To the delight of many of the region’s vintners and restaurateurs, Northern California’s wine country is world famous. Unfortunately, with that fame comes two-lane rural roads congested with tour bus traffic and wine tasting venues crowded with Instagram-crazed tourists scrambling to snap the perfect picture.
Tri-Valley Wine Region: California Wine at a Slower Pace
By Edward Quan
Jul 10, 2019 - 10:00:57 AM
For those looking to escape the throngs of tourists, a more luxurious vacation experience can be had in the Tri-Valley wine region. There, you can visit historic wineries, meet the owners of family vineyards, sip boutique wines, savor stellar dining choices and indulge in designer fashion shopping.
The Tri-Valley wine region is located about 35 miles east of San Francisco and encompasses the cities of Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin as well as the town of Danville. Surrounded by three valleys, this is where San Francisco Bay locals go to enjoy the best of northern California’s wine country.
Founded in 1883, Wente Vineyards, which grows and produces legendary California Chardonnays, is America’s oldest, continuously family-owned winery.
Known as California’s First Family of Chardonnay, the Wente’s have a long history in the wine business. In 1912, founder and family patriarch CH Wente imported Chardonnay cuttings from the vine nursery at the University of Montpellier in France to the Livermore Valley. This is where California Chardonnay was born and today over 80% of all California Chardonnay comes from the Wente clone.
Visitors to Wente Vineyards will find the winery and tasting room on Tesla Road. There is also a large estate venue on Arroyo Road which offers vineyard tastings, table rooms and a golf course with a restaurant. Both are in Livermore.
For the best experience, visit the Wente Vineyards estate grounds where you can try tastings with dining options, featuring local ingredients that are sustainably and organically grown. Consider reserving an estate vineyard tour for brunch or join special dining experience such as the Lunch in The Garden or the Sonata Dinner in the Caves.
Even better, purchase tickets to Wente Vineyards’ Summer Concert Series. The series features world-renowned entertainers such as Seal, Rick Springfield, Boz Scaggs and Josh Groban. Accommodating an intimate audience of only 3,000, the estate grounds have been described as one of the best outdoor music venues by Canadian Jazz Singer Diana Krall.
Livermore Valley’s first boutique winery, Fenestra, is located in the Tri-Valley wine region and surrounded by rolling vineyards and farmland.
Built in 1889, Fenestra Winery specializes in classically balanced wines made from Livermore Valley grapes. Their offerings range from white to red plus dessert wines and are sure to please any discerning palette.
Within their rustic brick tasting room you will find varieties of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Sirah, Syrah, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Estate Rose, True Red and many more.
The True Red label, which commemorates the True family who originally developed the winery and property in 1889, is what Fenestra Winery is famous for. Current owner, Dr. Reploge, an organic chemist who founded Fenestra in 1976, has been blending red wines since the 1980’s.
Each True Red lot is a very complex blend of Rhone, Bordeaux and Iberian varietals. Aged in French, Hungarian and American Oak barrels for twelve to fifteen months and composed of multiple vintages, they bottle only 1980 cases yearly.
Unlike the large corporate wineries in Napa and Sonoma, small boutique wineries offer you rare varieties you won’t find anywhere else and Fenestra is no exception.
Cuda Ridge Wines
If you have a craving for fine Bordeaux, Cuda Ridge is a must-visit in the Tri-Valley wine region. Recipients of 50 awards since 1912, Cuda Ridge wines have a variety of distinctive flavors - fruit, floral, mineral and spice - which should please any palate.
To capture these unique flavors, Cuda Ridge harvests earlier in the season so that the grapes do not overwhelm the flavor profile of the wine. By picking earlier, the natural acids of the fruit are maintained and this results in wines with a lower alcohol content.
Harvested from Livermore Valley grapes, all of Cuda Ridge’s Bordeaux-style wines have an old-world character which brings out the best in food.
As you enter the Cuda Ridge Wine tasting room, you will likely be greeted by the owners Larry and Margie Dino who will happily pour you a tasting. Formally in IT, Larry started making wine in his garage several years ago. His family’s passion is to produce handcrafted, small lot, Bordeaux-style wines and Cuda Ridge Winery is his “hobby gone wild”.
Retzlaff Vineyards and Estate Winery is a favorite country getaway for San Francisco Bay area families as their picnic grounds are dog friendly. Part of a historic Victorian estate, the winery is surrounded by sprawling vineyards and towering hundred-year-old California pepper trees.
Established in 1976, family-owned Retzlaff Vineyards is the only certified organic vineyard in the Livermore Valley. Winemaker Gloria Taylor believes that exceptional wine comes from exceptional grapes. For over 30 years, she has tended to her vines using sustainable practices; her grapes are non-GMO and free from fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.
The results of all this care are the most exceptional Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon wines found anywhere. Both are very popular but consider tasting their 2012 Merlot which is balanced, full-bodied and silky smooth, having been aged in oak for eleven months. Only six hundred cases are produced each year.
Retzlaff Vineyards and Estate Winery provides an escape from a busy urban life. Bring the dog and pack a picnic lunch for a memorable wine tasting afternoon in the Tri-Valley.
Sabio on Main, Pleasanton
Sabio on Main is all about serving the freshest seasonal California cuisine alongside ingenious cocktails and a selection of wines that is second to none.
With a menu that changes daily based on what’s available from local farmers, the Chef’s ten course tasting menu shared with friends will not disappoint.
Some of my tasting plates included oyster’s cucumber mignonette, Monterey king salmon tartar, cauliflower sambal, Devil’s Gulch ranch pork belly and cavatelli Italian sausage. I rounded my meal out with a delectable serving of crème fraiche pound cake topped with basil ice cream and strawberry compote.
Sabio on Main’s Chef’s Tasting Menu is their signature dining experience and should not be missed. However, 24-hour advance notice is required.
Bottle Taps, Pleasanton
‘Beer deserves better’, says Bottle Taps owner and cicerone (beer guide) Eric Wall. In keeping with that declaration, he offers exceptional casual fine dining with a variety of beer and cider pairings.
With 135 beer styles and 30 on tap, Bottle Taps’ Chef Patrick has created a dining menu that will make you forget about chicken wings, nachos and other casual fine dining staples.
Menu pairings include fresh spring salads with Blushing Monk beer, tasty bacon wrapped prawns with Revision Leafy Green pale ale as well as mouth-watering short ribs paired with London Pride beer. Well worth the visit for any beer aficionado.
Mayflower Chinese Restaurant, Dublin
I admit, Chinese cuisine rarely crosses my mind unless I’m in my hometown of Vancouver or travelling in Asia. But with five Cantonese dim sum chefs on staff, the Mayflower restaurant does not disappoint.
Mayflower offers a delicious menu of traditional Chinese dim sum choices, including shrimp and pork dumplings, BBQ pork buns and even stuffed eggplant.
Notable recommendations are the lobster e-fu noodles, diced beef cubes with maggie sauce and roasted duck.
Danville Harvest, Danville
Locals call Danville a small town with outstanding quality of life and the Danville Harvest restaurant combines small town hospitality with high quality food in its farm-to-table menu.
Danville Harvest is Famous for brunch and people travel for miles to enjoy their warm mini muffins and lil blueberry scones. Offering good hearty farm-style meals made from the freshest and finest ingredients available all day long and surrounded by the small boutiques and specialty shops of downtown Danville, it is a wonderful place for family and friends.
San Francisco Premium Outlets
The Tri-Valley region is home to San Francisco Premium Outlets which offers the largest selection of luxury designer fashion on the west coast.
Indulge in retail therapy with luxury brands such as Gucci, Burberry, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, Armani, Bottega Veneta, Ermenegildo Zegna, Jimmy Choo, Versace and more.
Located in Livermore, Premium Outlets is ideal for purchasing small luxury accessories such as leather wallets, handbags, scarves and shoes which make excellent gifts for family members, lovers and, indeed, oneself.
Black Tie Transportation
Black Tie Transportation provides airport and hotel pick-up
in luxury vehicles and multi-seat vans with professional drivers for
Trips to and from the airport in their BMW 7 series sedans and
excursions to the vineyards, complete with sparkling wine, in their
Mercedes Vans made our visit to the Tri-Valley region a truly luxurious
Aloft Hotel, Dublin
The newly-opened Aloft Hotel in Dublin combines modern and
vibrant decor, with a comfortable atmosphere and is an excellent option
for accommodations in the Tri-Valley region.
Suites are spacious with hi-tech touches such as in-room Alexas, keyless
room keys for your mobile phone, fast & free WIFI and a hotel robot
who delivers room service to your door.
Guest amenities include a 24-hour fitness center, an outdoor pool with a
fire pit and the XYZ lounge which offers live music, a pool table and
To experience the best of Northern California wine tasting and food, travel east from San Francisco to Tri-Valley. Where you will discover unrivaled wineries, amazing cuisine in friendly communities plus luxury designer shopping away from the madding tourist crowds making your next vacation a memorable one.
About the author: Edward Quan is a luxury fashion and travel writer who shares exceptional and emotional stories from across the globe. From European fashion runways to traveling well, he covers the best in people and culture, luxury hotels and resorts, fine food and drink and of course shopping. Read more about Edward Quan at styledrama.com
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