Every September, the Livermore Winegrowers’ Association holds their annual harvest festival fundraiser, in which all the member wineries are required to participate. You will always find plenty of vendors and musical entertainment at the main venues, Concannon and Wente, where multiple wineries are pouring and the people watching is always amusing. I loved Wente’s sign upon exit encouraging people to drink responsibly.
This year’s festival was marked by distinctly dramatic clouds, and consistently large crowds, except where the buses didn’t drop people as expected. They did consistently drop people at Concannon and Wente, and consequently, those venues were bustling like beehives. This is an event where you can either drive yourself around to all the venues, or take the bus. Concannon was stop #1 for us, followed by a visit to Wente, then to Occasio and Nottingham, with a drop in to Mitchel Katz’s new digs, capped off by a visit to Cuda Ridge, in their new location on Arroyo Road.
Top Ten Wines of The Day
2011 Concannon Conservancy Chardonnay a solid citrus-tinged, apple pie beauty, with everything you love about Chardonnay that’s been judiciously oaked.
2012 “Gruv” white Rhone blend from Thomas Coyne a happy, good-natured blend that was simply divine with lemon rind and honey infused Airsdream goat cheese from Hayward.
2012 Page Mill Sauvignon Blanc with lively aromas and flavors of grapefruit, passionfruit and crisp pineapple, especially refreshing for a summer day.
2010 Rodrigue Molyneaux’s “Il Noscato,” a blend of Sangiovese, Cab and Nebbiolo, made to pair with tomato-based dishes like lasagna or spaghetti with meatballs.
2012 Double Decker Sangiovese Rosato, a pretty pink party girl with delicate aromas of strawberry and cherry candy, brimming with flavors of watermelon and raspberry.
2010 Little Valley Cabernet Sauvignon classic Livermore Cab, with charming cassis, leather and chocolate.
2012 Occasio Pinot Noir Rosé lovely in color, aroma and texture, packing all the charms of summer into one apricot, raspberry and strawberry infused beverage. This is the best use of Pinot grown in Livermore! Make more rosé, please. :>
2012 Nottingham Cellars Viognier lively, perfumey and floral in aromas, this wine floods your palate with endlessly delicious flavors of stonefruit and melon. Among the best examples of Viognier on the market today.
2010 Nottingham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon oozing unmistakably “Cabernet cologne,” that infusion of saddle leather, cigar, cherry tobacco and cedar closet, this is beautiful in texture, acidity and finish. It has perfect poise. Winemaker Collin Cranor’s Cabernet and Petite Sirah both demonstrate he’s setting new standards for these varietals in Livermore.
2010 Cuda Ridge Cabernet Franc this wine restored my faith in winemaker Larry Dino’s original execution of this varietal that got my attention. It’s focused, lean, polished like marble, and beautifully layered with fragrant cherry pie, fennel and mocha mint chip. The 2011 Petit Verdot shows bright, spicy, peppery promise, with nice dollops of dark salty licorice and pine.
Livermore Tasting Room Updates
At Nottingham Cellars, they’ve moved most of their equipment to a neighboring warehouse space in time for harvest, so there’s plenty more room in the cellar. They’ve added two new tasting bars with lots of seating, making this a very cool place to hang out and enjoy.
The new Mitchell Katz Winery location on Buena Vista is surrounded by a nursery, so the setting is quite attractive, filled with plants and flowers. It sports a dead on view of the spectacular old Concannon Victorian, and a sweeping view to the east. The tasting room is spacious and pretty well appointed with chotchkes, but it’s the outdoor patio area, festooned with tables and umbrellas, that makes this a great place to spend an afternoon.
Especially impressive is the new location of Cuda Ridge, on Arroyo Road near Marina Ave, where the new tasting room and winery facility are first-rate, without being in any way over the top. It has the vibe of the old place, but is better laid out, with ample room for people to hang, both outside and in.
BY: LAURA NESS, WINE JUDGE & WINE WRITER
Laura Ness, aka “Her VineNess,” is an accomplished wine journalist and wine critic whose passion for wine was ignited by a visit to France, where she had the unmatched pleasure of tasting Sancerre in the medieval town of Sancerre – splendid!— and then a Saumur, after visiting the Chateau de Saumur in Chinon. The concept of terroir came alive in those incandescent moments. She regularly judges wine competitions and serves on the tasting panels of the Pinot, Cabernet and Chardonnay Shootouts. She was instrumental in helping define the unique sub-regions of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in concert with Appellation America. You can usually find her sipping and smiling in Mendocino, Livermore, the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains and Paso Robles. Laura writes extensively for many industry and consumer publications, and has weekly wine columns in several Bay Area newspapers. She blogs, irreverently and sporadically, at myvinespace.com.