Reviews

Livermore Valley’s 2nd Annual Barrel Tasting Weekend

Sunshine. Spring. Loved Ones. Wine.

We couldn’t have asked for any more as we enjoyed the first Sunday of Spring at the Livermore Valley’s 2nd Annual Barrel Tasting Weekend.

Per the the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association:

“Less than an hour east of San Francisco, Livermore Valley Wine Country welcomes visitors with a flourish expanse of vineyards, wineries, and wine country experiences. Amid picturesque canyons, ridges and outposts of suburbia, the lush vines and convivial tasting rooms increasingly define the quality of life in the valley.

One of California’s oldest wine regions, the Livermore Valley played a pivotal role in shaping California’s wine industry. Spanish missionaries planted the first wine grapes in the Livermore Valley in the 1760s. In the 1840s, California pioneers looking for outstanding vineyard sites began planting grapes in the region.

Livermore Valley captured America’s first international gold medal for wine in 1889 at the Paris Exposition, putting California on the world wine map.

Livermore Valley wineries were the first to bottle varietal labeled Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Petite Sirah. Nearly 80% of California’s Chardonnay vines trace their genetic roots to a Livermore Valley clone.”

Livermore County Wineries are a wonderful alternative to folks in the South Bay who want to enjoy an affordable wine experience and do not want to make the 2+ hour drive to Napa.

The Barrel Tasting Weekend spanned two days. With presale tickets ($25), participants were able to visit over 25 wineries that included tastings and a souvenir wine glass. I particularly appreciated the fact that the ticket was valid for both days if folks didn’t want to try and squeeze all the wineries into one day. The intent of the event was to feature upcoming wines from each wineries as well as attract visitors to Livermore County.

With a car packed of snacks and water, my comrades and I opted to squeeze as many wineries into Sunday beginning at 12pm. We were blessed with gorgeous weather and took full advantage of seeing all that Livemore Valley had to offer.

Before I go further, I have to admit what a knucklehead I was to forget my SLR battery in the charger at home. Thus the photos in this post were either taken via my iPhone or borrowed from our friend Carol who is quite the photographer 🙂

Our first stop of the day began at Fenestra Winery

We sampled the Malbec, Petit Verdot, Estate Mouvedra, and Cabernet Franc. I preferred the Estate Mouvedra as it had a fuller, bold flavor. The BF LOVED the Mouvedra and remained his favorite for the day.

Their wine bottling machine.

(Photo by Carol Le)
Since we were tasting right out of the barrel, they used this tool called a “thief” to siphon the wine. It became my goal to convince someone to allow me to try my hand with the thief by the end of the day 🙂

Fenestra Winery
83 Vallecitos Road
Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 447-5246

Next stop, Page Mill Winery.

At Page Mill we sampled a Cabernet Sauvignon and an Estate Petite Sirah–both from 2008. I really enjoyed the Cabernet. As for the winery itself–very charming and great for photos 🙂

(Photo by Carol Le)
Giving the Estate Petite Syrah a try 🙂

Page Mill Winery
1960 S. Livermore Avenue
Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 456-7676

Next stop…Tamas Estates Winery and Wente Vineyards Estate Winery. Quite convenient since the tastings were taking place at the same location. I love efficiency 🙂

At Tamas, we sampled their 2008 Sangiovese Riserva. And although they were very kind and I loved the smoked cheese they had to offer, the wine was somewhat non-memorable.

At Wente, we sampled their 2008 Small Lot Merlot and another red. Both wines….not my fav.

However, we took advantage of the grounds and picnic tables to take in some snackies.

Cold cuts, cheese, fruits, crackers, and homemade Caramel Apple Mini Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting–made by Carol. 🙂

Tamas Estates Winery
5489 Tesla Road
Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 456-2380

Wente Vineyards Estate Winery and Tasting Room
5565 Tesla Rd
Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 456-2305

We then hustled to Les Chenes Estate Vineyards because we heard they were offering food pairings with their wine tastings 🙂

At Les Chenes, we sampled by 2007 and 2009 Syrah. The food paired with the wines were a bright, fresh bruschetta and an amuse bouche. I preferred the 2007 to the 2009 Syrah.

However, this was one of my favorite vineyards of the day for overall charm and scape. Just gorgeous. 🙂

(Photo by Carol Le/Jason Leong)
On our way to the next tasting….

Les Chenes Estates Vineyards
5562 Victoria Lane
Livermore, CA 94550
(925)373-1662

We were then in need of some good eats for our tummies and heard that Charles R Vineyards had tri-tip sandwiches for sale. Did someone say Barbecue????
Tucked away off of Crane Ridge Road, Charles R was in full swing by the time we arrived. Alas to our chagrin….no more tri-tip sandwiches. Needless to say, I was Sad Panda 😦

So we settled on tucking into their tastings of 5 varietals: Zinfandel, Syrah,  2007 & 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. I enjoyed the ’08 Cabernet Sauvignon and we grabbed a table al fresco to enjoy the sun and live music.

Charles R Vineyard
8195 Crane Ridge Road
Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 454-3040

Next up? White Crane Winery. And this is when thing got out of hand—in a good way, of course 🙂 By the time we arrived, their quaint little tasting room was filled to the brim. Their barrel tastings included the 2007 Cabernet Franc and 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Neither suited me well but they were also offering their full tasting wines—6 to be exact.We sampled  Zinfandel, Merlot, 2 additional Cabernets, Chardonnay, Sparkling Wine and a Port. Yup, it was A LOT! In hindsight, perhaps it was not too smart to mix the ports, sparklings and various reds. But I guess hindsight is 20/20 🙂

My favorites (hard to believe I remembered them all!) were the 2005 Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and the Winery 21 2006 Cabernet Sauvingon. The 2005 was indeed, more refined and priced so at over $50. Their Winery 21 line is more affordable wines but still, delicious. At a little over $20 a bottle, we thought it was a good deal for what we were getting, and walked away with a bottle.

White Crane Winery
5405 Greenville Road
Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 455-8095

Still standing, we headed over to what we thought would be the last winery of the day– McGrail Vineyards and Winery.

We sampled three types of 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon which were held in French, American, and Hungarian oak barrels. I was surprised to find how distinct a flavor each of the oaks left on the wine.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon in American Oak

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon in Hungarian Oak

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon in French Oak

The grounds at McGrail Vineyards were beautiful–the lush lawns are almost made for weddings and other festivities. We particularly appreciated the BBQ they had for sale and snagged up a few sammies to fill our tummies.

(Photo by Carol Le)
Basking in the sun…..

McGrail Vineyards and Winery
5600 Greenville Road
Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 215-0717

At McGrail, we somehow made quick buddies with a couple who told us of a vineyard that was staying open later than the rest and allowed you to bottle your own wine. WHAT?! Let’s do it! So off we headed to El Sol Vineyard.

They had several varieties to taste: 2004 Cabernet Franc, 2005 Petite Sirah, 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon….but I’ll be honest friends. At this point in the game, things were getting a little fuzzy to me. Wine Fuzzy that is 🙂 BUT, two things occurred at El Sol that made my wine tour day!

First, I got to use the “thief” and poured tastings for my friends and new friends!!! SO fun! Unfortunately I don’t have any pics of it—-amidst my excitement, we didn’t take any.

And second, I bottled my own wine! Sounds kitschy right? But no, it was SO much fun!!! For only $14 I bottled a 2003 Livermore Cabernet.

Using a high air pressure apparatus to clean out the bottle

Filling the bottle with vino

Corking the bottle


Affixing the foil seal

(Photo by Jason Leong)
Labeling the bottle

(Photo by Jason Leong)
MY OWN BOTTLED WINE!!! Yiippee!!!

El Sol Vineyard
8626 Lupin Way
Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 606-1827

If you were keeping count….it was 9 wineries in a course of 6ish hours with countless wines tasted. Beautiful spring day with wonderful friends. It’s days like these that make this foodie-in-training feel utterly blessed. 🙂

(Photo by Darren Yuen)
HUGE THANKS to Carol and Jason for photography, organizing the event, and of course–driving! 🙂

(Photo by Carol Le)
And of course to Darren…for all the laughs.

(Photo by Carol Le)
And lastly, to My Better Half, for ALWAYS indulging this Wine-O.  🙂
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3 thoughts on “Livermore Valley’s 2nd Annual Barrel Tasting Weekend

  1. Great blog. I’m on the board of the Livermore Valley Wine Growers who hosted the Barrel Tasting weekend. I love your youthful approach.

    Keep checking the LVWG web site for future events. Taste of Terroir in July is always a sell out and an awesome evening. It is held at one of my properties, the Palm Event Center. It isn’t cheap, but it is a fun and delicious evening.

    Read

    1. Greetings!!

      Thanks so much for checking out my blog.

      We truly enjoyed ourselves at the Barrel Tasting Weekend. Couldn’t have landed on a more beautiful weekend, too.

      I will definitely check out the event in July….The Palm Event Center looks stunning.

      Cheers!

  2. TOO CUTE NAM!

    Thanks for being the food tester. I’ve been hawking the bofo since last spring to go to Livermore and explore their wine valley. More impetus to go now!

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