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Spring is an ideal time to visit the Tri-Valley. The air is crisp, hills are green, and mustard brightly clusters between the rolling grape vines. Extend your visit for the entire weekend during the Livermore Winegrowers Association’s third annual Barrel Tasting Weekend, March 19 & 20, 2011.
More than 30 Livermore Valley wineries are scheduled to participate,  offering samples of wines still in development—direct from their barrels. Guests with special event wristbands and official glasses will receive at least one barrel sample at each participating winery. Most winemakers will be present to personally pour and discuss their young wines and offer delicious pairings with gourmet appetizers, artisan cheeses, chocolate and nuts.

Advance tickets are available online now for $30. Tickets purchased at the event will be $35 per person. Each ticket includes a souvenir tasting glass featuring the Livermore Valley Wine Country logo, two days of barrel tasting at participating wineries, special activities and discounts and an event map.

Livermore Winegrowers Association's 3rd Annual Barrel Tasting Weekend, March 19 & 20, 2011

Livermore Winegrowers Association's 3rd Annual Barrel Tasting Weekend, March 19 & 20, 2011.

Each winery will offer a unique experience to Barrel Tasting Weekend guests. Many will give discounts on wine purchases to ticket holders only. Examples of special events and wines to be tasted include

  • Big White House & John Evan Cellars: tasting of 2009 Sangiovese, 2009 Roussanne, 2009 Lapsus and 2006-2010 Syrah vertical. Bottle your own wine for $99 per case.
  • Cedar Mountain Winery: barrel samples of 2009 Zinfandel to be paired with Bissenger Raspberry Creams. Complimentary premium tasting. Bottle your own olive oil (bring your own bottle).
  • Eckert Estate Winery– tasting 2008 Malbec and 2009 Carignane. “Ensemble,” a hands-on workshop for creating balanced blends 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. each day. Wines paired with cheese fondue and ‘sipping chocolate’. 10% off purchases of single bottles and 25% off on cases.
  • McGrail Vineyards & Winery– tasting Casa de Vinas Petite Sirah and 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. Seguin Moreau Barrel Cooperage will give a barrel talk and demonstration. 25% off all wine purchases.
  • The Steven Kent Winery & La Rochelle Winery: tasting La Rochelle 2009 Pinot Meunier on Saturday and Steven Kent 2008 Ghielmetti Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon on Sunday. 20% off purchase of 6 bottles or more.
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Chardonnay - the perfect summer beverage

Looking for the perfect white wine to celebrate the first day of Summer? Look no further than a crisp, cool glass of Chardonnay from Livermore Valley Wine Country.  The morning fog that lingers over the valley floor makes it a superb location for Chardonnay, and in fact many of the great Chardonnay vineyards in California are planted with the Wente Clone.  The Wente clone is budwood that is used to plant chardonnay at many California winemakers. In 1912, a member of the Wente family took cuttings from the University of Montpellier viticultural nursery in France. Cuttings from the Wente vineyard then spread to a number of other wineries before eventually being certified by the Foundation Plant Materials Service of the University of California, Davis.

This summer here are some of my picks for Livermore’s best Chardonnay.  What is your favorite?

Wente Vineyards 2008 Riva Ranch Chardonnay

This medium- bodied Chardonnay has a rich, golden color and aromas and flavors of honey, graham, cinnamon and light floral notes, balanced by subtle oak, butter and vanilla from barrel aging.  It has a round mouthfeel and a long, fruity finish. Buy it now

Wood Family Vineyards 2008 Chardonnay “Para Mas Amigas” Livermore Valley

Winemaker Rhonda Wood made this wine for her girlfriends who kept requesting a Chardonnay to drink.  Her high school Spanish only took her so far, so instead of creating a wine “for my girlfriends,” she created a wine “for more girlfriends.” And, pouring this decadent wine will surely win you more girlfriends indeed! With aromas of sautéed pears perched atop creamy custard, it is broadened by the clean smell of wet stone and the warmth of toasted pepita pumpkin seed. The wine’s interest continues on the palate with rich braised fennel, preserved lemons and grapefruit foam. Clearly it is a food wine with its medium to medium plus acidity providing great balance to the fruit. The long finish brings you right back around to the warm pepitas enjoyed at the start. Buy it now

Charles R 2007 Chardonnay Sur Lies

Enticing floral aromas and luscious soft mouthfeel. Subtle flavors of oak, honey, and toasty graham, followed by a smooth finish.  This chardonnay was barrel fermented, 100% malolactic fermentation, and given prolonged lees contact and stirring (batonnage) to generate a more fruitful flavor.  Buy it now

This is just a brief list, but tell us which Livermore Chardonnay’s you love!

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Bent Creek Winery 5455 Greenville Rd., Livermore (925) 455-6320 www.bentcreekwinery.com

Special Tastings include: New Releases of 07 Petite Sirah Port, 07 Zinfandel Port, and 07 Red on Red blend

Regular winery discounts available Live Music: Jazz by the Two Guys.

Food Pairing: Cabana Dave’s Clam Chowder paired with Chardonnay and Truffle Gateau Chocolate paired with Port

Vendors: Truffle Gateau http://www.trufflegateau.com, Alexa Danner (jewelry, wine charms, tote bags), JoAnn Duncan, Christmas craft arts, Sally Ann Flak (unique jewelry)

No Tasting Room Fee

Big White House & John Evan Cellars 6800 Greenville Rd., Livermore (925) 449-1976 www.bigwhitehouse.com

Special Tastings include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tawny Port, and Riche Mignon

Vendors: The Final Touch Designs (button jewelry) http://www.thefinaltouchdesigns.com, Caryne Mount (wearable art) http://www.carynmount.com

Tasting Fee is $5

Bodegas Aguirre Winery 8580 Tesla Rd., Livermore (925) 606-0554 www.bodegasaguirre.com

Special Tastings include: White and traditional Ports plus 6 estate wines

Estate wines non-reserve 30% off, all others 10% off

Food Pairing: Chocolate and Port Pairing

Vendors: Barrel Works (candle holders, lazy susans, bottle racks made from wine barrels)

Tasting Fee is $5

Charles R Vineyards 8195 Crane Ridge Rd., Livermore (925) 454-3040 www.charlesrvineyards.com

Special Tastings include: 07 Syrah, 08 Chardonnay. 20% discount on case purchases

Live Music: Antone Lee & His Magical Guitar, Christmas carols and country ballads

Food Pairing: Chardonnay and select cheeses

Vendors: Camille’s Gift Shop (jewelry, stained glass garden art, french soaps, earth friendly candles, and more) Cavalier, James Courtney (Cavalier Caricatures), Candles by Boss Designs, Merry Bon-Bon (delectable chocolates), Artwork (by artists – Lenore Kreit, Don Waldear, Carol Eicher, Bonnie Bartlett, Christine Mikulice, and Michel Robles)

No Tasting Fee. Groups of 8 or more $5 (refundable with purchase)

Chouinard Vineyards 33853 Palomares Rd., Castro Valley (510) 582-9900 www.chouinard.com

Special Tasting of Apple Wine . Case Special – $99 for a case of 05 Petite Sirah

Sachiko Campe (pottery blown glass, jewelry, silk scarves), Bonnie Mathis Hanmade Ceramics, Chris Wallace,  Ailsworth (hand knitted items), Donna Jeffreys (hand knitted hats).

No Tasting Fee

Concannon Vineyard 4590 Tesla Rd., Livermore (925) 456-2505 www.concannonvineyard.com

Special case discounts available,  Live Music. Southwestern food bites by Posada Catering

Vendors: Trina Fleer (jewelry and purses), Party Lite (candles), Beauty Society (anti-aging skincare and make-up) http://www.angelapinon.societyskincare.com, Gold Canyon (candles) http://www.mygc.com/societydiva

Tasting Fee is $5

Crooked Vine Winery 4948 Tesla Rd., Livermore (925) 449-0458 www.crookedvine.com

Sale on case purchases,  Food pairings and specialty desserts available

Vendors: Beauty Society (anti-aging skincare and make-up) http://www.omgdiva.society.skincare.com, Gold Canyon (candles)  http://www.mygc.com/omgdiva

Tasting Fee $5

Cuda Ridge Wines 5385 East Ave., Livermore (510) 304-0914 www.cudaridgewines.com

Special Barrel Tasting and Gift Baskets Available

Guest Santa Appearance. Holiday Music.

Food Pairing: Papa Dino’s Italian Orzo Soup and Portuguese Kale Soup

Vendors: Mom Dino’s Crafts (holiday crafts), Watercolors by KB (water color pictures) http://www.kb-art.com

Complimentary Flight, $5 Port Tasting, $5 Barrel Tasting

Deer Ridge Vineyards 1828 Wetmore Ave., Livermore (925) 245-9756 www.deerridgevineyards.com

Special Tastings: Award winning 04 Cabernet and 07 Chardonnay

Wine available by the glass, food for purchase. Cooking demonstration each day.

Enter-to-Win a free wedding. Raffle for a free Green Shed (on display at the winery)

Vendors: Kim Pace Designs (jewelry), Soap Sister (handmade soaps and candles), Stonewear Jewelry, Dechen Designs (pashima and cashmere shawls and scarves), Sew n’ Wild Oats (Home décor items made from barrel staves), Erin Davis Pottery (handmade pottery), Worthington Gallery West (Handcrafted international arts and crafts), Green Sheds (garden sheds made from recycled materials) http://www.greensheds.net/holidays2009info.htm

There is a Tasting Fee

Eagle Ridge Vineyard 10017 Tesla Rd., Livermore (925) 447-4328 www.eagleridgevineyard.com

30% off case purchase (mix and match) of your choice.

Food: Hot Mulled Wine and Jim’s Tri-Tip Chili available for purchase

Vendors: Not your Mother’s Tupperware (children’s gift sets and wineglasses) http://www.my.tupperware.com/daniellejbeck, Bag it Up (designer inspired handbags and accessories) http://www.annsbagitup.com, JJ Designs (hand pained glassware, note cards, embroidered linens) http://www.buyjjsdesigns.com

No Tasting Fee

Eckert Estate Winery 2400 Arroyo Rd., Livermore (925) 371-8606 www.eckertestate.com

Special Tasting includes: Viognier and Late Harvest Primitive. Special pricing on case sales.

Vendors: Arroyo Windmill Groves Olive Oils and Noyo Reserve Exotic Mustards

No Tasting Fee

el Sol Winery 8626 Lupin Way, Livermore (925) 606-1827 www.elsolwine.com

Special Tasting includes: New Release Reserve Cab & Reserve Merlot. 25% off Merlot Rose purchases

“Bottle it Yourself” with custom holiday gift labels

Vendors: Funzees (one of a kind baby gifts that edgy to sweet, funny and unique) http://www.funzees4u.com, Paula Carvalho’s Jewelry (one of a kind handmade jewelry) http://www.paulasjewelry.net

Tasting Fee $5

Elliston Vineyards 463 Kilkare Rd., Sunol (925) 862-2377 www.elliston.com

Special Tasting includes: Champagne, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon

Select wines on sale, 10% bonus on gift card purchases over $100, holiday gift baskets

Food: Beautiful holiday hors d’oeurve display

Vendors: Silpada Designs (fine sterling jewelry) http://www.mysilpada.com/kim.tanton, Chanteuse Designs (handbags, aprons, holiday stockings) http://www.chanteusedesigns.com, Apriori Beauty (anti-aging products) http://www.aprioribeauty.com

No Tasting Fee

Fenestra Winery 83 Vallecitos Rd., Livermore (925) 447-5246 www.fenestrawinery.com

Food Pairing: Holiday foods paired with wines

Vendors: Robert Shimmon (large format black and white photography) http://www.photosmash.net, Glass by Debra (custom lamps and nightlights in stain glass), Shimmering Stones Jewelry

Tasting Fee $5

Garré Vineyard & Winery 7986 Tesla Rd., Livermore (925) 371-8200 www.garrewinery.com

Special Tasting includes: 06 & 07 Cabernet Franc, 06 & 07 Cabernet Sauvignon, 06 & 07 Syrah (side by side tastings)

Santa will make a visit on Sunday. Christmas cookie crafting for kids on Sunday. Warm coat drive.

Food: Chef Ty’s Holiday Stew, Christmas sweets, and Hot Mulled Cider.

Vendors: Teez Handsuds (Bath and body products) http://www.teezhandsuds.com , Amy Schwab Designs (Accessories) http://www.amyschwabdesigns.com , Carde Blanche (personalized stationary & gifts) http://www.cardeblanche.com , Cheshire Cat Photo (photos) http://www.cheshirecatphoto.com , Kalli Crawford (jewelry & accessories) http://www.kallicrawforddesigns.com , Cookie Lee Jewelry (Maria Howell), J&M Woodcrafters, Renee Ryder (Christmas Ornaments), Jealousy Jewels

No Tasting Fee

La Rochelle Winery 5443 Tesla Rd., Livermore (925) 243-6442 www.lrwine.com

Complimentary mulling spice with wine purchase, 20% off wine purchase of 4 bottles or more

Vendors: Belgique Truffle Gateau by Linda Bartlett Keys (truffles) http://www.trufflegateau.com, Mokulele Farms by Debbie Donald (coffee, honey, macadamia nuts from Kona) http://www.mokulelefarms.com, Cookie Lee Jewelry http://www.cookielee.biz/esuite/home/leslietakemura

Tasting Fee $10, $15, $20 depending on flight (each served with a food pairing)

Les Chênes Estate Vineyards 5562 Victoria Lane, Livermore (925) 373-1662 www.leschenesvine.com

Special Tasting New Release 07 Mouvedre

Music by Les Amisde Les Chenes Violinists.

Food pairing with Chef Jim. Winner of the ‘Take Les Chenes Around the World’ announced Sunday at 3pm

Vendors: Les Chenes Mustards and Olive Oils, Holiday gift items

Tasting Fee $5 and refundable with purchase

Little Valley Winery 739 Main St. Pleasanton (925) 862-9006 www.littlevalleywinery-lavender.com

10% off each bottle of Sparkling Wine (20% off case)

Live music: Saturday 1-4pm. Open until 9pm on Saturday. Santa and Tree lighting in Downtown Pleasanton.

Vendors: Little Valley Gift Boutique featuring Lolita glasses, lavender products, wine shirts, and more.

Two complimentary tastes. $5 for tasting flight of 6 wines

Longevity Wines 35 Rickenbacker Circle South, Livermore (888) 325-9463 www.longevitywines.com

Food: Phil’s famous Pulled Pork Sandwiches and other goodies.

Santa will make a surprised visit on Saturday.

Vendors: Lia Sophia (fine jewelry), Robbin’s Family Farms (olive oil and balsamic vinegar) and Chocolates by Raffiné

No Tasting Fee

McGrail Vineyards 5600 Greenville Rd., Livermore (925) 373-6214 www.mcgrailvineyards.com

Special Tasting includes: 05 and 06 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. 1 complimentary taste per Toy for Tots donation

Live Music: Tank Half Full band on Saturday 1-5pm and Sunday 12-4pm

Vendors: CC Kelly Handbags (high end inspired bags), Scott Cleek Studios (wine inspired art) http://www.sjstudio.com , Arkwright Designs (jewelry) http://www.arkwrightdesigns.com

Tasting Fee $5

Mitchell Katz Winery 1188 Vineyard Ave., Pleasanton (925) 931-0744 www.mitchellkatzwinery.com

Futures of 08 Sangiovese offered. Case discounts on Zinfandel, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay

Santa Clause will visit on Sunday 2-4pm

Vendors: Truffle Gateau http://www.truffleg.com , Artisan’s Creative Marshmallow Co. (beautifully decorated marshmallows) http://www.artisanmarshmallows.com , Twisted Silver (fine and funky jewelry) http://www.twistedsilver.com

Tasting Fee $5

Murrieta’s Well 3005 Mines Rd., Livermore (925) 456-2390 www.murrietaswell.com

Library wines available for tasting and purchase

Special discounts on library wines to public and wine club members

Tasting Fee $10

Nottingham Cellars 2245 S. Vasco Rd., Livermore (925) 294-8647 www.nottinghamcellars.com

Special Tasting includes: Ralphi’s Red Blend. 20% off Ralphi’s Red Blend purchases

Tasting and food pairings all weekend

Vendors: Riella Creations (unique hand-crafted jewelry) http://www.riella.etsy.com , Pat Cranor Designs (watercolor art, kachinas, mixed media) http://www.patcranor.com

Tasting Fee $5

Occasio Winery 2445 S. Vasco Rd., Livermore (925) 371-1987 www.occasiowinery.com

Club Members enjoy 20% discount. Purchase a club membership as a gift and receive 20% discount on wines

Wreath making on Saturday with seatings at 12:30 and 2:30pm

Wine Blending with Winemaker John Kinney on Sunday at 1:30-2:30pm and 3:30-4:30pm

Tasting Fee $5 for flight of 3 wines. Complimentary taste of Gold Medal winning Pinot Gris

Page Mill Winery 1960 S. Livermore Ave., Livermore (925) 456-7676 www.pagemillwinery.com

10% off bottles and 20% off case purchases

No Tasting Fee

Retzlaff Estate Winery 1356 S. Livermore Ave., Livermore (925) 447-8941 www.retzlaffwinery.com

Special Tasting includes: Old Library Verticals. 6 pack discounts and case discounts

Food Pairing: Truffles with Port, Spiced Ciders, Hot Chocolate and Cookies

Vendors: Handmade Porcelain Santas, Jewelry Crafters, Massages

Tasting Fee waived with purchase

Rodrigue Molyneaux Winery 3053 Marina Ave., Livermore (925) 447-4280 www.rmwinery.com

Special Tasting includes: Rubino Port and 06 Cabernet Sauvignon (State Fair winner)

Live Music both days. Food: Complimentary soup, Gingerbread houses that are 3 ft. tall.

Vendors: Cookie Lee (high fashion jewelry), The Toy Box (high end toys at deep discounts), Serendipity (handcrafted original jewelry inspired by LV wine country, The Cork Lady (cork ornaments), Crafts by Anne Marie (LV wine country ornaments made from wine labels)

No Tasting Fee

Ruby Hill Winery 400 Vineyard Ave., Pleasanton (925) 931-9463 www.rubyhillwinery.net

Special Tasting includes: Peacock Patch Reserve Zinfandel. Holiday Gift Packs available

Live Music: Saturday 3-5pm.

Food Pairings: 1-5pm on Saturday & Sunday. Raffles throughout the weekend

Vendors: Lil Hooksters (purse hooks) http://www.lilhookster.com, Cookie Lee (jewelry) http://www.cookielee.com , Petra’s Scarves (hand knitted scarves) , Pampered Chef

Tasting Fee $5 (waived with Toys for Tots donation)

Stony Ridge Winery 4948 Tesla Rd., Livermore (925) 449-0458 www.crookedvine.com

Sale on case purchases

Food pairings and specialty deserts available

Tasting Fee $5

Tamás Estates 5489 Tesla Rd., Livermore (925) 456-2380 www.tamasestates.com

Special Tasting includes: Barbera Port. 15% savings on touring wines and 25% on case purchases

Barrel Tasting in the Winter Wonderland Barrel Room

Vendors: Eugenia Zobel (Porcelain Art) http://www.eugeniastudio.8m.com , Anita’s Creations (Christmas crafts and ornaments), Country Patchwork (Handmade quilts and blankets)

Tasting Fee $10

Tenuta Vineyards 633 Kalthloff Commons, Livermore (925) 960-1006 www.tenutawinery.com

Call winery for activities.

The Singing Winemaker 5143 Tesla Rd., Livermore (925) 606-9463 www.teslavintners.com

Call winery for activities.

The Steven Kent Winery 5443 Tesla Rd., Livermore (925) 243-6440 www.stevenkent.com

Special Tasting includes: 08 Cabernet Port

Complimentary mulling spice with wine purchase, 20% off wine purchase of 4 bottles or more

Vendors: Belgique Truffle Gateau by Linda Bartlett Keys http://www.trufflegateau.com, Mokulele Farms by Debbie Donald (coffee, honey, nuts from Kona) http://www.mokulelefarms.com, Cookie Lee Jewelry http://www.cookielee.biz/esuite/home/leslietakemura

Tasting Fee $10 (includes glass and 3 pairing stations of special cheeses and chocolate)

Thomas Coyne Winery 51 East Vallecitos Rd., Livermore (925) 373-6541 www.thomascoynewinery.com

Live Music: Traditional Holiday Singers

Vendors: Michelle’s Jewelry Box, Tony’s Wood Works (gifts made with barrel staves )

Wente Vineyards 5565 Tesla Rd., Livermore (925) 456-2305 www.wentevineyards.com

Special Tasting includes: 07 Small Lot Orange Muscat, 07 Small Lot Late Harvest Riesling, 07 Small Lot Petite Syrah

Port. 20% Savings on Vineyard Selection & Heritage Block Wines

Santa will make a visit on Sunday 1-3pm, Barrel Tasting both days

Vendors: Eugenia Zobel (Porcelain Art) http://www.eugeniastudio.8m.com, Anita’s Creations (Christmas crafts and ornaments), Stonewear Jewelry (handcrafted jewelry) http://www.stonewearjewelry.net

Complimentary Flight and $10 Flight, Barrel Tasting $5

White Crane Winery 5405 Greenville Rd., Livermore (925) 455-8085 www.whitecranewinery.com

Annual Holiday “sparkling wine special” – buy two bottles at regular price and the third is $1

Food: Mushroom and Wine Meatballs

Santa will stop by from 12-2pm on Sunday

Vendors: Beauty Society (anti-aging skincare and make-up) http://www.bedazzled.societyskincare.com, Gold Canyon (candles) http://www.mygc.com/bedazzled

Wood Family Vineyards 7702 Cedar Mountain Dr., Livermore (925) 606-7411 www.woodfamilyvineyards.com

Special Tasting includes: New Release 07 Cabernet Sauvignon from Quail Creek Vineyards

Food Pairing: Soup and wine pairing, fudge, and farmstead cheeses

Vendors: My Sisters Jewelry (unique jewelry using sought after gems and metals) http://www.terryfunkejewelry.com, Live

For More Fudge (traditional chocolate and gourmet fudge with fresh cream and butter) http://www.Liveformorefudge.com, Fiscalini Cheese (a rich dairy tradition, handcrafted cheese from Modesto) http://www.fiscalinicheese.com

Tasting Fee $5 includes glass and food pairings

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Beautiful new winery McGrail Vineyards

Beautiful new winery McGrail Vineyards

To celebrate my birthday this past December, my friends and I spent the day wine tasting in Livermore Valley wine country .  Sure, it was POURING rain that day, but we trekked through it in my trusty Subaru Outback!  A little mud never hurt and the cold weather and rain didn’t seem to deter fellow wine lovers either! It was actually packed in some of the smaller tasting rooms like Page Mill Winery.

Our itinerary included lunch and 4 winery stops, lots of laughter and some fantastic wine that purchased for last minute Christmas presents!

Lunch: Firehouse Bistro & Books, Livermore

This restaurant located in Downtown Livemore blew me away! The original firehouse building that served Livermore from 1906 to 1976 and was completely renovated as a restaurant in 2007.  The concept, part book store, part restaurant is unique. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, lots of wood paneling, and cozy banquets.  I had the Buffalo Bill’s Spicy Chicken sandwich with Grilled chicken breast with tangy hot sauce, blue cheese vinaigrette, zesty slaw, sliced tomatoes & smoked bacon. Sooo delicious!  My friends had the Croque Monsieur and the The WMD (chicken salad wrap).  We all shared an amazing goat cheese appetizer, served in olive  oil with olives and toasted bread. YUM!!   A great start to the day.

Winery Stop 1: Page Mill Winery, 1960 S. Livermore Ave. in Livermore.

Dane Stark, the winemaker at Page Mill Winery, is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. True, he gets to spend his saturdays in a tasting room interacting with happy wine lovers, but he’s part of the reason the folks are so happy!  A huge part of the experience is the tasting room atmosphere, dark blood red walls and drapes  and a crystal chandlier are right out of a french bordello but in a good good way!  Sure it’s small and it was crowded that day, but totally worth it!  We tasted off the reds flight, and ended up purchasing the 2006 Petite Sirah, Estate Vineyard Livermore Valley. SILVER MEDAL 2009 SF Chronicle Wine Competition $38.

The winerey is open from noon until 4:30pm every Saturday and Sunday

Winery Stop 2: Charles R Vineyards, 8195 Crane Ridge Road, Livermore

Ok, maybe I am a particularly partial to this winery because I LOVE their 2007 Chardonnay. I had to bring my friends here, if not for the atmosphere and “off the grid” feel to the winery.  Sure, it’s down a dirt road at the end of Greenville, but heck, this is the only off-roading my outback gets!  Lovely tasting room, delicious wines and family friendly atmosphere (we saw little kids playing with toys provided by the winery in the corner), it is a definite DO!  If you love chardonnay, definitely head out there and purchase the 2007 Chardonnay!   This chardonnay was barrel fermented, 100% malolactic fermentation, and given prolonged lees contact and stirring (batonnage) to generate a more fruitful flavor. If you don’t hurry…I may have to go buy up the rest! It’s so good!  Open Friday-Sunday 12 – 4:30 pm

Winery Stop 3: McGrail Vineyards, 5600 Greenville Rd, Livermore

A new winery? Sort of.  The folks at McGrail have been providing Cabernet grapes to local wineries for over 4 years.  Then they figured, why let everyone else have all the fun? The tasting room opened this past summer and already it is becoming a great new stop in Livermore Valley.  They focus on Cabernet only, but they do it so so well!  Also, their tasting room is gorgeous.  Don’t be intimitated by the family dog, Bear.  He’s probably the biggest German Shepard I have ever seen, but he is all warm & fuzzy!   Check them out…they are open 12-4:30pm Fri-Sun.

Winery Stop 4: Crooked Vine & Stoney Ridge, 4948 Tesla Rd, Livermore

Ah, the final stop.  Sure, we were tired and my friend Andi was a little tipsy…so thankfully we noshed on the pretzels and mustard sample at the tasting room.  We tried the Crooked Vine flight, and were pretty impressed with the selection…although it was a LONG flight.  Standouts were the Petit Sirah, so I bought a few bottles for x-mas gifts.  My friend bought the sparkling wine, which apparently she loves and gave as christmas gifts.  A good solid winery stop and in the summer the outdoor patio is probably a great way to spend the afternoon! Hours are Sat-Sunday noon – 4:30 pm.

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