Livermore might only be on your radar as a commuter town, but it’s also a historic wine region worth discovering. Home to some of California’s most iconic and oldest vineyards, the Livermore Valley (also known as the tri-valley area) is right in the Bay Area’s backyard. It’s easy to get to and a beautiful place to visit where you can enjoy relaxed, intimate tastings, often with the winemakers and owners themselves.
California’s Old School Wine Region
Long before Napa Valley rose to fame, Livermore had firmly established itself as a thriving wine-growing region in California. Spanish missionaries planted the first winegrapes there in the 1700s, but it wasn’t until the 1840s that Robert Livermore planted the first commercial vines. Soon after, Charles Wetmore – Secretary of the California Viticultural Commission, James Concannon and C.H. Wente followed suit.
In the mid to late 19th century California’s wine scene could be considered nascent at best, but they were already making great wines. In 1889, Wetmore’s “dry white” won the Grand Prix at the International Paris Exposition. It was the first, but definitely not the last California wine to win an international competition. You’ve probably heard of the famous Judgement of Paris in 1976 where a Napa Valley Chardonnay and Cabernet were both recognized as best in class in a blind tasting that shocked French judges. Both of those varieties got their start not in Napa but in – you guessed it – the Livermore Valley.
Like other wine regions throughout the state, Prohibition, lasting from 1920-1933, put a damper on production and put many winemakers out of business. But a few Livermore Valley winegrowers were able to weather the storm and kept their vines alive and businesses afloat by making “sacramental” wines. Just three years after Prohibition ended, Wente released the first bottling of a California Chardonnay in 1936.
Two of the three original wineries in Livermore Valley remain today, Wente and Concannon. Cresta Blanca, founded by Charles Wetmore, closed in 1965 and Wente eventually acquired the historic property.