Image via www.collinsteam.net

Just
45 miles (70 kilometers) east of San Francisco in California’s Bay Area sits
Livermore Valley. Quaint and unassuming, the region often thought of as
northern California’s “other” wine country, is in actuality its original one.
Missionaries from the nearby San Jose Mission, founded in
1797, planted vineyards, thus making Livermore Valley California’s oldest wine
region. It was Livermore’s wine industry, which dates back to the mid-19th
century, along with its prime location resulting in it becoming a popular
stopping point for prospectors traveling between San Francisco and Sacramento during the heady gold rush days, that put this city on the map.

My
first visit to Livermore was for Taste
Our Terroir*,
an annual event showcasing the valley’s outstanding wine and
cuisine. For four days in July, Livermore wineries strut their stuff by hosting
wine seminars, vineyard tours and cooking demonstrations. Taste Our Terroir,
which is also the name of the signature event on opening night, teams wineries
with Bay Area chefs to create innovative wine and food pairings that highlight
Livermore’s terroir. Food and wine judges are on hand for a blind tasting,
which then present awards to the winning teams. People’s Choice Awards are also
given based on guests’ votes for their favorite white and red wine pairings.

It’s
no secret, I do love my rosé wine, and my favorite wine from the event was the 2014 Grenache Rose from Vasco
Urbano Wine Company. I wasn’t alone in my love for Vasco Urbano, as the wine,
with its pairing of shrimp ceviche with avocado, cucumber and yuzu on taro
root, won the People’s Choice award for best white wine pairing (yes, the rosé won the award for best white).
One
of my favorite dishes from the event was the Moroccan Beef Tangine – braised
beef in a savory broth with chickpeas, tomato and onion, served with a pita.
The dish was paired with the 2013 Big Wood Zinfindel (which, coincidentally I’d
had with lunch earlier that day) from the Wood Family vineyard, and was the
winner of the People’s Choice Award for best red wine pairing.
My
other favorite dish of the evening was a Bratwurst sausage fried in a
stoneground cornmeal batter with a fresh peach chutney, house-made mustard, and
honey. In layman’s terms: a corn dog. This fancy-schmancy corn dog was paired with
the 2014 Kylie Ryan Rosé from
McGrail Vineyards & Winery, and won the award for most innovative pairing.
The
coveted Judge’s Award went to Posada Restaurant and Cuda Ridge Wines for their
pairing of a 2013 Malbec and lamb cheeks simmered in a Dijon mustard sweet
pepper sauce, over a crusted pepita mushroom brown rice pad. While neither the
wine or the dish were tops on my list, I thought their display was one of the
most eye-catching.

The
other Taste Our Terroir event I
attended was From Vine To Table: A Tasting of Wine, Olive Oil & Cheese at
the Retzlaff Estate Winery. Winemaker Aaron Taylor and his lovely wife Salomé, lead a tour and tasting of the
winery established by Aaron’s parents who first planted the vines on the
property 40 years earlier. Guests were also able to participate in an olive oil
tasting of oils from Livermore’s Olivina, and Cheese Therapy provided tasty
bites to enjoy with the wine.

Outside
of Taste Our Terroir, Livermore
itself is very cute, and makes for a nice day trip from San Francisco or Oakland.
The historic downtown is small, but thriving, with some interesting landmarks,
such as the Carnegie Library and Park, and the Centennial Light Bulb, the
world’s longest-lasting light bulb.

Livermore also has an unbelievable number
of places to eat, shop and drink. It was definitely a case of so-many-restaurants-and-wineries-so-little-time,
but fortunately the city’s Wine Trolley and food
tasting and historic walking tour
provide a mobile “Taste Our
Terroir” of sorts for tourists. I’d recommend that visitors to Livermore check
these tours out.

For
more information about Livermore wine and Taste Our Terroir, visit
www.LVwine.org.

* I was provided with complimentary tickets to the Taste Our Terroir events. I was not asked to express any particular point of view, and as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.