Vineyard patch among dry hills.  Les Chênes Estate Vineyards.

Livermore Valley

by Eve Andersson

Home : California Wine Regions : One Article
Livermore Valley is one of the oldest wine regions of California yet it hasn't gained the chic status that other regions have. Perhaps because of this, many high quality wines are produced at lower cost than those in Napa. It was, in fact, a Livermore Valley winery that received America's first gold medal for wine, in 1889, at the Paris Exposition.

Livermore Wineries

Concannon Vineyard
Livermore Valley AVA. Concannon, established in 1883, is the first grower of Petite Sirah in the United States. Petite Sirah remains their specialty, with 110 of their 250 acres devoted to it, but their other varietals are excellent as well. This is the 2nd-largest wine producer in Livermore Valley. Their winery grounds, which have been designated a California Historical Landmark, are vast and a pleasure to visit, with oddities like dinosaur-shaped topiary.
Vine-covered walkway.  Concannon Vineyard. Concannon Vineyard. Cabernet Sauvingnon vines.  Concannon Vineyard. Tasting room.  Concannon Vineyard. Tasting room.  Concannon Vineyard. Tree pruned into animal shape.  Concannon Vineyard. Tree pruned into shape of dinosaur.  Concannon Vineyard. Victorian house.  Concannon Vineyard.
Wente Vineyards
Livermore Valley AVA. Wente is "the oldest continuously operating, family-owned winery in California." Like Concannon, this winery was established in 1883. It is the largest of Livermore Valley's wineries, producing 300,000 cases/year (10 times what the next largest, Concannon, produces). Interestingly they ferment some of their reds in fermentation boxes rather than barrels (I had always wondered why wineries use barrels instead of other shapes!). Wente makes good wines, though they lack the friendliness and quirkiness of other Livermore wineries. The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards is the best restaurant in Livermore.
Man among barrels.  Wente Vineyards Estate Winery. Crusher.  Wente Vineyards Estate Winery. Fermentation boxes.  Wente Vineyards Estate Winery. Labeler.  Bottling line.  Wente Vineyards Estate Winery. Sign of fermentation tank: 07 Chardonnay Morning Fog.  Wente Vineyards Estate Winery. Large lot room.  Wente Vineyards Estate Winery. Tasting room.  Wente Vineyards Estate Winery. Historical landmark plaque.  Wente Vineyards Estate Winery. Foil application machine. Bottling line.  Wente Vineyards Estate Winery. Courtyard.  Wente Vineyards Estate Winery. Spouts from fermentation tanks.  Wente Vineyards Estate Winery.
Retzlaff Estate Winery
Livermore Valley AVA. Retzlaff is the only certified organic winery in Livermore, and all of the grapes used in its wines are grown on its own estate. The property used to be a sheep farm before it became a winery. The winery is charming, with a cozy, welcoming atmosphere. Retzlaff makes good wines, some of which are unusual in flavor, particularly the Sauvignon Blanc which tastes like biting into a perfectly-ripe grapefruit — but smoother. Stylistically its wines tend to be more delicate than bold.
Girl sculpture surrounded by flowers.  Retzlaff Estate Winery. Cork wreath.  Retzlaff Estate Winery. Restroom with animal figures.  Retzlaff Estate Winery. Stone R.  Retzlaff Estate Winery. Entrance.  Retzlaff Estate Winery. Tasting room.  Retzlaff Estate Winery. Tree and vineyard.  Retzlaff Estate Winery. Yard.  Retzlaff Estate Winery.
Deer Ridge Vineyards
Livermore Valley AVA. Deer Ridge has beautiful Tuscan architecture and views of the valley. More importantly, its wines are consistently wonderful. It's a relatively new winery, but the grounds cover a portion of the Old Wetmore Ranch containing some of the oldest vineyards in California.
Deer Ridge Vineyards. Deer Ridge Vineyards. Band performing in garden.  Deer Ridge Vineyards. Tasting room.  Deer Ridge Vineyards. Deer Ridge Vineyards. Deer Ridge Vineyards.
Bodegas Aguirre
Livermore Valley AVA. Founded by Dr. Ricardo Aguirre, a surgeon from El Salvador, this boutique winery makes wonderful estate red wines. The winery somehow manages to be sophisticated and rustic at the same time.
Winery logo.  Tasting room, Bodegas Aguirre Winery. Machinery.  Bodegas Aguirre Winery. Painting by Kevin Barry Dever.  Tasting room, Bodegas Aguirre Winery. Entrance.  Bodegas Aguirre Winery. Shed.  Bodegas Aguirre Winery. Tasting room.  Bodegas Aguirre Winery. Tasting room.  Bodegas Aguirre Winery. Vineyard.  Bodegas Aguirre Winery.
El Sol Vineyard
Livermore Valley AVA. In the tasting room, you can try a few wines straight from the barrel. Many of El Sol's wines are quite good, though few are estate grown.
Tasting and barrel room.  El Sol Winery. Tasting and barrel room.  El Sol Winery. Vineyard.  El Sol Winery.
Tamás Estates
Livermore Valley AVA. Tamás specializes in Italian varietals, with Barbera as its signature varietal. Located next door to its sister winery, Wente, Tamás shows an irreverence and lightheartedness that Wente lacks. Its wines are good and its bottles have screwtops.
Courtyard.  Tamás Estates. Bottles of wine.  Tamás Estates. Tasting room.  Tamás Estates. Tasting room.  Tamás Estates.
Rodrigue Molyneaux
Livermore Valley AVA. This tiny winery is owned by husband-and-wife team Garry and Nancy Rodrigue, and they sure do a spectacular job. They produce only red wines, specializing in Tuscan styles — which is appropriate for Livermore's climate. The outdoor tasting room is a pleasure to visit.
$1 tasting fee sign.  Rodrigue Molyneaux Winery. Field.  Rodrigue Molyneaux Winery. Outdoor tasting room.  Rodrigue Molyneaux Winery. Vineyard.  Rodrigue Molyneaux Winery.
Les Chênes Estate Vineyards
Livermore Valley AVA. Les Chênes, meaning The Oaks in French, has one of the most idyllic settings in Livermore Valley. Specializing in Rhone varietals, they're the only Roussanne grower in the valley. Proprietors Richard and Candice Dixon have built a beautiful winery and are very friendly.
Tasting room.  Les Chênes Estate Vineyards. Garden.  Les Chênes Estate Vineyards. Vineyard patch among dry hills.  Les Chênes Estate Vineyards. Candice and Richard Dixon in tasting room.  Les Chênes Estate Vineyards. Neighboring ranch.  Les Chênes Estate Vineyards. Picnic area.  Les Chênes Estate Vineyards. Tasting room.  Les Chênes Estate Vineyards. Vineyard and hills.  Les Chênes Estate Vineyards.
Murrieta's Well
Livermore Valley AVA. Murrieta's Well was named after the Gold Rush-era, Robin Hood-type figure, Joaquin Murrieta, who used to steal horses from rich Americans and give them to Mexicans. Along the way, he watered the horses at the well on which this winery was eventually built. Murrieta's Well makes some excellent wines. Some of their zinfandel is made from 100-year-old vines that they don't have to water because they reach all the way into the water table. However, their wines are overpriced by Livermore standards.
Tasting room.  Murrieta's Well. Flag on balcony overlooking vineyard.  Murrieta's Well. Picnic area.  Murrieta's Well. Tiled stairs.  Murrieta's Well. Tasting room.  Murrieta's Well. Vineyard.  Murrieta's Well.
Eckert Estate Winery
Livermore Valley AVA. If you think Rodrigue Molyneaux and Les Chênes are small affairs, this winery is half their size; it's pretty much a one-man show run by winemaker Michael Eckert. Creating just 2500 cases/year (less than 1% of Wente's production), Michael is not afraid to experiment or use unusual varietals. One of his wines called Mistura della Campagna (2004 vintage) is a blend of Dolcetto, Barbera, Sangiovese, Refosco, Aglianico, Schioppetino, Montepulciano, Corvina, and Freisa — and it's very good!
Tasting room.  Eckert Estate Winery. Tasting room.  Eckert Estate Winery.
Mitchell Katz
Livermore Valley AVA. Mitchell Katz is a producer of single-vineyard wines, mostly from Livermore Valley. It was established in 1998 on the grounds of the historic Ruby Hill Winery (the grounds appear to be shared with the current Ruby Hill Winery, below).
Mitchell Katz Winery. Mitchell Katz Winery. Tasting room.  Mitchell Katz Winery. Trees and vineyard.  Mitchell Katz Winery. Vineyard.  Mitchell Katz Winery. Entrance.  Mitchell Katz Winery.
Ruby Hill
Livermore Valley AVA. Ruby Hill Winery was originally established in 1887 but burned down in 1989. The recently (April 2008) reopened Ruby Hill is located next to Mitchell Katz (above). They make some good wines, especially the Zinfandel Tawny Port which is sweet but not cloying.
Tasting room.  Ruby Hill Winery. Casa Real and vineyard.  Ruby Hill Winery. Entrance.  Ruby Hill Winery. Tasting room.  Ruby Hill Winery.
Steven Kent
Livermore Valley AVA. In general, there is something unique and interesting about every winery — its history, its mission, its terroir, its winemaking techniques, or the excellence of its wines. But not Steven Kent. I'm not saying its wines are horrible; they're fine. But with all the other good and interesting wineries in Livermore Valley, this one is skippable.
Tasting room.  The Stephen Kent Winery. Grapes.  The Stephen Kent Winery. Tasting room.  The Stephen Kent Winery. Tasting room.  The Stephen Kent Winery. Tasting room.  The Stephen Kent Winery. Vineyard.  The Stephen Kent Winery.
Blacksmith Square
Blacksmith Square, located in downtown Livermore, is a cool little set of shops, including six wineries' tasting rooms. It's a lovely setting, with old brick one-story buildings and a patio in the middle. Some very nice wines can be found here at John Christopher Cellars, Hidden Creek Wine, and Red Skye (the other wineries may have good wines but I haven't visited them). Even though Retzlaff has a tasting room here, go to their winery (above) — it's not far from downtown and is worth the trip.
Blacksmith Square. Blacksmith Square. Blacksmith Square. Hidden Creek Wine and Red Skye Winery tasting room.  Blacksmith Square. Tasting room manager, Craig Copeland.  John Christoper Cellars.  Blacksmith Square. John Christoper Cellars tasting room.  Blacksmith Square.

Livermore Valley Towns

I haven't studied the demographics of Livermore; I don't know about its growth, income levels, etc. But from walking around, it seems as though downtown Livermore is not thriving (there a quite a few empty storefronts) but has tremendous potential (it is beautiful and in the midst of a wonderful wine region). It has a few good restaurants (including the aforementioned Wente), so if you are doing a tour of the Livermore Valley wine region, this wouldn't be a bad place to stay.
Clock.  Downtown Livermore. Fountain.  Downtown Livermore. Downtown Livermore.

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Eve Andersson (


Nice Post!

Just stumbled on you page, I grew up in Livermore and was really surprised to see the wineries made a comeback. Most of the old ones were abandoned and we used to wander the properties on our bikes as kids finding old bottles of wine everywhere turning to vinegar!!! Not a soul in sight in what seemed to be a dying community -;0)

-- John Adams

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