Livermore’s Harvest Wine Celebration brings together many of the wineries in the Livermore Valley, with unique tasting flights, live music and special events. Two amazing days with over 30 wineries to explore. With so many options, we had to make some tough decisions. Here are some highlights from Day One of the Celebration!
The mechanics of attending the Harvest Wine Celebration are simple: purchase a ticket (save $10 with advance purchase), then check in at any participating winery to receive a wristband and commemorative wine glass at the start of the Celebration. Then you’re set! You will be welcomed at more than 30 wineries in the Livermore area over two afternoons. Your wine glass (actually, your plastic wine goblet) is your passport to wines of every description. Using our WTB Personal Tour Planner, we discussed our options and planned our route. After some difficult trade-offs, we settled on two intense days of winery visits. To be clear, we limited ourselves to one taste per winery in general, stayed aggressively hydrated, and reserved time for food and relaxation. It was a marathon, not a sprint, and we took special care to keep our wits about us, and really enjoy the experience.
Our first stop on Sunday was Murrieta’s Well. One of the original wineries in Livermore, we thought it would be a perfect kick-off for our Celebration. Judging by the number of limos and buses in the ample parking lot, a lot of other people agreed with our strategy. Not to worry, though, Murrieta’s Well staff was prepared for the attention and handled it with grace and enthusiasm. Inside the large event room there were several tasting stations (our favorite was The Spur, a blend of 40% Petite Sirah, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec) and some craft tables. Outside was Jack Quigley, a solo artist on acoustic guitar and vocals, for our listening pleasure. Although we could have happily spent the rest of the day sipping and toe tapping, we had a lot of wineries on our agenda.
The Steven Kent Winery
From Murrieta’s Well, we drove about a quarter of a mile to the Steven Kent Winery. We had high expectations, because they really know how to throw a patio party. The moment we arrived we knew that we were not going to be disappointed. The tasting stations were thoughtfully spread out to manage the throngs of happy people, there was shade to spare and plenty of seats and patio tables. Our favorite taste was their Cabernet Sauvignon, poured by the engaging wine guide Leti. There was a fun band and a not-too-humble food truck (“Voted the best burgers in the world by my mom!”) to round out the event. A lot of visitors were clearly ready to spend the afternoon soaking it all in.
A quick walk (park once, taste twice) down Tesla Road was our next stop, the Winemakers’ Studio at Wente Vineyards. By now, the party was in full swing! Wente Vineyards knows how to handle a crowd, and the Celebration was a good demonstration of their capability. There was a clear flow for visitors to follow, with a fun band, called Silent Partner, positioned just inside the entrance so that their tunes provided a backdrop for the entire scene. Food was available at several locations, including a long-time favorite VinX. We first experienced the amazing creations of chef Dylan Arriaza at a Darcie Kent party, and we were thrilled to see him again. We strolled from tasting station to tasting station, sipping on lovely Wente wine, enjoying the band and the fantastic VinX aromas. Our favorite pour was their Sauvignon Blanc, with startling grapefruit awesomeness. The day was working out very well already!
Wood Family Vineyards
Wood Family Vineyards is a perennial favorite for special events. They are only open a few weekends a year, so when they are open, we try to be there! Not only do we love their wine, their taste in craft and food purveyors matches ours exactly. We found a place to park along the access road and walked down the vine-lined driveway to where the festivities began. We studied their Celebration tasting menu and visited the various craft tables. Our favorite wine was their 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, and our favorite craft was a unique wine glass with a dip in one side of the glass to increase the wine’s aromas while taking a sip. We soaked in some tunes by Patty and Abigail with Miguel for a while and then set off toward our next tasting.
A few hundred yards past Wood Family Vineyards on Greenville Road is another long access road that leads to the Bent Creek Winery. This is a long-time favorite winery for us, both for the lovely wine and for the amazing views. It doesn’t take a special event to get us to visit, but we weren’t going to pass up on an opportunity to see what special things they had in store for us. We found a pouring table set up on the patio, with some welcome shade over patio tables and chairs. Bent Creek poured a surprisingly complete wine menu, with their Syrah Port coming out on top for us. Billy Schaub entertained us with vocals reminiscent of Neil Diamond as we took in the view. We enjoyed ourselves immensely!
Charles R Vineyards
At the very end of Greenville Road is Charles R Vineyards. The driveway is deceptively long, and some newcomers parked on the street, awarding themselves the long walk to the winery. As frequent visitors, we knew that there was a large parking lot waiting for us. We easily found a shady spot to park and entered the tasting room. In addition to the wonderful wine, there was a “paint with wine” table, numerous craft vendors, and a fun band with the intriguing name of The Hurricane Band. We sipped and shopped. And shopped and shopped. The vendors selected by the Charles R Vineyards are always top shelf, and we left with several mementos of our visit.
John Evans / Big White House
We drove back up Greenville Road a bit, to the John Evans / Big White House winery. Two labels, walls adorned with oil paintings, lots of happy tasters; this is another great stop on the Celebration trail! John Evans (the winemaker) was offering barrel tastes of his 2013 Château Marion, a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Cabernet Franc. As we sipped on this fun blend and considered buying some futures, we explored the new paintings and eclectic decorations that filled the room. Tasting complete, we spent some time on the side patio, listening to the Gabe Duffin Band. The largest band of the day, and the most exuberant, in the best possible way.
Eckert Estate Winery
The sun was approaching the ridge, so we knew that time was not on our side. We had time for just one more winery. We wanted to finish strong, so we selected a consistent crowd pleaser, Eckert Estate Winery! As an added bonus, this let us stock up on their Neutral Brandy, which is amazing beyond description. We arrived just a bit before closing time, so the band was packing up and the wood-fired pizza folks were waiting for their equipment to cool. To our relief, things were still popping in the tasting room. Owners Vickie and Mike Eckert were still pouring wine and making friends. We gratefully accepted our last pours of the day. They were offering a “bottle your own” opportunity, so we were excited to check it out. Delicious, and offered at an amazing price. If only we weren’t alreacdy overflowing our wine storage. Sigh. Next time! We roamed around the tasting room a bit, enjoyed the bubbling of the multi-stage still in the corner, and went on our way. Day Two was mere hours away and we had a lot of wineries still on our list!
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?
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