Avoid Highway 12 and Check Out These Lovely Wineries in Livermore Valley

By

Livermore Valley may not get the same national spotlight as Napa and Sonoma, but its position as viticultural underdog means you can taste world-class wines without crawling through traffic on Highway 12. Whether you prefer tucked away wineries making small-lot vino or relaxing to live music on the patio of the winery, this easy Livermore Valley tasting itinerary offers options to suite every palate.



Concannon Vineyard

A brief history lesson: James Concannon first settled and started making wine in the area in 1883 and was instrumental in introducing Cabernet to California. His picturesque 200-acre winery—a California Historical Landmark—includes a driveway lined with topiary animals, a lawn area dotted with picnic tables, and the Ellen Rowe Concannon Victorian, a 130-year-old building used for special occasions. You can sample the winery's signature Bordeaux-style wines in the historic brick-and-wood estate tasting room or on the covered lawn patio, or book a special tasting in the wine library or cellar. If you're hungry, swing by the on-site Underdog Wine Bar, where you can find a menu of small plates made with seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients and more than 50 Enomatic-dispensed wines. // Concannon Vineyard, 4590 Tesla Rd. (Livermore), concannonvineyard.com

(Courtesy of Eckert Estate Winery)

Eckert Estate Winery

The tasting opportunities at Eckert Estate are two-fold: The winery's owners, Michael and Vickie Eckert, also run Artisan Spirits and Brandy Works, which produces small-batch vodka, gin, brandy, and absinthe that you can try in a flight. On the wine side of things, the eclectic array of options spans Italian, Portuguese, and French varietals, and Michael is frequently on hand to discuss the inspiration behind an obscure blend or the winemaking process. You'll be able to watch both the spirit distillation and winemaking at work inside the 5,500-square-foot warehouse, which also houses a small gift area and display for I Love Lucy memorabilia. // Eckert Estate Winery/Artisan Spirits and Brandy Works, 5963 Graham Ct., Ste. D (Livermore), eckertestate.com

(Courtesy of Nottingham Cellars)

Nottingham Cellars

Founded by husband-and-wife team Jeff and Diane Cranor, Nottingham Cellars specializes in small-lot Bordeaux and Rhone style wines produced under three distinct brand names (Nottingham, Vasco Urbano, and 1846), all of which you can sample at the tasting room off Vasco Road. The featured tasting ($10) spans the three brands' offerings, while the winemaker's tasting ($20) focuses on the flagship brand's Bordeaux varietals. Helpful tasting associates are more than willing to share the story behind each brand's name or Vasco Urbano's caricature-style bottle art, which also adorns the tasting room walls. The Cranors' son, Collin, is a winemaker to watch: Since launching Vasco Urbano, the self-taught winemaker has been racking up awards for his Rhone-focused wines. // Nottingham Cellars, 2245 S. Vasco Rd. (Livermore), nottinghamcellars.com

(Courtesy of Longevity Wines)

Longevity Wines

In a region not known for its whites, Longevity pleases tasters looking for something in a lighter hue, including wines made from lesser-known varietals such as Pinot Blanc and “pink" Pinot Grigio. But Longevity's reds are also worth a taste. Don't miss the Rhone-style blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Petite Sirah. The main tasting bar can get crowded on weekends, so take time to explore the back tasting area, complete with red barn façade, twinkling lights, and tables. // Longevity Wines, 2271 S. Vasco Rd. (Livermore), longevitywines.com

(Courtesy of Wente Vineyards)

Wente Vineyards

One of the first wineries on the Livermore Valley scene, Wente Vineyards draws droves to its main location for its popular summer concert series, golf course, and fine-dining Restaurant at Wente Vineyards. But a fall visit to the separate estate winery and tasting room is just as nice and more relaxed, with live music, a food truck slinging wood-fired pizzas, and bottles of wine you can enjoy on the outdoor terrace. The biggest draw at Wente's estate property is the new Winemakers Studio. Book one of the signature classes, where you'll learn everything from blending your own wine to the fine art of wine and cheese pairings, or drop in for wine and chocolate pairings, and a tasting of kegged wines made specifically for the studio and available in growlers. // Wente Vineyards Estate Winery and Tasting Room, 5565 Tesla Rd. (Livermore), wentevineyards.com

(Courtesy of Steven Kent Winery)

Steven Kent Winery

Cabs are king at Steven Kent, which sources its wines exclusively from Livermore Valley vineyards. Daily tastings are available in the spacious barrel room, which lives up to its name, with plenty of casks serving as tables and decorating the walls. On busy weekends, make a reservation to ensure your spot, and take your time working through the five-wine flight—one of the pricier options in the area at $15, but worth the splurge for the quality reds and Chardonnay. // Steven Kent Winery, 5443 Tesla Rd. (Livermore), stevenkent.com

Related Articles

DON'T MISS A BAY AREA BEAT! SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER.

Follow Us On