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Image by Tim Mossholder

Gateway to Livermore Valley, CA

Image by Hari Nandakumar

“My favorites, aside from Steven Kent and not in order of preference as that changes from vintage to vintage, are Wente Louis Mel, Murrietta’s Well Los Tesoros (which also comes from the Louis Mel vineyard, but is small production at just 8 barrels), Concannon Reserve Assemblage Blanc (a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon), and Occasio Winery Del Arroyo Vineyard.”

Fred Swan

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History of the Livermore Valley

Livermore Valley was once one of California’s prime sources of grapes. In 1882, Charles Wetmore planted cuttings of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon from Chateau d’Yquem in his Cresta Blanca Vineyard. The 1884 Cresta Blanca made from these grapes won the Grand Prize at the 1889 Paris Expo, becoming the first American wine ever to win a prize in France. More recently, Hugh Johnson wrote about what a prime spot this valley was for Sauvignon Blanc due to its well-drained, gravelly limestone soil, similar to what is found in Bordeaux. The gravel, comprised of egg-sized stones deposited from rushing waters in now dry arroyos are easily visible. Along Tesla Road, they are as large as a melon or a basketball.

Yet with all of this early recognition, the potential of Livermore Valley wines has not been fully realized. A major challenge has been the fact that like Silicon Valley, much of Livermore Valley transitioned rapidly from rural ranchland to housing developments and strip malls. And like the Santa Cruz Mountains, many wine producers turned to Monterey County for fruit once their vineyards were gone. Today however there are 4,000 vineyard acres planted here.


Livermore is a wide spot in a long chain of identical valleys running N-S behind the East Bay Hills, and is the warmest valley from Southern Monterey to San Francisco. Marine influence is mostly blocked by the East Bay Hills and the Santa Cruz Mountains so the days are warm, but gaps in the hills allow evening cooling with fog from the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific. The Altamont Ridge blocks much of the San Joaquin Valley heat. Harvest starts and ends later than it does in Napa Valley, and there is less rainfall. Livermore is cooler than the northernmost points in Napa Valley.

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