HILLS NEWSPAPERS: November 21, 2014
Please forgive Santa if he ditches his sleigh for a bike in the Livermore Valley. More than 8 miles of bike lanes and trails connect 16-plus wineries in this pleasantly rural wine region.
Less than 45 minutes from Oakland, the Livermore Valley Wine Country is a picturesque patchwork of farms and small neighborhoods rimmed by ridges and canyons. On a bike, you can easily cruise along rows of red and gold vines under a cornflower blue sky.
All around you are reminders of history. One of California’s oldest wine regions, there are fifth-generation growers alongside dozens of smaller boutique wineries.
“James (Concannon) called the Livermore Valley the grand laboratory,” says fourth-generation vintner John Concannon, who grew up in the house James Concannon built on the property in 1883. “He thought California could make as good a wine as France. They were experimenting.”
With a climate much like the Bordeaux region, John says his great-grandfather, along with C.H. Wente and Charles Wetmore, soon realized the advantage of warm days and cool nights.
“About a 40-degree swing in temperature elevates the sugars and acids nicely on the number one and two selling varietals,” he says. More than 80 percent of the chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon can be traced back to Livermore.
John Concannon is surprisingly modest about the winery’s achievements — even when talking about one of my favorite wines, Concannon Conservancy Crimson and Clover.
“It was created as a tribute to my dad on his 80th birthday,” John Concannon says. “We had a party right here, under the arbor.”
It turns out that soft, petit syrah-inspired blend has been the most successful brand that Concannon has had in 130 years, from a volume standpoint.
What sets the Livermore Valley apart from Napa and Sonoma can be summed up in just a few words. It’s accessible, affordable, approachable and award-winning — what the Wine Growers Association calls the “A-list.”
Add activities to the list, too, since one of the year’s best events is coming up in December. Holidays in the Vineyards (Dec. 6-7) is a warm, feel-good occasion with music and crafts and wineries that go all out in decorating their tasting rooms.
“What’s so wonderful,” John Concannon says, “is we have over 50 wineries and you can come out and typically meet the winemakers and owners. The wineries are much closer together and they’re easy to get to.”
What are your favorite local adventures? Drop me a line, and I’ll share them with readers. You can reach me at email@example.com or online at www.ginnyprior.com.