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After a Saturday night pop-up dance party in the lobby of our host hotel (complete with pumping hip-hop and 80’s tunes), I woke up invigorated and ready to roll in style down to Livermore Valley to continue my California wine region education…

My fellow bloggers and I who opted for this excursion knew we were in for a treat when Chris, our talented driver, asked us to board the Black Tie Transporation‘s luxury coach.  We were away in style en route to visit the Tri-Valley area: Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon and Danville. Robin Fahr, Director of Marketing and Communications for Visit Tri-Valley, set the tone for our excursion with a ‘rolling’ breakfast of champions complete with Wente Vineyards ‘Small Lot’ Brut 2015 made with 100% Chardonnay crafted in the Methode Champenoise style that was paired with two Danville Chocolates truffles.  And it was only 9:30 AM!

After picking up Tami Kelly, Media Relations for Livermore Valley Wine Country, we pulled into Murrieta’s Well for wine tasting and lunch. Murrieta’s Well has been growing grapes since the 1800’s and was started with cuttings from Château d’Yquem and Château Margaux vineyards in France.  It was purchased in 1933 by Ernest Wente and today is a destination for food and wine in Livermore.

Standout wines:

  • Murrieta’s Well Small Lot Chardonnay 2015 – barrel fermented for 14 months in both new and neutral French oak barrels and aged sur lie. Flavours of lemon meringue, vanilla bean, and apple pie.  Retails for $48USD.
  • Murrieta’s Well Small Lot Zarzuela 2015 – an exciting blend of Tempranillo, Touriga and Souzao all sourced from their estate vineyard.  Zarzuela is a blend of these three grapes that were all fermented and matured in separate barrels.  A delicious flavour profile of cinnamon, blackberry, ripe Bing cherry and raspberry jam. Retails for $60USD.

Our second stop was to the Ghielmetti Vineyard. This 64-acre vineyard is a sloped alluvial bench made up of six unique soil types and grows 10 grape varieties. It is organized over 19 blocks that range in elevation from 500 ft. to 1,000 ft. above sea level. We tasted wines from Steven Kent Winery, Nottingham Cellars and McGrail Vineyards and Winery.

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Standout wine:

  • Nottingham Cellars Petite Verdot, Ghielmetti Vineyard, Livermore Valley – this ‘micro-lot’ reserve wine was one of my favourites of my Livermore Valley excursion.  Bursting and alive with flavours of blueberry, whipped mocha, crushed blackberry, and coffee, this wine was balanced and the tannins were oh so silky. Incredible and a complete bargain at $50USD.

From the Ghielmetti Vineyard, we were shuttled to Wood Family Vineyards for a ‘good neighbour’ tasting – five wineries were represented in the cellar room and it was a relaxed tasting with a friendly flow.

I spent my time speaking with John Kinney, owner of Occasio Winery.  Founded in 2008, Kinney considers his winery a ‘concept winery’ – with focus on encapsulating a Livermore identity established more than a century ago but is now forgotten in the rush to emulate the modern ‘California’ style.  Kinney believes that the traditional ‘Livermore’ style is worth preserving.  I agree.


Standout wines:

  • Occasio ‘Founders’ Chardonnay, Del Arroyo Vineyard, Livermore Valley 2016 – a nice, creamy expression of Chardonnay.  Judiciously crafted and full of orchard fruit, hazelnut and a whiff of banana cream, I was an instant fan. Retails for $40USD. #Chardcore
  • Occasio Cabernet Franc, Del Arroyo Vineyard, Livermore Valley 2014 – this Cabernet Franc had just been released to market and we were some of the first people to try it. Full of fresh strawberry, roasted red peppers, red cherry, chewing tobacco and pencil shavings, this Cabernet Franc hit all the right notes for me.  Retails for $50USD.

The finale on our first day in Livermore Valley was a tour and tasting dinner at the historical Concannon Vineyard.  John Concannon, Fourth Generation Vintner and Managing Director of Concannon Vineyard, greeted us with a glass of Reserve Assemblange Blanc – a crisp and refreshing blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon – but it is Cabernet Sauvignon and the ‘Concannon Mother Vine’ that we all came to see.


Concannon ‘Mother Vine’

It is estimated that 80% of California’s 90,000 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Concannon Cabernet Sauvignon clones 7, 8, and 11.  All three cuttings were taken from a single vine, the ‘Concannon Mother Vine’ which was propagated from Cabernet Sauvignon cuttings the Concannons imported in 1893 from Château Margaux in Bordeaux, France.

I have never truly felt the power of a plant before but there was no doubt this ‘Mother Vine’ was giving off incredible energy.  The ‘Mother Vine’ was the star of the evening as we all posed to get our photos taken with her – a ‘superstar’ vine, alive and well in Livermore Valley.

The Concannon Vineyard was one of the first wineries in California to become Certified Sustainable.  We had a tasty sit-down dinner in the very chilly, massive barrel room. (Thank you for having blankets to wrap up in!)

Standout wine:

  • Concannon Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Mother Vine, 2014 – a well-crafted and powerful Cabernet Sauvignon full of Damson plum, fresh raspberries, cassis, and chocolate shavings.  This wine is very well balanced and has a long, juicy finish. Retails for $45USD.

Our first day was an excellent introduction to Livermore Valley wine region – I felt I had a sense of place, understood the vineyards, enjoyed the wine and the people.

I went to sleep looking forward to Day 2…