The Concerts at Wente Vineyards are BACK!

Okay, let ‘s skip over the fact that I’ve been MIA for a “while” and just jump right to the fun stuff…I had the pleasure of seeing both Chris Isaak and Alanis Morissette this past week at Wente Vineyards.  I know Chris has performed here several times, so I may be in the minority of people that had not seen him live before. What a great entertainer!  Chris CIHe embraced the intimate venue at Wente Vineyards, even coming into the crowd to sit in a lady’s lap! While a lot of the songs were new to me, I completely enjoyed his performance and would see him again in a heartbeat.

Rocking CI

The second show of the season was Alanis Morissette – the woman who provided the internal voice for my 1990’s angst. To say I was excited about this concert would be a massive understatement! Apparently I wasn’t the only one, as it was a sold out show. She showed up with just two guitarists and a microphone, and played every song I could have hoped for.

AM ALanis

Now let’s talk about the real star of these concerts…Wente Vineyards has been holding these concerts for more than 30 years now, and I can’t get over how lucky we are to have them in the Livermore Valley.  The venue can hold around 1,700 guests which means there isn’t a bad seat in the place.  That being said, I definitely had one of the BEST seats for both Chris Isaak and Alanis Morissette concerts.

My favorite ticket option for the Concerts at Wente Vineyards are the outdoor dining, which includes the buffet dinner served from 6pm – 8pm, with the concert starting at 8:15pm.  The food is always fresh, seasonal, and plentiful.

The line up this year features performers such as Matt Nathanson, Kenny Rogers, The Band Perry, Seal, and Smokey Robinson…you can find more details here

These concerts are a great way to catch up with friends, and make new ones, while enjoying Livermore Wine Country hospitality at it’s finest. Will I see you there?

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Fall in the Livermore Valley – Can you smell it???

What scents do you identify with when you think “Fall?” Pumpkin, spice, cranberry, perhaps coffee or hot cocoa on a cold morning? Well, in wine country, there is nothing like the smell of fermenting grapes to announce the arrival of Fall.  While I am not in the wine making business, I have found my way into more barrel rooms during harvest than I probably have any right to be in…lucky me!

Steve Burman of 3 Steves Winery pitching yeast during the 2013 crush

Steve Burman of 3 Steves Winery pitching yeast during the 2013 crush

This year, I paid a visit to the team over at 3 Steve’s Winery.  If you haven’t heard about 3 Steve’s yet, you’re missing out!  They had the distinct honor of winning best red wine at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Competition for their 2011 Cienega Valley Old Vine Dry Farmed Zinfandel.  I opened a bottle of it just last month, and it’s still drinking very nicely.

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When I visited, they were in the middle of bringing in their 2014 estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon. As you can see, they invited us back to see them in action.

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The 3 Steves crew sorting the 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

The 3 Steves crew sorting the 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

3 Steves 2014 Harvest

I tasted some great wines while I was visiting 3 Steves, but my favorite by far was the 2012 Merlot.  Wow!  This not your wimpy Merlot of days gone by…strong fruit, nice balance and acid, and tannins to keep you coming back for more!  I think it’s still a little young to be drinking now, but 3 Steves is running out of almost everything they release, so get it while you can and sit on it for a while.

What is the moral of the story, you might ask? Simply to suggest that, while you’re out wine tasting this weekend in the Livermore Valley, you ask for a quick tour of the back production area.  Most wineries that I know would be happy to show you the results of their hard work.  You will quickly smell the enticing aromas made from these valiant efforts. Cheers!

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Lola pairing

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Lola’s in town!!!

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Log in now to watch Steven Mirassou discuss this great wine on Tout Suite!

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Livermore Valley Quest for Excellence

I had the pleasure of tasting through 12 Livermore Valley Cabernets tonight. An amazing line up! Thank you to the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association and the Tri Valley Conservancy for organizing tonight’s event.

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Quest for Excellence

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Celebrating Cabernet Day 2013 in Livermore Valley

Happy #CabernetDay 2013 from Livermore Valley

Happy #CabernetDay 2013 from Livermore Valley Photo courtesy of Rhiannon Eddy

When I started thinking about how I could celebrate #CabernetDay…as everyone should celebrate such a day…I knew that I wanted to revisit the Mello Cielo tour at Ruby Hill Winery.  One of my all time favorite images was taken there, coincidentally, on Cabernet Day 2012.

Taken at Ruby Hill Winery while enjoying the Mello Cielo tour

Taken at Ruby Hill Winery while enjoying the Mello Cielo tour 2012

This great tour takes you up into the vineyards, so that you can taste the finished product among the vines, hanging heavy with the 2013 grapes. Our driver, Eric, took the time to have us taste several different varieties of grapes, freshly plucked from the vines.

Mello Cielo tour at Ruby Hill Winery!

Mello Cielo tour at Ruby Hill Winery!

Eric samples the 2013 Zinfandel grapes

Eric samples the 2013 Zinfandel grapes

Another great day in the Tri Valley!

Another great day in the Tri Valley! Photo courtesy of Rhiannon Eddy

Rubino Estates Winery

Rubino Estates Winery

After a quick detour to the new Rubino winery, where we sampled the Muscato sparkling wine (too sweet for me, but a nice offering) and 2010 Zinfandel, we moved on to the Ruby Hill production area.  For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting a winery during the harvest season, there is an amazing energy in the cellars this time of year.  The assistant winemaker, Pete, and the team were busy getting all of the equipment cleaned and ready for the arrival of some Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc, expected later this week.

The production area is ready and waiting for the 2013 grape harvest

The production area is ready and waiting for the 2013 grape harvest

New barrels at Ruby Hill Winery

New barrels at Ruby Hill Winery

Barrel tasting at Ruby Hill Winery

Barrel tasting at Ruby Hill Winery Photo courtesy of Rhiannon Eddy

After tasting 2 fabulous barrel samples (the 2012 Sangiovese and 2012 Zinfandel), we made our way to the “water tower” for the food and wine pairing part of the tour.

Food and wine pairing on the Mello Cielo tour

Food and wine pairing on the Mello Cielo tour

The wines were served with a platter of cheeses, melon with prosciutto, dried blueberries, almonds, and salami.  Of course, what goes better with wine that good company? We had a great group of people, including local hoteliers and members of the Visit Tri Valley tourism bureau team. Thank you Paul, Anna Maria, Liz, Geoff, Eric, Barbara, Mario and Rhiannon for exploring our local wine region with me!

Mello Cielo Tour Cabernet Day 2013

Mello Cielo Tour Cabernet Day 2013 Photo courtesy of Rhiannon Eddy

For some people, this two hour tour would be enough of a celebration – but not for those of us in Livermore Valley Wine Country!  Jay Bhatia, with 4GQ Limousine, picked the group up and we headed to Concannon Vineyard, for a very special Cabernet Day tasting.

Limo!  Responsible wine tasting at it's best!

Limo! Responsible wine tasting at it’s best! Photo courtesy of Rhiannon Eddy

All of us Cabernet Sauvignon lovers owe a lot to the Concannon family – a considerable amount of California Cabernet vines can trace their roots (literally) back to the “Mother Vine” at Concannon Vineyards. This year marks the 130th consecutive grape harvest at their Livermore Valley vineyards. As such, Concannon Vineyards used #CabernetDay as the perfect excuse to open some older vintages for a special vertical tasting. The 2002 Limited Cabernet was easily my favorite Concannon wine (of the 6 that we tried)  This Cabernet was smooth, with flavors of black current and cassis.  The smoked Gouda that they paired it with was a perfect match.

Concannon Vineyards #CabernetDay #130DaysofCab

Concannon Vineyards #CabernetDay #130DaysofCab Photo courtesy of Rhiannon Eddy

The other delicious Concannon pairings were:

  • 2003 Reserve Cabernet paired with Irish Cheddar
  • 2007 Heritage Cabernet paired with Point Reyes Blue (yummy!)
  • 2010 Reserve Cabernet paired with Cambozola
  • 2010 Reserve 130th Anniversary Cabernet paired with Traditional Brie
  • 2012 Cabernet barrel sample – young, but showing great structure already
Beautiful outdoor tasting at Concannon Vineyards

Beautiful outdoor tasting at Concannon Vineyards

Concannon's "King of Cab" throne

Concannon’s “Cab is King” throne

Any Livermore Valley Cabernet discussion must include the Steven Kent Winery.  They have been making Cabernet in Livermore since 1996, but Steven Mirassou (yes, those Mirassous) has a passion for wine that goes back much further. Steven Kent Winery offered a special Cabernet Day tasting of their 2010 Home Ranch, Smith Ranch, and Folkendt Vineyard Cabernets.  All were stellar, but the Folkendt was easily my favorite.  I know that a few more years in the bottle will only help this wine, but I don’t know if I have that kind of will power.

Steven Kent Winery #CabernetDay

Steven Kent Winery #CabernetDay

While our intention had been to continue on to another one of the outstanding Livermore Valley Cabernet producers (McGrail Vineyards or Nottingham Cellars were both on our list), we opted to end the evening sitting out in the orchard at the Purple Orchid Wine Country Resort.  Their “Music in the Orchard” series offers the perfect setting for a warm summer evening in Livermore.  Crawdad Republic was the band that night, and they were offering wines from Nottingham Cellars and beer from Altamond Beer Works.  But best of all…pizza from Ken’s Wood Fired Pizza.  I don’t mind telling you that I needed more pizza than wine or beer by the time we wrapped up our CabernetDay celebration. Cheers!

Music in the Orchard at Purple Orchid Wine Country Resort

Music in the Orchard at Purple Orchid Wine Country Resort

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