Napa Valley is undoubtedly a wine lover’s paradise, with its rich, beautiful landscape and hundreds of wineries, each with their own unique style and ambiance.
But there is one town east of the Bay that wine enthusiasts should not overlook: Livermore.
About 35 miles northeast of San Jose, Livermore is home to about 50 wineries, and I had the pleasure of visiting some of them with a couple friends on a recent 90-degree-plus weekend.
Wente Estate Winery & Tasting Room, 5565 Tesla Road
Wente Vineyards was founded about 130 years ago, touting itself as the “oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery” in the U.S, according to its website. The winery reports drawing from about 3,000 acres of sustainably farmed estate vineyards for its wines.
Wente made a good impression on me. At the entrance, we were greeted by a friendly staff member, who treated us to a complimentary tasting of white wine. It was a great way to welcome the guests and create a relaxing, fun atmosphere.
Wente’s courtyard was decorated with small fountains and flowered shrubbery, green lawn space for a picnic and plenty of shade-covered, bistro-style tables and seats to enjoy our complimentary tasting.
When we entered the tasting room, I was surprised at the affordability of the tastings. I chose the Legacy Flight, which feature two whites and three reds for $10. The other offering was the Winemaker’s Flight, which featured five red wines, for $15.
The most enjoyable wine was the 2012 Sonata, the Wine Club Exclusive.The wine is made from a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and stands out for its aromas and flavors that include dark berry and chocolate. The wine was not super heavy on the tongue, and I really enjoyed the bold flavors.
The Estate Tasting Room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (925) 456-2305 or visit www.wentevineyards.com.
The Winemakers Studio, 5565 Tesla Road
Across from Wente’s Tasting Room was the winery’s The Winemakers Studio, which invites guests to participate in a hands-on, educational wine-making experience.
The Winemakers Studio offers classes that include teaching guests how to blend wine, pair wine and cheeses and identify a wine by taste and aroma alone.
For wine tasting, I chose the Winemakers Artisan Selection Keg Flight, which included a sampling of six wines for $15.
My favorite was the Artisan White, which was light, smooth on the tongue and had a sweet finish. It was a perfect wine for a hot day.
The Winemakers Studio is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. For more information, call (925) 456-2385 or visit www.wentewinemakers.com.
3 Steves Winery, 5700 Greenville Road
The last leg of our wine-tasting excursion brought us to 3 Steves Winery, owned by friends Steve Burman, Steve Melander and Steve Ziganti.
According to the winery’s website, the friends have made wine together for years and opened 3 Steves Winery in July 2013 at its Greenville Road location. The business touts several awards, including its Best in Class award win for its 2012 Merlot in this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
Customers can enjoy wine in the winery’s casual, laid-back tasting room, or they can relax on the patio and look out onto the landscape of the valley. The view of the hills was quite beautiful, in my opinion.
3 Steves offers a wine-tasting menu of six wines for $10 per person, and the fee is waived if you purchase a bottle of wine. I bought the Brut Sparkling Wine, made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. It was effervescent, smooth in feel and fruity. If you’re a champagne lover, I recommend this wine, which cost $24 per bottle.
3 Steves Winery’s tasting room is open from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday. For more information, call (925) 997-7736 or visit 3steveswinery.com.