Living it up at Livermore Valley’s Taste Our Terroir Weekend
It’s been a crazy few weeks of travel and fun. My friends Holly and Alice visited me from across the pond and right before that, I got to do some serious wine tasting thanks to Visit Tri-Valley and the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association. While I’m no stranger to Central California, I truly did not know what to expect when I arrived in town.
Just under 30 miles from Oakland, the Tri-Valley consists of Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin, and Danville. No stranger to wine, Livermore Valley has made a name for itself with some fantastic varietals coming out of the region. I arrived just in time for their annual Taste Our Terroir and by the time I left 4 days later, it was sold on this quaint valley that’s a whistling distance to the San Francisco Bay.
Livermore Valley’s Annual Taste Our Terroir Weekend
Taste Our Terroir is a summer highlight for locals and visitors alike to the Tri-Valley. During the festival, attendees are treated to a variety of events including their pairing competition, concerts, tours and yoga in the vineyard. What makes Taste Our Terroir such a unique event are the opportunities to meet the local winemakers as well as some of the best chefs in the Bay Area.
We arrived Thursday evening at the stunning Casa Real for opening night and the competition. As we pulled up, the Livermore wine trolley was riding through the vineyard-how fun is that? It’s one of the many ways you can wine taste in style in the Tri-Valley!
For the competition, some of the most beloved Bay Area chefs join forces with local wineries for some serious pairings. The mission for me? Try as many pairings a safely possible and vote for my favorites. I admit I was concerned in regards to gluten-free plates but several of the chefs were more than happy to accommodate me, on the spot. How’s that for expertise?
Opening Night and Pairing Competition at Casa Real at Ruby Hill Winery
Casa Real at Ruby Hill Winery is an absolute gem to Livermore Valley. Dreamy and lush, Casa Real has 5 diverse spaces ideal for any kind of event you may be planning. We began in the entrance hall to grab our glasses before making our way into the sun garden for a welcoming reception.
During our welcome in the garden, I was introduced to some fantastic wines like Elliston Vineyards and Darcie Kent Wines. Given the heat in the valley, Elliston’s off-dry, crisp sparking hit the spot. As did Darcie Kent’s Sauvignon Blanc with its notes of lemon and grapefruit.
While it was tempting to stay outside all evening, there were plates to try and wines to sip. As I made my way to the grand salon, it was already bustling in the main hall. I made a beeline to check out Millennium Restaurant’s smoked eggplant with forbidden black rice onigiri, red miso, anise glaze, and a cherry tomato shiso salad. Paired with Page Mill’s 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, the bold red enhanced the smokiness from the plate so well-I may have had seconds.
But, what’s a food and wine event without stepping out of your comfort zone? I’m usually not one to try street corn but when I saw Attraversiamo serving up some with a McGrail Vineyards Kylie Ryan 2017 Rosé, I knew I had to try it. Since I’m not much of a mayonnaise fan, little did I know how well a Rosé would taste with the beloved dish. I wasn’t the only one to take note of this pairing-they ended up taking home the People’s Choice Award for Best White Pairing.
Yet, when it came down to cast my vote for Best in Show….a potato chip won me over. Vacaville’s Backdoor Bistro’s head chef, Lindsey Chelini, created such a dynamic plate that sounded rather plain and simple. Shrimp aguachili and local melon sat atop a chili dusted potato chip and topped with avocado crema. Savory and sweet, the melon brought forth the wine notes like apple and honey while the crema mellowed out the initial ‘pop’ from the chili dust.
Livermore winemaker, Phil Long, was on hand pouring his 2017 Longevity Wines Pinot Blanc and it’s easy to see why this duo took home the award for Best Pair from the judges.
The Winemakers Concert in the Vineyard
During the competition, I loved connecting with Dane Stark of Page Mill Winery and Mark Clarin from McGrail Vineyards. Imagine how intrigued I was to hear we’d be attending a concert featuring the 2 winemakers! We arrived Friday evening to Chandler vineyards and I must say, if I were to describe my perfect summer night, it would look something like this. Chandler is actually a vineyard on a private residence which makes this event all the more special. Page Mill and McGrail grow their grapes at Chandler, which rests on 20 beautiful acres.
The Chandler residence was designed by world-renowned architect, Cesar Pelli. Pelli, whose firm won the competition for San Francisco’s Transbay Tower, is probably best known for his design of the Petronis Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
We were treated to light bites as we enjoyed wines from the winemakers on stage. I was especially partial to Page Mill and their reds. Their Cabernet Sauvignon combines the perfect notes of vanilla and spice while revealing its earthier tones after enjoying some cheese and nuts.
The attendees enjoyed the concert picnic-style-with the stage overlooking the gorgeous views of the vineyards surrounding us. I especially enjoyed the duo’s rendition of I Will Survive. Bravo!
Yoga in the Vineyard
After a day and a half of wine tasting and eating around the Tri-Valley, some yoga sounded quite inviting. When Saturday morning hit, we were taken off to the luscious Retzlaff Vineyards for a morning yoga class. A recurring event for Retzlaff, I was embarrassed when I realized it’d been months since I’d practiced any yoga. It seemed fitting to return to it in a vineyard, no less.
Suzanna Spring from Livermore’s Dragonfly Yoga led the hour-long practice accompanied by music therapist, Phil Dudlake. An impressive drummer and percussionist, Dudlake’s tranquil sounds enhanced Barnett’s class and made for such a relaxing time. And I hadn’t even had wine yet.
And, am I the only one who thought of Gilmore Girls when they heard Dragonfly Yoga?
Following the class, I enjoyed some of Retzlaff’s wines, which have been certified organic for over 10 years. As another warm day was coming upon us, their Rosé left me wanting more. An award-winning 2017 Dry Merlot, this is a crisp wine to enjoy on the patio on a hot day. Or, after an hour of yoga, no less.
Retzlaff Vineyards offers such a unique experience for its visitors. I loved the fact that they’re family and pet-friendly. Bring a picnic and stay for a while. You can also schedule a tour of their vineyards and participate in fun tastings like sampling young wines right from the barrel.
Plan Your Visit to Livermore Valley
While Taste Our Terroir has wrapped for 2018, don’t despair. Over Labor Day weekend, the Livermore Harvest Wine Celebration will return. The popular festival will follow the traditional format of 35+ local wineries showcasing Livermore Valley wine, food, art, crafts, and music for ticket holders—each at their own winery. Guests will experience the true personality of each winery through its wines, people, architecture and activities.
Most wineries will honor event wristbands for free tasting on Monday as well and ticket prices have been rolled back to $40 in advance and $45 at the event. Visit www.LVwine.org for tickets and details.
(*Disclosure: I was apart of a media trip to the Tri-Valley. All opinions are my own.)