In 1976, thanks to a blind wine-tasting competition known as “The Judgment of Paris” — which saw California vineyards take top prize in every category — Napa and Sonoma Valleys became synonymous with New World winemaking. But what many people may not realize is that a mere hour and a half south of these famed grape regions sits another: Livermore Valley.
Part of the Bay Area’s Tri-Valley, Livermore enjoys a storied viticulture history. In fact, the first California vineyard to win a French Grand Prix at the 1889 Paris Exposition came from the Livermore Valley. How’s that for pedigree?
California’s Hidden Gem: Livermore Valley
Nestled in Alameda County, Livermore Valley has been a top viticulture region for over 150 years. During the mid-1800s, California pioneers settled in the region and started producing grapes. In the 1850s, C. H. Wente was one of the first to realize the area's potential to produce wine and bought land to start his own winery. Since then, the region has produced notable varieties such as Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, and various dessert wines.
So, why is Livermore Valley not as well-known as Napa or Sonoma? Well, it is known — among dedicated oenophiles. It’s the quieter, lusher, less-touristy California wine country. This is thanks in part to the number of wineries in the area. Livermore has 50 wineries as opposed to the 500-plus in Napa and Sonoma. And if you’re looking to escape the hectic beat of everyday life, there’s no better place to run than the soothing Livermore Valley wine country. It's only about an hour away from the San Francisco International Airport and around 35 minutes from the Oakland International Airport, making for a quick getaway.
5 Excellent Reasons to Visit Livermore Valley
Are you looking for a rejuvenating getaway in Northern California? You can’t go wrong with Livermore Valley, where acres of rolling vineyards, tasting rooms, superb restaurants, boutique hotels, and world-class golf await you.
But for those who are still waffling, allow us to break down five excellent reasons to visit Livermore Valley.
#5: It's Closer Than You Think
Livermore Valley is closer than you think, and if you take BART, the journey is even easier. After riding BART, you can get an Uber or arrange for a car to take you to Wente Vineyards. This is more affordable and accessible than driving for two hours from San Francisco to Sonoma or Napa. At Wente Vineyards, we're close to major cities like San Jose-Silicon Valley, Oakland, and San Francisco, so you can easily plan a day trip.
#4: Livermore Wine Country Is Gorgeous
Imagine a place where the sunbathes rolling verdant hills with bold rays, and for miles, grapes glisten like gems across the landscape. You're probably thinking about the Italian countryside, but Livermore is such a place — the idyllic wine country backdrop. Soaking in the serenity will refresh and revitalize your mind and body.
For all you social media dabblers, the Livermore Valley is exceptionally Instagram-worthy, and the area’s natural light is described as Mother Nature’s filter.
Those who are a bit more adventurous can find biking and hiking trails in the area as well. The Livermore Winery Loop is 5.2 miles long and features lakeside views and vineyards.
As for the average weather in the area, Livermore Valley is great to visit year-round. Winter months range from 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, while summer months are around 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Enjoy the cool weather from January to April and cool off in the summer with a refreshingly crisp white wine. Livermore Valley is east to west, which is unique for California wine regions. This orientation means that coastal fog and marine breezes keep the valley cool at night and warm during the day. These are ideal conditions for producing balanced wine.
#3: There's Great Golfing
Wine and beautiful views aren’t Livermore’s only calling cards. The area has multiple world-class golf courses. Wente Vineyards maintains 18 holes tucked aside a bank of hills that’s interwoven with plots of vineyards. It’s a challenging and unique course that works for casual and tournament player.
Greg Norman designed our course, and it is Audubon-certified. This distinction means that our course meets the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program's standards for preserving the natural environment.
So, why not gather the gang and hit the links? What better way to spend the day than with friends enjoying a round of golf followed by a wine tasting?
As a bonus, Wente Vineyards runs a clinic out of its pro shop, with PGA instructors that rank among the area’s best.
#2: You'll Find Excellent Food
Granted, Livermore Valley doesn’t have as many restaurants as the flashier Napa and Sonoma. But the ones it does have our chef’s-kiss delicious. The Grill at Wente Vineyards is especially delightful. An alfresco dining option is available. However, keep in mind that The Grill is only open to golfers Monday through Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is open to the public on the weekends, so you can enjoy simple food or a glass or two of wine.
The Wente Vineyards Tasting Lounge features a unique experience to try wine and food pairings created by our in-house chef. There are two tasting menus, the Classic and the Reserve. The Classic offers a more relaxed pairing of a savory wood-fired flatbread with a flight of Wente Vineyard's wines. The Reserve menu offers four wines, each paired with its own unique dish, which includes crab cake, poached prawn, lamb, and pan-seared fillet.
One satisfied guest gave us 5 stars on Google, saying, "Some of the best food in the Bay Area, amazing service and so much great wine!"
#1: ...And Even Better Wine!
Vineyards are a way of life in Livermore Valley. There are so many that you could stay for a long weekend and still not be able to visit them all. But thanks to the area’s ideal soil and pedigree vines, the chance of colliding with a sour wine is slim. Whether you prefer oaky Chardonnays, full-bodied Merlots, crisp Rieslings, or dry Cabernets, the wineries in Livermore Valley have something that’s sure to please every palate.
Spend Time at a Livermore Landmark: Wente Vineyards
When visiting Livermore, make time for the historically significant Wente Vineyards, which holds the distinction of being the oldest continuously operating, family-owned winery in the United States.
Our story started in 1883. After learning his trade in Napa Valley, German immigrant C. H. Wente bought 47 acres of Livermore Valley land. In time, his sons — Ernest and Herman — joined the business. They were hardworking, passionate, and inquisitive. Together, they explored cutting-edge harvesting techniques and emerged as pioneers in mechanical harvesting, sustainable agriculture, and the famed Wente Chardonnay clone.
Today, at Wente Vineyards, we keep the family tradition alive and still use vines from the Wente clone Chardonnay. As responsible stewards, we continue to prioritize sustainable methods to ensure the vineyard is here for generations to come.
In terms of blends and varieties, there are options for every taste — and budget! We have multiple experiences at Wente Vineyards for those who want to learn more and those who just want to sit back and relax with a glass of wine.
Traditionally, Wente Vineyards’ wine portfolio is known for its:
• Cabernet Sauvignon
• Pinot Noir
• Sauvignon Blanc
Treat Yourself to a Livermore Getaway
Whether you’re traveling solo, going as a couple, or rounding up the gang for a group getaway, you won’t regret spending an afternoon — or entire long weekend — in the bucolic Livermore Valley wine country. Plan your trip to Livermore today, and don't forget to add a stop at Wente Vineyards.