One of our favorite events in the run-up to Christmas is the “Holidays in the Vineyards” weekend in the Livermore valley. Many of our favorite wineries have special decorations, craft booths, music and food. We spent a fun Sunday visiting as many wineries as we could, taking in all of the sights — and tastes — of the season.
To prepare ourselves for a full day of visiting wineries, we started our day at the Poppy Ridge restaurant. This could be considered our secret weapon. Great food, fast service, and every brunch entre includes a glass of champagne. We approach the glass of champagne much like an athlete’s stretching before competition. Properly fed and mentally prepared, we set off toward our first winery of the day.
Our first stop was Charles R Vineyards. Visiting Charles R always takes some nerve, because their driveway begins where Greenville Road ends. You literally drive off the end of the road, onto their private drive. Once you drop off the pavement, though, the way is well marked, with barrels and solar lights along the way.
In addition to their wines, a number of craft vendors had their products on display. Handmade jewelry and unique clothing were offered for sale. My sweetie bought me a lovely wine tasting-themed shirt that is beyond description. Trust me, if you see me wearing this shirt in a winery, you will understand.
Reluctantly we left the tasting room and went off to our next tasting.
Our next stop was a double-threat. One tasting room, two wineries: Big White House and John Evan. John himself was present, with his annual holiday blend available as a barrel tasting. We especially wanted to check in here because of our fond memories from previous years of the upside-down Christmas trees. Once again, we enjoyed the inverted greenery, sipped some great wine, and checked out some hand-crafted jewelry. Given our mission to visit as many wineries as possible, we said our goodbyes and headed off to visit one of the “new kids on the block” called 3 Steves.
The 3 Steves Winery is now in the facility that formerly housed the Red Feather Winery. We had a chance to meet one of the Steves and learn a bit about their brief history.
Like many winemakers, the Steves started making wine in their individual garages. When the opportunity presented itself, they banded together to form the 3 Steves Winery.
The tasting room has a bright new look, with a unique bar made from repurposed bowling alley lanes. The front of the bar is intentionally unfinished. Their plan is to cover the entire front face with autographed wine corks. So drop by, pick up a bottle of wine, and sign a cork for their bar. Become part of their history!
We welcomed the Steves to the winery community and set off for our next stop: McGrail Vineyards.
We can always count on McGrail Vineyards to put together a nice event! Once again, they came through. A festive crowd, food, multiple pouring stations, and yes, even Santa! We mingled with all of the happy people, tasted some great wine, but passed on sitting on Santa’s lap. Sorry Santa, but we had a very full day ahead of us. I’m sure you understand, having a pretty full day ahead of you in a few weeks!
From McGrail Vineyards we make our way to Wood Family Vineyards. This is a perennial favorite, although we don’t get to see them nearly as often as we would like. As usual, the tasting room was overflowing with people, wine, food and fun. The winemaker, Rhonda, greeted us personally and we set off to check out the hand-made jewelry (yes, something from jeweler Nancy Graeber might have made it under our Christmas tree), taste our way through the catalog, and soak up the great vibe. Rhonda and all the folks helping out at Wood Family Vineyards made a great contribution to Toys for Tots, both in toys and cash. Well done!
From the Wood Family Vineyards we found our way to the Eagle Ridge Winery. As usual, the guys from Dante Robere were pouring their wines, too. We sampled both winery’s catalogs and browsed our way through numerous craft displays. We selected a beautiful tree ornament to take home, along with a few more bottles of Jim’s amazing Pinot Grigio. Next weekend will feature the Eagle Ridge club release, so we’re sure to be back soon!
Our next stop was the Eckert Estate Winery. It was time to pick up our wine club member’s pack (that was our cover story at least) and we wanted to catch up on Mike’s progress toward federal approval to sell distilled spirits. We sampled the newly-released 2012 Semillon and the 2011 Mezcle de España, excited to know that we would be leaving with a bottle of each. A highlight of the visit was a preview tasting of Mike’s distilled spirits. He teased us with a fortified raspberry wine and a mulled spice spirit that was perfect for the holidays. If only the feds were able to approve all of the licenses and labeling in time for Christmas!
Our penultimate (my favorite word) stop for the day was the Thomas Coyne Winery. They are all settled into their new tasting room on Research Drive. It is a nice space, but it certainly doesn’t have the beautiful vistas (or the llamas) of the old facility. They added to our cheer by inviting a caroling group, who serenaded us with Christmas carols. We tasted some limited-edition wines and made our way to our final stop.
All good things come to an end, but before the end arrived, we stopped by the Ruby Hill Winery. we had enjoyed enough of the case of champagne over Thanksgiving that we though it only responsible of us to pick up some more! Although the daylight was fading, the fun was going strong when we arrived. We found a suspicious number of santas and elves, tasting wine and making merry. Luckily there was an opening at the bar and we had a taste of the champagne and, of course, the port in the lovely chocolate cup. What a great day to end the day!
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?