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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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