Take a Getaway to California’s Tri-Valley

Whenever I’m even slightly near San Francisco, that’s where I want to be. Yet, as of late, I’ve discovered that while the bay city is a fantastic place to go, there’s many other sights to see in Northern California. I was reminded of this once again on my trip to the Tri-Valley over the summer.

The Tri-Valley has a little bit of it all. A thriving wine region, I was fortunate to discover some phenomenal vineyards. As a museum lover, Blackhawk Museum was one I couldn’t believe I’ve not yet heard of.

Read on to see some of my top-picks for a visit to California’s beautiful Tri-Valley.

Visiting California’s Tri-Valley

The cities of Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, and Danville make up the Tri-Valley. Just 20 miles from Oakland and 30 miles from San Francisco, I flew into Oakland on a gorgeous Thursday afternoon ready to start exploring.

Livermore Valley’s Taste Our Terroir would be starting in just a few hours, so I was happy there was time to refresh at my hotel for a bit and get settled.

Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham in Livermore offers contemporary, stylish suites with their adorable Downtown just a few blocks away. My room was extremely cozy and quiet, and the staff could not have been kinder. While no restaurant or bar onsite, they offer a daily breakfast as well as an evening happy hour. Hawthorn Suites is an ideal central location to enjoying all that the Tri-Valley has to offer.

Should you need any necessities, Wal-Mart as well as an In ‘n Out Burger are also nearby!

My comfy room at Hawthorn Suites. (c) Mary Farah
Blind tasting at Wente Vineyards. (c) Mary Farah

Take a Wine Class at Wente Vineyards

You’ll feel right at home here if you love wine tasting. We had several winery stops during my stay and began at Wente Vineyards. Going beyond the usual wine tasting flights, Wente offers fun tasting classes that everyone can enjoy. I admit, I was a little nervous at the Black Glass Blind Tasting I’d be participating in. I’ve enjoyed visiting an array of wineries and meeting the makers behind them over these past few years and really felt my knowledge would be put to the test.

We arrived to our classroom, so to speak, ready to begin with one of Wente’s sommeliers. The process was extremly fun and laid-back. During our 60 minute tasting, mysterious wines were poured into our dark glasses. We’re given a sheet of what we could possibly be drinking, along with what notes to look for.

While I only got 2 out of 4 correct, it was super easy to differentiate the reds and whites. This is a really fun class to take as a group and switches up your usual wine tasting experience. All levels (21+) are welcome.

I told you Darcie likes purple. (c) Mary Farah
Precious painting by Darcie Kent. (c) Mary Farah
What a view for our tasting at Darcie Kent. (c) Mary Farah

Enjoy a Purple Haze at Darcie Kent Vineyards

When we arrived at Darcie Kent Vineyards, I was struck with how home-y the atmosphere felt. From the bold purple shaded wine barrels surrounding me (there’s a lot of purple here), to the beautiful artwork and family photographs inside, Darcie Kent has created a very special haven in Livermore Valley.

Kent, a 5th generation winemaker, established the vineyards in 1996. She follows in her great-grandfather’s footsteps and uses her original art for each of their wine labels. Clearly a dog lover, I especially loved the painting of an adorable yellow Labrador when we entered!

I loved each wine I tried. A highlight was definitely the 2015 DeMayo Chardonnay. I also loved the fact that Darcie won a competition to have the 2010 vintage of  DeMayo served at The White House! In 2012, Michelle Obama held a competition to have a woman winemaker’s wine served at the 100th First Lady Luncheon, and Kent received the honor. Very creamy, with notes of honey and even butterscotch. I may have left with a few bottles of Darci’s wines.

Arriving at Blackhawk Museum. (c) Mary Farah
Vroom. (c) Mary Farah
Just hanging out with some friends. (c) Mary Farah
Our amazing docent, Christel. (c) Mary Farah

See Vintage Cars and Learn about the Old West

When I heard we would be visiting Blackhawk Museum in Danville, I thought I’d have fun. I like cars, and Blackhawk is known for its impressive collection to make even the hard-to-please car lover drool. Little did I realize that in addition to its cars, they’ve got one of the best Western heritage exhibits you’ll find after the Autry Museum here in LA.

Blackhawk’s Spirit of The Old West takes up the entire 2nd floor of the museum. Within this ample space, visitors explore the history of the Plains Indians, and the conflicts that emerged when the early 19th century brought American citizens westward. Taxidermy animals, interactive stations and even the opportunity to see a covered wagon are just some of the must-see’s at the Blackhawk Museum.

As you move downstairs, you will find the flashy, vibrant hall of vintage cars. From a 1911 Rolls Royce to a 1934 Mercedes, everyone is sure to have a blast in here. You can even host a private event in the automobile exhibit. If you would like a docent-led tour, do everything you can to try to get the lovely Christel as your guide. She was full of spunk, and such a great teacher.

Shrimp and Grits at Danville Harvest. (c) Mary Farah
Gazpacho at Danville Harvest. (c) Mary Farah
Grilled chicken at Sauced. (c) Mary Farah
Friendly faces at Meadowlark Dairy. (c) Mary Farah

Let’s Eat

After Blackhawk Museum, we stayed in town and had lunch at nearby Danville Harvest. While I usually adore a farm-to-table dining experience, I was underwhelmed at the gluten-free options at this cute and intimate restaurant. That didn’t stop me from trying their shrimp and grits and a bowl of their gazpacho, both gluten-free and hit the spot. If you’re in the mood for a sandwich and drink (they had several cocktails), Danville Harvest has a great, chill atmosphere. Brunch and dinner, too.

While Danville Harvest ended up being limited, I was excited to see Sauced in Downtown Livermore had quite a few gluten-free options. A classic “rib joint”with Southern flare, wherever you saw a pig symbol, that indicated gluten-free. All of their BBQ sauces are also safe and I even enjoyed a gluten-free beer.

Ready for dessert? Head on over to Downtown Pleasanton for Meadowlark Dairy, a drive-thru dairy farm serving up some decadent soft serve ice cream. Best part? their 3 fruit flavors are dairy-free. Everyone can enjoy!

Take a Trip to Tri-Valley

With the holidays around the corner, several fun events are planned throughout the Tr-Valley. You can learn more HERE to plan your visit.

While a great road trip from LA, if you plan to enjoy some wine tasting (of course you are), consider arriving in style with a ride and rental from Black Tie Transportation. They took care of us during our trip and the drivers were outstanding. So hospitable and ensured we safely got to and from each of our stops.

(*Disclosure: I was a media guest on behalf of this feature. All opinions are my own.)