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Wine-tasting by mail – exploring Livermore Valley

Livermore Valley

What a thrill it was to receive six bottles of wine from Livermore Valley.

The valley lies below Lake Tahoe, between San Francisco and Yosemite. There are 4000 acres of vineyards, 50 wineries, and 150 restaurants. https://www.lvwine.org/wineries.php

In 1846, Robert Livermore planted the first wine grapes, and about 40 years later, Carl H. Wente and James Concannon founded the first wineries in this remarkable valley in California. In 1982 the federal government approved the Livermore American viticulture area (AVA), Consisting of 12 districts. Each district represents a different soil, climate, slope, and geography. The change in geography also referred to as terroir, influences the various wines.
Think warm days, cool nights, coastal fog, marine breezes, and average rainfall, and you have the perfect environment for growing the perfect grapes. Livermore Valley especially favors Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon varietals.

My friend, Julie, helped me unpack. First, of course, we had to try a bottle or two.

Garre Vineyard and Winery 2020 Pino Grigio
Garre Vineyard is surrounded by beautiful scenery. Bob Molinaro and his daughter, Gina, have elevated the property to a fine winery and added a recently constructed Bella Rosa wedding facility and the Martinelli Event Center.

I had a memorable evening with some friends who had traveled with me to Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa met under the gazebo (pavilion) at my condo for a few drinks before going out to dinner. I used this opportunity to introduce them to the Garre Vineyard Pinot Grigio. They loved the light-bodied wine with its fruity flavors and tart spicy aftertaste.

Cuda Ridge 2017 Cabernet Franc
Cuda Ridge Wines produces award-winning, Bordeaux-style wines. Their premier vineyards are family-owned, and all of their wines are handcrafted. The small lots and limited production offer unique character and complexity.

The 2017 Cabernet Franc is a full-bodied wine, drenched in blackberry and cherry flavors. For me, the aftertaste has a smooth, acidic texture.

I read that Cabernet Franc goes well with herbed roast chicken, so, for dinner, off I went to my favorite spot at the river, taking the bottle with me.

Longevity Rose of Deb-ru- vee 2020 Vintner Select
There is a romantic story tied to the Longevity Wines. Phil Long and his wife, Debra, became so intrigued with the artistry of making wine that what started as a passionate garage hobby in the early 2000s grew into a full-scale wine production business. Phil designed the wine label using the heart motif that Debra loved. When she became very ill, he even had it tattooed on his arm as a constant reminder of her. Unfortunately, she died of pancreatic cancer in 2019.
Phil, an African-American vintner, is very involved in promoting Blacks in the wine industry.

The Rose of Deb-ru-vee combines Debra’s name and the Cuvee on wine labels, generally referring to a specific blend or batch. For the wine fundi’s attention: it is a blend of 40% Grenache, 36% Syrah, 17% Mourvedre, and 7% Petite Sirah and aged for 30 months in French oak.

I read that a sense of smell can detect about 10,000 different aromas! I could detect a fruitiness but do not have a finely developed ‘nose’ yet. It was, however, absolutely delicious wine with a tart, spicy aftertaste.

Wente Vineyards The Nth Degree Chardonnay
The Wente Vineyards is one of California’s premier wine country destinations. It offers, amongst others, wine tasting, dining, and concert experiences, as well as a championship golf course. Founded in 1883, it claims to hold the title of the “longest, continuously operated family-owned winery in the country.”

Julie and I sat outside, savoring the 2018 Nth degree Chardonnay. After reading that it had “beautiful aromatics of toasted vanilla and creme brulee,” we tried to discover that for ourselves. We agreed that it had a full flavor with an aftertaste of citrus and cloves and proclaimed the Nth degree as a favorite. This wine is truly excellent.

Las Positas Estate 2018 Tempranillo
I love the philosophy of Las Positas Estate: “dedicated to the marriage of Old World craftsmanship and New World pioneer spirit in the production of world class wines.”
Lisa and Lothar Maier bought a 20-acre vineyard on Kalthoff Commons in the southwest corner of the Livermore Valley in January 2006. After researching the local history books and maps, they found that the original 40,000-acre property’s name was Rancho Las Positas. Robert Livermore named the land for the many streams and watering holes.

They cleared out the existing vines and plowed the soil, planting small parcels in different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo, Barbera, Petite Sirah, and Chardonnay. Their hard work and labor of love paid off since the handcrafted wines have won many awards, including the 2019 San Francisco Chronicle Competition’s Best Red Wine Sweepstakes.

Tempranillo wine is a red grape variety. I invited my book club friends, Katherine and Pat, to taste the wine. We discussed the fact that tannin came from the skin and stems of the grapes. I certainly ‘felt’ the tannins in my mouth. We all enjoyed its rich aroma.

Darcie Kent Vineyards Pistachio Lane Chardonnay 2019
This wine estate also has a fascinating story behind its beautiful labels. Darcie Kent is the vintner, as well as the artist who designs and draws each label. Her great-grandfather started this tradition many years ago. https://darciekentvineyards.com/our-story
Darcie, her husband, David, and their two daughters, Kailyn and Amanda, run the estate, employing the Hungarian-born winemaker, Julian Halasz.

The 2019 Pistachio Lane Chardonnay, a new release, earned a gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. It certainly has a creamy texture and distinct fruity flavors. I would love to take up the family on their invitation to visit them and celebrate the union of Wine, Art, and the Natural World at 7000 Tesla Road in the scenic Livermore Valley!

After this bout of wine-tastings, I was very happy to read that there was “increasing scientific evidence that moderate, regular drinking of wine can reduce the risk of heart disease, as well as developing Alzheimer’s disease or having a stroke.” Please don’t quote me on that, but it sounds good to me. Suffering from a ‘benign essential tremor,’ I was told by my doctor that a glass of wine helps keep it under control. Note I said ONE glass of wine.