As a Napa local with a preference for Napa wines, I was stunned by the quality of wine and experience in Livermore Valley. Here is my recommended itinerary for a perfect day in down-to-earth Livermore Wine Country:
Heather McGrail with Winemaker, Mark Clarin
Begin your day around 11 a.m. at McGrail Vineyards & Winery where Heather McGrail or another family member will likely greet you. This cozy winery, perched atop a small hill with expansive views, beat out Napa Valley and all other Cabernet Sauvignons (over 5,500 entries) to win “Best Red Wine of the Year” at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. With a huge win like that, McGrail has become the focus of a great deal of attention and their Cabs are now in short supply. Open Fri – Sun, 12 – 4:30 p.m. and by appointment.
Next stop is Concannon Vineyard, family-owned and operated for four generations, which has played one of the most influential roles of any winery in the American Wine Industry. We recommend stopping here for a Reserve tasting and having lunch at their Underdog Wine Bar, which has very tasty bites and also offers dinner, live music, and comedy shows. Open daily, 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
After lunch, turn right and head about a mile to Page Mill Winery, a gritty spot that’s perfect if you like creative, high-quality wines without any pretentiousness. The offerings here are simple and tasty (we highly recommend the Chardonnay and GPS red blend). Ask for Dane Stark, owner and winemaker, if you’re interested in learning more about Livermore fruit and wine. Open Thurs – Sun, 12 – 4:30 p.m.
Steven Kent Winery and sister brand La Rochelle fit nicely into your day with complex and polished wines beyond others noted here. All of the reds are worth mentioning, including the Cab Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, but it’s the Pinot Noirs that make this our top pick for wines in the Livermore Valley. Open daily, 12 – 4:30 p.m.
4th Generation Wente family members Philip Wente, Eric Wente and Carolyn Wente.
Wente Family Vineyards, another founding mogul in the Livermore wine scene and Chardonnay game worldwide, is your perfect last stop. Not only do they have a golf course and highly rated restaurant, but they also have a plethora of events, including a killer evening concert series, to put a perfect end to your wine-soaked journey. Open daily, 11 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. and by appointment.
For general questions contact the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.