Livermore: More to Love

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RollingGrapeVines.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

To many drivers traversing the gusty Altamont Pass east of San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley is little more than the vast open space they drive though before reaching the sea of windmills atop Altamont, one of the world's most important - and hard to miss - wind energy generation sites.

But folks familiar with California wine lore know that Livermore's undulating grasslands harbor not only some of the state's oldest documented grape vines but also a vibrant vinous past that dates to the mid Eighteenth Century. Savvy wine tourists also know that the valley affords a low-key alternative to the state's more popular wine regions, a place where limousines are scarce, but increasingly good wine and hospitality are anything but.
Wine Country, Take Two
Long before Prohibition all but wiped out California's nascent wine industry, the region won global acclaim when a Livermore wine captured the US's first international gold medal for wine at the 1889 Paris Exhibition. But in the difficult years following Prohibition, Livermore winemakers all but abandoned the high-end wine scene, opting instead to produce vast quantities of mostly forgettable bulk wine that did little to bolster the area's foundering reputation.

grapes.jpgHappily, recent years have seen a renewed commitment to quality wine production in the inland valley, known for its unusual east-west orientation (it's one of the only winemaking regions in Northern California thus situated) and gravelly soils well suited to wine grape growing. Today, the region boasts about 40 wineries tending some 5,000 acres of vines, an award-winning golf course and concert pavilion, and a cottage tourism industry catering to the needs of the 500,000 visitors who venture there annually.

Suburban Conversion
Perhaps cause for even more celebration than Livermore's vinous renaissance is the fact that the region still produces wine at all, an impressive feat considering the onslaught of urban sprawl that literally marches right up to the edge of some of the region's best vineyards. The effect is at once sobering - a visual metaphor for California's uneasy partnership between its unbridled growth and its agrarian past - and inspiring and sets Livermore apart as one of the state's most tenacious wine regions.

Fortunately, preventative measures undertaken in the 1980s ensure most of the region's vineyards will remain protected from development, good news for both the industry and future visitors to the region conveniently situated just 30 miles east of San Francisco. Those who go should note that weekends offer visitors the most options in terms of tasting, as many smaller tasting rooms are open exclusively on Saturdays and Sundays, and the majority of the region's wineries are clustered in the southern part of the valley along Tesla Road and its many cross streets.

There, amidst the undulating vines and mature olive trees that dot the suburban landscape, one has the profound sense that the region's rich agricultural past is still very much alive - albeit alongside progress and some 6,000 windmills.

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One of the best wineries to visit is Thomas Coyne Winery.

Aside from the 40-50 wineries in the area, there is a spectacular downtown! There is a brand new theatre, performing arts center and a great choice of restaurants for visitors to enjoy!

Our favorite winery is Mitchell Katz in the Livermore/Pleasanton area. For wine lovers this is the ultimate in reds. Beautiful winery, nice tasting room with a friendly staff and Mitchell is in and out on weekends to greet people and talk about his wines. A must winery to visit.

Livermore is home to many botique wineries making from 100 to 500 cases of several varietals. These include White Crane on Greenridge road with fantastic reds and a fun and funky tasting room.

livermore- have to put you on my list!

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