A couple weeks ago I visited Livermore Wine country with some of my friends. Livermore Valley is about half an hour drive from where we live, and a little over an hour from San Francisco. In recent years, the wine region has grown rapidly, and it has become better known among wine lovers. There is no better time to visit wine country than harvest time!
The most known wine area in California is of course Napa Valley. However, in the 1960's there was actually as much grapes growing in Livermore Valley as in Napa Valley. When Napa suddenly become famous, all the other wine regions in California were overshadowed by it, and wine tourism did not develop in these areas. Livermore has produced wine for a long time already. The oldest wine families are Wente and Concannon, which both started their vineyards in 1883. Many younger wineries have been established since then, but Wente has still remained the biggest wine producer of Livermore Wine Country.
We met in downtown Livermore and hopped onto a Wine Trolley. Livermore Wine Trolley is a great way to get around Livermore Wine Country if you don't have a designated driver. It has four different stops and it stops in each every 20 minutes. From most of the stops, you will have access to multiple different vineyards. The Wine Trolley operates weekends between 11 am to 5 pm, and the daily pass is $5 dollars cheaper if you purchase it in advantage. Otherwise it will be $25 per person.
Livermore Wine Country is a dramatically cheaper place to visit than internationally famous Napa Valley, or Sonoma. Where a flight of wine costs at least $20 and more in Napa, here you will get it for $10. And most of the places will compensate it if you purchase some wine after tasting. Even buying some wine is going to be cheaper in Livermore. One flight usually has about 5 or 6 pours, and you can choose from a couple different menus. What I like the most about visiting Livermore, is that the tasting room staff still has time to talk to guests and tell you about the wines, and that the wineries are usually not too crowded. Even though every wine lover should experience Napa Valley once in a lifetime, unfortunately the huge number of tourists there means constant rushing and mass production.
We started our tour from Nottingham Cellar which for some reason, didn't convince us. We moved on with a trolley ride to Wente Vineyards, which have written about before as we used to be wine club members. Wines at Wente have never disappointed me, and it seemed like the whole crew loved them. Wente has two tasting rooms, and we stopped at the one on Tesla Road. They have a nice little picnic area where they sell pizza. We ordered some for lunch as well as some sparkling wine, while we got to enjoy the comfy coaches at the wine club lounge.
I was hoping to visit Concannon Vineyard, since I have never been there. That came true only partly on this trip. We did visit the vineyard but the tasting room had just closed when we got there. Wineries in California close at 5 pm, so if you are planning to do a tour, start early. We reserved a table from the restaurant at Concannon, the Underdog Wine Bar, so we were able to taste some Concannon wines. The restaurant was actually built into an old barrel room of the winery. Food in this place was delicious, but they mostly serve lighter fare like salads, cheese plates and such. We ended up ordering multiple portions to share. As I am a big fan of dessert wines, I also ordered a flight of sweet wines which were excellent.
When the bar closed in the early evening, we hopped in an Uber and drove back to my home town. We ended our fun wine day with some line dancing and beer. Try this if you dare!