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.
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.
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