With more than 50 wineries to choose from in Livermore Valley, it’s hard to know where to begin. From crisp whites to deep ports, try this progressive tasting to please your palate.
Steven Kent “Lola” 2014 Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon
Our first destination is Steven Kent, owned by winemaker Steven Kent Mirassou, one of the best-known winemakers in the Livermore Valley. Mirassou calls Lola his version of a New World white Bordeaux blend. The wine is light in color with crisp acidity and the aroma of green apples. Passion fruit flavors round out this full-bodied wine.
Vasco Urbano “Speck” 2014 Grenache Rose
Our next stop is the tasting room and urban cellar space of Nottingham Cellars, where winemaker Collin Cranor, the youngest winemaker in the region, gives a nod to history. Vasco Urbano Loureiro was a caricature artist living in the Livermore Valley in the early 1900s, and his drawings grace the labels of Vasco Urbano wines, including “Speck,” the area’s ice-delivery man. Appropriately, the Grenache rosé named after Speck is a refreshing thirst-quencher. Grown in the nearby Ghielmetti Vineyard and aged in stainless steel, the 2014 Speck has an aroma of rose petals and lemon peel. Its citrus tastes are light and delicate, with a hint of orange blossom.
Las Positas 2012 Estate Tempranillo
The third winery on our tour is Las Positas Vineyards, a stunning Mediterranean-style estate set amid 20 acres of vines. The winery owns an additional 10 acres nearby. Las Positas is known for creating small-lot, barrel-fermented wines.
For Las Positas’ 2012 Estate Tempranillo, which has flavors of cocoa, black cherries and white pepper, Curt Pipes recommends pairing Artequeso’s “Curado” Manchego cheese. The 2012 Tempranillo has been garnering attention since its release, earning top awards from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the Orange County Wine Competition, the California State Fair and Alameda County Fair.
McGrail 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
Due east from Las Positas is McGrail Vineyards and Winery, where winemaker Mark Clarin elevates barrel aging to an art form. Clarin blended the winery’s 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from wine lots aged for 30 months in French, American and Hungarian oak barrels. The 2011 Estate Cabernet Reserve has flavors of black pepper, currants, graham cracker and anise.
Clarin believes the 2015 harvest will begin ahead of its traditional Sept. 1 start date, so the winery will be pouring at nearby Concannon Vineyard during this year’s Harvest Wine Celebration.
Cedar Mountain 2003 Cabernet Royale Port
Our final tasting recommendation is Cedar Mountain Winery & Port Works who just finished building a new winery and tasting room, where it will be hosting visitors on the first and third Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the month.
Cedar Mountain is particularly known for its dessert wines, and the final wine on our progressive tasting is a gem from owners Earl and Linda Aults’ own Blanche’s Vineyard (Linda Ault’s nickname). The 2003 Cabernet Royale Port was vinified from estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon and barrel aged for seven years. It has cola and dark fruit flavors that provide a decadent end to this sweet day.
Taste these wines – and many more – on Labor Day weekend, as Livermore Valley wineries begin crushing grapes for the 2015 vintage. More than 40 wineries will open their doors for the 34th annual Harvest Wine Celebration. Tickets are $45 if purchased in advance and $55 for same-day purchases. For more information and tickets to the event, click here.
By Kate Lavin