livermore Valley does not have the extensive varietal wines that Napa/Sonoma produces. Livermore has much more heat than their northern wine regions. So, the signature wines of the Livermore Valley are BIG reds.

The only other large producer in the Livermore Valley is Concannon Vineyards which produces around 35,000 cases a year. The remainder of the wineries are all small family owned boutique producers. (Another of my favorite smaller producers is Crooked Vine Winery.)

So, the next time you want a fun day or weekend in the Wine Country, head to the “other” wine region – the Livermore Valley. They have world class wineries, restaurants, concerts and so much more. And, for lodging, you may want to consider The Purple Orchid – a fabulous B&B. I would be glad to provide you my favorite one-day or two-day wine tours.

Until next time… Jim Walberg.