Food & Drink

Spend Your Weekend in This Underrated Wine Country

Published On 10/17/2016 Published On 10/17/2016
Brian Luke
Flickr/Ron Lute
Wente Vineyards

Wente Vineyards

Grandmama of the grapes, Wente has been on the scene since 1883. Deemed the First Family of Chardonnay, Wente cultivated and produced the country’s first varietally labeled chardonnay in 1936. The beautiful Spanish mission-style grounds are tucked into the soft hills, and back up to the 18-hole golf course -- if drinking wine brings out your sporty side. Weekend days feature live, local music, friends drinking wine, flights in the $10-$15 range, and gourmet snacks for picnicking under the sunbrellas. The summer concert series showcases everyone from Diana Ross to Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Merridith Robertson for Concannon Vineyard

Concannon Vineyard

Concannon also entered the grape game in that magical year of 1883 and is credited with creating the country’s first Petite Sirah standalone varietal in 1961. You’re not only drinking wine here, people, you’re celebrating America’s history. The estate is beautiful -- on the wide green lawns, outdoor seating, and in the historic tasting room, you’ll feel right at home in that splendor-bound kind of way. The Underdog Wine Bar serves tapas in an upscale yet relaxed atmosphere, while flights in the tasting room will run you $10. You can also pack a picnic, buy a bottle inside, then mellow out under huge oak trees and appreciate the (dragon!) topiary creatures running amok.

Darcie Kent Vineyards

Darcie Kent Vineyards

Darcie Kent Wine Gallery is the perfect place to pull out a picnic and enjoy the welcoming country beauty (your dog is invited, too) alongside a bottle of Bordeaux-inspired red blend or chardonnay. If it’s cool outdoors, cozy up inside on one of the purple sofas and enjoy vintner Darcie Kent’s paintings; her colorful artwork also graces all the wine labels. Flights run $15-$20, and her first tastes of the season have been the buzz of the town. Darcie Kent donates $2 of every sale of the Victories Rosé to breast cancer research -- drinking with a cause looks good on you.

Garré Winery

Gorgeous grounds, a newly remodeled tasting room, and an outdoor bocce ball court make this a highlight of the Tesla Rd crowd. The winery specializes in red Italian varietals like zinfandel and sangiovese, and also has a sparkling wine to start your day off right. Tastings are $10, which is refunded when you buy two bottles. When the tastings are done, head to Cafe Garré for dinner and try the Cowboy Burger -- made with grass-fed beef topped with smoked bacon, brie, sauteed mushrooms, and Cajun aioli on a house-baked brioche roll. Your pooch can join in on the action if you’re on the patio.

Heather McGrail

McGrail Vineyards

McGrail is particularly awesome for its chill tasting room with $10 flights and smart staff who’ll make you feel welcome. You’ll feel like you’re at the cool kid’s pad at this doggy-friendly winery, which has bocce courts out back and a variety of events like Sunday Funday with live music and football, or yoga and wine in the Barrel Room. There’s nice patio furniture looking out over the rolling hills, and yummy snacks for sale. You’ll be hard-pressed to leave at 4:30pm.

Bent Creek Winery

Sip a glass of wine overlooking the vines and live like backyard royalty. Bent Creek is tucked down a narrow lane with a tiny tasting room that feels refreshingly like an open-air country bar. The flight is peppered with medal-winning wines, and they offer 11 tastes for $10 -- three of which are ports. You’ll feel like you took time off life to become a winemaker in the Italian countryside. The back patio has ample room for your big group, and your pup can hang out, too.

Campo di Bocce of Livermore

Campo di Bocce

Bocce ball is the national pastime of Livermore, and this is its home. Have the Sunday brunch between 10am-1:30pm to get your bocce game on, indulge in multiple breakfast buffet rounds, and sip endless Champagne for $33. Brunch even has a prime rib carving station, so you know they’re not playing around. It’s a zoo in the best way possible, with kids and parents and day drinkers all mingling and playing bocce. Have a full meal before embarking on an afternoon of wine sampling with bottles from around the area. It’s the perfect place to host a party, too.

The Last Word

Feeling wined out? The Last Word serves spectacular craft cocktails and small plates lovingly created by husband-and-wife team Rick and Theresa Dobbs. Tasty treats include chicken & waffles with Sriracha, a killer burger, and the best Old Fashioned west of the Pecos. This stylish and cozy joint in Downtown Livermore also features live music Thursday and Sunday nights.