Concannon (Photo M Vincent)
I had the great pleasure of exploring Livermore Valley Wine Country this month and toured several must-visit wineries and restaurants! If you enjoy wine history and innovation, these Livermore Valley Wineries are for you.
Renowned Vineyard Owners: Jim Concannon, Steven Kent Mirassou, and Christine Wente are on video sharing their Vineyard Histories and Stories which are a real TREASURE.
All Wineries featured in this article include:
1. Concannon Vineyards
2. Ruby Hill Winery
3. Steven Kent Winery
4. Wente Vineyards
Dinners and Desserts at Nonni's Bistro and Esin were a delight and are very accommodating to vegetarians and vegans. Esin also had a very nice Pinot Noir Wine Flight: 2009 Bertrand Ambroise, France; 2008 Robert Stemmler, Carneros; 2008 McIntyre, Santa Lucia
Fun regional activities include Campo Di Bocce, Kayaking at Del Valle Regional Park, and if you're in need of a Massage, check out 'A Touch of Health Day Spa' Pleasanton.
Enjoy the Tour and Videos Below!
Concannon (Photo Mary Vincent)
Jim Concannon, 3rd generation vintner, was honored in May 2011 by Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena for his contributions to the Livermore Valley and California wine industry by creating the first bottle of varietally labeled Petite Sirah in the Livermore Valley in 1961.
In the 1880s, the Concannon family settled in Livermore Valley where the rocky, gravelly soil resembled the Rhône region in France. By the mid 1890s, Livermore had over one hundred vineyards planted, mainly with Rhône grapes. Concannon Vineyard was one of the few wineries that remained open during Prohibition making sacramental wines. Jim Concannon also introduced Cabernet Sauvignon clones 7, 8 and 11 which provided the backbone of Napa Valley’s Cabernet resurgence in the 1970s and 1980s.
JIm Concannon, Mary Vincent, Jim Ryan
Concannon has one of the few tasting rooms with food, and has nicely updated indoor and outdoor dining spaces. I personally enjoyed Estate Manager Jim Ryan's Wine Tasting and Tour which included the 2007 Nina's Cuvee Petite Sirah Reserve named after Jim Concannon's Mother originally from the South of Italy. The tasting notes are blueberry, spice, white pepper notes with a rich, long finish, and this is a wine I had to bring home.
I was lucky to meet Jim Concannon, and he told several stories about his family and strong work ethic in the first video. In the second video he discusses the Flag Day Ceremony held at Concannon on behalf of the entire Livermore community. The historic flagpole, originally placed by Captain Joseph Concannon, son of the founder, served in both the nation’s First Cavalry and the Army with General John Pershing and Lieutenant George Patton seventy-two years ago.
Steven Kent Mirassou (M Vincent)
Steven Kent Winery
I met Steven Kent Mirassou, sixth-generation of America's oldest winemaking family at his
La Rochelle Winery which specializes in producing small volumes of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. He established Steven Kent Winery in 1996 with his father and has made wines which have earned 90 points from Wine Enthusiast, including a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon that earned 95 points last year.
The Tasting Menu included:
- 2010 Steven Kent "Lola" White Blend Ghielmetti Vineyard, Livermore Valley (named after his cat's name)
- 2008 Steven Kent "Merrille" Chardonnay Livermore Valley
- 2007 La Rochelle Pinor Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands
- 2008 Steven Kent Cabernet Sauvignon Livermore Valley
- 2008 Steven Kent Premier Cabernet Collection, Clone 30, Ghielmetti Vineyard Livermore Valley
I'm a fan of red wines and thoroughly enjoyed the La Rochelle Pinot Noir, 2008 Steven Kent Cabernet Sauvignon and Premier Cabernet Collection Clone 30 with the Pairing Platter which included a variety of Cheeses and Fig and Olive Tapenade. I was so impressed with the 2008 Cabernet I bought one to take home.
Here are some Wine Enthusiast Reviews:
90 POINTS - 2009 Pinot Gris, Mark' Vineyard (Arroyo Seco) "Brilliant, mouthwatering acidity marks this refreshingly clean wine. It's very ripe, showing pineapple and lemon sour candy, papaya, green melon and vanilla spice flavors. Straddles the border between bone dry and just off-dry, although the honeyed sweetness might not show up officially. Great with Thai, Vietnamese and Asian-fusion fare." (Wine Enthusiast 02/11 - SH)
90 POINTS - 2008 Pinot Noir, Sleepy Hollow Vineyard (Santa Lucia Highlands)
"A big, muscular Pinot, in the manner of this vineyard. It's dry but sweetly rich and dense in cherries, black raspberries, mulberries, cola and cedar, with thick tannins. The silky texture and bright acidity make it drinkable now, yet it should develop in the bottle over the next six years." (Wine Enthusiast 02/11 - SH)
Steven Kent also shared Livermore Valley Wine History and Winery Vision in these videos:
Mary Mele (M. Vincent)
Ruby Hill Winery
Ruby Hill Winery history goes back to 1887, and the name came from the fertile bright red color soil.
On the Mello Cielo Tour, we boarded a custom Ruby Hill tour bus and toured the farm roads. Mary Mele guided us along our Ruby Hill Winery Tour where we started with the Private Cuvee Sparkling Wine. The Vineyard uses sulphur on the vines to prevent mildew and there is a machine that makes predator sounds to keep birds away from the grapes.
We then toured the Production Facility where we were greeted by the winery's dog, sampled some new wines from the barrels, and then walked to the Water Tower for the Tasting Experience. Pictures are below.
- 2008 Chardonnay Livermore Reserve
- 2007 Merlot Livermore Estate Reserve
- 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Livermore Reserve
- 2007 Sangiovese Livermore Estate Reserve
Wente Vineyards Lunch and Garden Tour
I've been wanting to visit Wente Vineyards and finally had the opportunity for Lunch, a Wine Cave Dessert, and Garden Tour.
Wente Vineyards was founded over 125 years ago and is the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery. The winery has 3,000 acres of sustainably farmed Estate vineyards, wine tasting opportunities, fine dining, concerts, and championship golf.
We had the opportunity to have lunch with Christine Wente, fifth generation winegrower, where I asked her to describe the winery's history, sustainability initiatives, and plans for the future. She described in the video below that Wente had a sustainability vision from the very beginning. I also asked her about one of her favorite wines now, and it was the 2009 Grenache. She then asked that a bottle be brought out for us to enjoy. It was excellent!
Lunch and Wine included:
- 2009 Riva Ranch Chardonnay Wente Vineyards
- 2008 Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Speckled Romaine with radish, squash blossoms, onion scapes, and garden herbs
- Ricotta Cannelloni with spring vegetables, mushrooms, and lemon cream.
We then walked through the garden into the cool wine cave lit with white, vanilla-scented candles and enjoyed a 2009 Port (coffee aromas, smooth finish, alot of cherry... 96 percent petit syrah and a bit of the first vintage in 2005 - 55 cases) and Pastry Chef Leena Hung's Creme de Pot Dessert with Chocolate and Strawberries. What more can one ask for :-)
On-site Master Gardener Diane Dovholuk celebrates her 25th year with Wente Vineyards this year and is committed to sustainability by growing everything pesticide-free and using an extensive composting program. Chef Berg joined us in the garden as well. If you are interested in taking a garden tour, the next one is July 12, 2011.