Why you should explore the wines of the Livermore Valley

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The Livermore Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) is one of California’s oldest wine-producing regions. In 1982, it was among the first American designations designated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco (BATF). AVA is also part of the Central Coast AVA and the San Francisco Bay AVA.

The valley is located about 30 miles east of San Francisco in the East Bay region of Alameda County. Oriented on an east to west axis, it is about 15 miles long and 10 miles wide.

It is surrounded by the Diablo Range to the east, north and south. The Amador Valley to the west connects the Livermore Valley with the Gulf of San Francisco, allowing cooling ocean winds and mists from the bay and the Pacific Ocean into the valley.

The result is a pronounced daily variation in temperature, with hot days and cool nights, which helps preserve the acidity of the ripe grapes. Otherwise, the summers are hot and dry with average high temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s degrees Fahrenheit. The region receives about 18 inches of rain a year, pretty much everything during the winter months.

The first grapes in the Livermore Valley were planted by Spanish missionaries in the mid-18th century. Californian pioneers, especially Robert Livermore, after whom the valley is named, began planting grapes in the 1840s.

Three of California’s oldest and most iconic wineries were planted here in the 1880s by CH Wente (Wente Vineyards), James Concannon (Concannon Vineyard) and Charles Wetmore (Cresta Blanca Winery). The first two wineries are still in operation. Cresta Blanca closed in 1965. The Wente family bought the historic landmark property in 1981 and currently operates the Wente Vineyards’ Tasting Lounge and The Course at Wente Vineyards there.

Cresta Blanca’s opening wine won an international gold medal at the 1889 Paris Exhibition in 1884, making it the first California wine to win a gold medal in an international competition.