Experience Livermore Valley’s Harvest Wine Celebration

If you long to be in wine country for harvest festivites, now is the time to plan to attend the Livermore Valley Harvest Wine Celebration coming up on Labor Day weekend! Last fall I had the great opportunity to become a winemaker at Wente Winemakers Studio in Livermore Valley Wine Country. That experience combined with an exploration of the area’s picturesque vineyards and other family owned wineries made me a fan of this destination. Ideal for wine lovers, Livermore is located in the Tri-Valley Region just about an hour east of San Francisco.

Taking place on Sunday, September 2, 2018, the popular Harvest Wine Celebration festival in its 37th year includes 35+ local wineries showcasing Livermore Valley wine, food, art, crafts and music for ticket holders—each at their own winery. That means that guests will experience the true personality of each winery through its wines, people, and activities. This is a notch above the usual wine tasting! As a bonus, 30 wineries will honor event wristbands for free tasting on Monday as well. That means ticket holders receive a two day experience for $40 in advance and $45 at the event on Sunday.

wine tasting livermore valley
Murietta’s Well

Event Highlights

Concannon Vineyard will host an Escape Room for ticketed guests
Murrieta’s Well will offer vineyard tours every hour
Retzlaff Estate Winery will give a cork demonstration and tours of the historic estate and organic vineyard and garden
Garre´ Vineyard & Winery will host bocce ball and lawn games
Wente Vineyards will serve up barrel samples with a food pairing at the Estate Tasting Room on Tesla Road
el Sol Winery will present beekeeping demonstrations throughout the day

Check the Livermore Valley Wine Country web site for a full list of participating wineries and details on activities at the Livermore Valley Harvest Wine Celebration.

Lodi Wine and Food: Where to Eat, Drink, and Explore

Last fall I had the pleasure of visiting Lodi, California for the first time. The trip was an eye opening exploration of the over 125 varieties of wine grapes grown in Lodi, the multi-generational family farms, the ground breaking wineries producing varieties beyond Zinfandel, and sustainable vineyards. I went home thirsty for more! When an invitation to return arrived, my answer was an enthusiastic, “YES!!!” Sponsored by the Visit Lodi! Conference and Visitors Bureau, my latest trip offered an even broader perspective of Lodi wine and food. Here is an itinerary perfectly suited for a weekend getaway.

An Itinerary for Exploring Lodi Wine and Food

Day 1

Weibel Family Winery Tasting Room

Join us for wine tasting at Weibel’s darling, we saved you a seat!

Popular with the locals, Weibel’s is a fun spot in charming Downtown Lodi to unwind before dinner. Zsa Zsa Gabor was a fan (yes, they’ve been making wine for that long!). The family even struck a deal to have her do some promotion for them back in the day. It’s worth visiting here just to see the resulting print ads for their wine adorning the walls! This comfortable tasting room offering affordable sparkling wines served in vintage Champagne coupes, still wines, and frosé.

Dinner at Fenix Restaurant

Chef Richard Hyman (lower right, with Visit Lodi! President and CEO, Nancy Beckman on the left and digital influencer Samantha Capaldi) offers guests a flavorful menu at Fenix

Stroll down the street to Fenix for dinner where the philosophy is fresh, local, and seasonal in a friendly, casual atmosphere. Talented chef Richard Hyman says don’t call it farm to fork. He believes that should be a given for any small chef driven restaurant. Sit at the counter to enjoy a peek-a-boo view of the kitchen at work. The flavors here pop and the creativity of the chef shines through. Roasted carrots are seasoned with exotic za’atar. Cooked to perfection mesquite grilled swordfish is accompanied by zippy house made jalapeno aioli. Plus, the wine list includes a fantastic selection of wines by the glass or bottle, heavy on the local options.

Update:  as of fall 2018 Fenix has closed. Check the Visit Lodi website for other dining options

Continue reading “Lodi Wine and Food: Where to Eat, Drink, and Explore”

Become a Winemaker at Wente Winemakers Studio

Wineries all along the west coast are ready to pour a tasting flight when you walk through the door. What sets one apart from another? An experience that is unique and engaging can totally differentiate a winery. One of the most memorable tasting room experiences I’ve had is a wine blending session at the Wente Winemakers Studio in Livermore Valley Wine Country.

Being based in Seattle, when we plan a trip to California the lure of the familiar wine regions Napa and Sonoma is hard to resist. If only we’d known over the years of our visits to the Golden State that we were missing out on intimate and engaging experiences in other wine regions. Enter Livermore Valley. Just about an hour east of San Francisco in the Tri-Valley Region, I was surprised to find that we were driving past beautiful vineyards on roads with little traffic.

The area is home to Wente Vineyards, the pioneer of California’s number one white grape variety, Chardonnay. Somehow it had escaped me that the majority of California Chardonnay is a Wente Chardonnay clone. I might be living a wine centric life, and yet this 5th generation family winery that is celebrating its 135th anniversary this year has unfortunately eluded me. With multiple tasting rooms, dining options, and event venues, Wente Vineyards is quite an enchanting playground for wine lovers. My time there was spent at the Wente Winemakers Studio. Even within the Winemakers Studio there are several interactive experiences from which to choose including blind tasting, wine aroma discovery, and wine and food pairing. During my visit I tried my hand at the winemaking blending experience.

Not only does the hospitable staff offer a friendly greeting, upon entering the studio wine glasses and notebooks are set up on tables hinting at the tasting experience ahead. Upon being seated, the session begins with an introduction to the history of the winery. Next comes the anticipated tasting of the estate wines and copious notetaking. Although tasting in this setting is more a function to help one determine which wines and how much may be desired in a custom blend, it turns out it is still fun!

Livermore Valley Wine Tasting

The setup of the blending room is remarkable. Barrel heads with spigots line one wall. This is where we pour Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties into beakers in order to create our blend. We then bottle the finished blend, cork it, put a capsule on it, label it, and ultimately take home our personal creation.

Wente Blending

This memorable blending experience at the Wente Winemakers Studio is delightful and the hospitality remarkable. I highly recommend it and look forward to revisiting Livermore Valley. Have you been to the region? If so, head on over to my post on Instagram and share your experience! #LetsTalkAboutWine

Plan Your Visit

Wente Vineyards
Wente Winemakers Studio
Livermore Valley Wine Country
Visit Tri Valley
Black Tie Transportation

Lodi Wine Country’s Best Kept Secrets

Until last fall I had never been to Lodi, California before. I don’t know what I’d been waiting for! The visit opened my eyes to fascinating varieties, quality wines of incredible value, the history of family wineries, and forward thinking sustainable winegrowing practices.

Located in California’s Central Valley, we found it easiest to fly from our home city of Seattle to Sacramento, then hit the road to our destination about 40 miles south of the airport. And so began the journey of my – not so secret – love affair with the Lodi region.

Fun Facts About Lodi Wine

Did you know that Lodi produces more wine grapes than any other region in California, and it’s not all Zinfandel? It’s easy to assume the region is only about Zin. After all, the grape is considered the signature variety. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I do enjoy a Zinfandel with my turkey chili. Yet, I was surprised and delighted to learn that Lodi’s Mediterranean climate lends itself to growing a number of other grape varieties. Just check out the Spanish varieties produced at Bokisch Vineyards or the white Rhône varieties crafted by Acquiesce Winery.

In fact, wine geeks might be intrigued to find that Lodi is home to over one hundred grape varieties from Aglianico to Zweigelt. Of course, that doesn’t matter if the resulting wine isn’t good. But the wine is fantastic! Consider that what gets bottled also retails for under $40 in most cases and you’ve got a treasure hunt of the most juicy kind! In fact, one of the greatest value wines must be the Obsession Symphony from Ironstone Vineyards at under $15.

Klinker Brick and Mettler Family Vineyards Owners

Many of the family wineries there are multi-generational operations such as Klinker Brick Winery and Mettler Family Vineyards. Some of the vineyards date back to the 1800’s.

Have you heard of the Lodi Rules, California’s first sustainable winegrowing certification program? It’s based on farming practices that benefit the environment, the community, and the local economy. As Randy Lange of LangeTwins says, “When you think generationally you can’t help but think about sustainability.”

Let’s Talk About Lodi Some More

The experience captivated me, unexpectedly opening my eyes to the diverse range of quality wines crafted in this special region. I was so taken by the experience I wrote four articles on the subject, and am delighted to be returning to the region. If you want to learn more, find them on Briscoe Bites (and while you’re there check out the great wine reviews by my friend Stacy Briscoe):

If you’ve already begun your own love affair with Lodi wines, give me a shout out on social media with your favorite wineries to visit and most coveted wines to drink. #LetsTalkAboutWine

Lodi Wineries and Resources