What Are Livermore Valley Wines Lacking?

Vineyard in Livermore, California
Image via Wikipedia

Almost each night, I have the pleasure of selecting a wine for the evening.  It’s mostly based on the meal.  Last night, dinner was Filipino-Style Marinated Grilled Steak, and I was in the mood for a red.  I decided on the 2008 Steven Kent Fratello, a juicy blend of Barbera, Petit Verdot, and Merlot.   The Steven Kent Winery is in Livermore.  As I was enjoying the wine, I began to wonder why I don’t have more wine from the Livermore Valley.  It’s the closest wine region to where I live (20 minutes away), yet I rarely go there, and we have a minuscule amount of Livermore Valley wine.  Then I recalled what I considered an insightful blog post, from Steve Heimoff, who is the West Coast Editor for the Wine Enthusiast magazine, author, and one of my favorite wine bloggers, entitled “Trying to rescue a failing appellation”.  The post, and the majority of the accompanying comments set forth their opinions about why they find the Livermore Valley lacking.  Heimoff posits two reasons; “suburbanization, and the lack of “enough qualified, or quality-oriented, vintners working there“.

I don’t think it’s the terroir – at least one vineyard of note comes to mind, the Ghielmetti Vineyard, which produces much sought after grapes.  And I think the region is lovely place to visit.  There’s even an ample history of significant historical events.  For example, according to the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association website, “Livermore Valley wineries were the first to bottle varietal labeled Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Petite Sirah“.  I think the raw materials are there.  Setting suburbanization aside, that leaves the wine making.

I thought about my own recent experience with wine tasting in Livermore several months ago, which I considered worse than “disappointing”.  My first stop was at a winery that has won scores of medals in various wine competitions.  I found the wines to be awful – across the board.  The next stop wasn’t much better.  I enjoyed the wines at our third stop, Steven Kent.   The fourth, and fifth wineries were OK.  And, it wasn’t my first time being disappointed by Livermore Valley wines either, I’ve been on a few other occasions, with the same result; for every winery where I enjoy most of the wines, there seem to be 2 or 3 others I don’t particularly care for.  In my opinion, my visits are the Livermore Valley wines in a microcosm.  The collective quality of the wines is simply not there.   Until that changes, I’d rather spend more time on the road for better wine.


  1. Martin:

    Thanks for the kind words about The Steven Kent Winery. We’re glad you enjoyed the wines.

    I, for one, am very bullish on the Livermore Valley. Apart from the fact that it is in the center of the Bay Area, it has a long wine history, and (very importantly) it has the capacity to grow world-class Bordeaux varieties, the Livermore Valley is also full of young/new winemakers and wineries. It takes time to understand your vineyards and how best to grow fruit and make wine from them. I am seeing better wines every year, and know we are moving rapidly on the quality trajectory as an appellation.

    This being said…the Livermore Valley is a very special grape-growing region, and it is our responsibility, as the winemakers here, to wring every bit of excellence we can from this magical place. If we don’t do it…then the wine drinking public has every right to be disdainful.

    Thanks again for visiting, and we look forward to seeing you again.

    Steven Kent Mirassou
    The Steven Kent Family of Wines

    1. Steven – Thank you for your comments. I sincerely hope Livermore Valley will raise it’s game! In the meanwhile,The Steven Kent Winery is a must-see f or me when I do go to Livermore…

      1. I’ve had some favorites from Livermore… Concannon’s memorable 1997 Petite Sirah, and most of Steven Kent’s wines. I also like a lot of the Pinot Noirs from LaRochelle. Tony likes Mitchell Katz’ Sangiovese.

        Overall, the quality across producers tends to be inconsistent, but I have to admire the spirit that new winemakers bring as they throw their hats into the ring.

        I agree with all the comments made here and on your Facebook page about tourism in the Livermore Valley. I’d love to see added amenities drawing visitors to the region.

      2. Helen – Thanks for your comment. It would be great to see the collective quality of the Livermore Valley wine raised.

  2. noemail says:

    I suggest that you go to Thomas Coyne Winery and Bodegas Aguirre.
    If you haven’t visited either one then you have no right to write this story.
    There are over 50 wineries in Livermore VAlley.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I have a bottle of Thomas Coyne Old Vine Grenache I look forward to enjoying!

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