June 06, 2014
In a valley surrounded by golden hills, the wine and ranching industries have thrived for a century. The Livermore Valley wine region has long been overshadowed by wineries to the north of the Golden Gate, but Livermore shines by offering a down-to-earth environment for tasting and many family owned vineyards. With over 40 wineries and the Livermore Rodeo in its 96th year, Livermore holds onto its roots, while also being home to a hip urban environment and suburban life. Wine tasting, a budding beer scene, an independent movie theater, and lake-side recreation at nearby Del Valle Regional Park make Livermore the ideal place for a summer getaway.
Mimosa trees shade the sidewalk, children run through water fountains and the store fronts are full in this revived downtown. Wine tasting rooms dot the main street waiting to give a taste of local varietals while alehouses highlight the local brews. Stop into Double Barrel Wine Bar (2086 First St.) for a flight of wine and tapas on the patio and then enjoy a frosty beer at First Street Alehouse (2106 First St.) while making a new friend of two. The tree lined avenue is the perfect setting for a Mediterranean dish at Dimitri’s Taverna (2235 First St.) and then cool down with an ice cream at Loard’s Ice Cream shop (1875 Second St.).
Lake Del Valle (7000 Del Valle Rd.)
Bring a picnic, rent a boat and swim in the refreshingly cool waters on a blazing summer day. Over 28 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails wind along or near the lake and trout and catfish can be often be found at the end of your fishing line. 150 campsites are also available, but reserve early on summer weekends and holidays. From Memorial Day to Labor Day life guards are on duty at the designated swimming beaches and snack shops are open. Entry to Del Valle Regional Park is $6 and is located 10 miles south of Livermore.
Retzlaff Winery (1356 South Livermore Ave.)
A swaying tunnel of Pepper Trees leads to Retzlaff Winery, an unpretentious family run vineyard in the heart of Livermore Valley. In 1985 Robert and Gloria Taylor opened their tasting room, which was one of only five wineries in the area at the time. Today there are over 40 wineries in the region, but Retzlaff is set apart by its down-to-earth atmosphere and certified organic wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are produced on the property and the California pepper, eucalyptus and almond trees and wild anise near the vineyard add to the character of the wine. Michel LeFort, the tasting room guru, enamors guests with his wine knowledge and wit. The tasting room is open 7 days a week from 12pm to 4:30pm and has a lawn and picnic tables to enjoy a bottle with lunch. Check website for upcoming events and tastings.
To plan your visit to Livermore Valley wineries visit the Wine Country Itinerary Planner: lvwine.org.
Vine Cinema and Alehouse (1722 First St.)
Independent and foreign films are shown in a casual setting at this charming two screen theatre. Wine and craft beer is served by a knowledgeable and friendly staff and food can be ordered and delivered to your table or couch, for optimum comfort and convenience. Other special events are hosted such as Oscar and Super Bowl parties. Check the website for current showings and events.
Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.