Subject: New Napa?
Ziners (and Zineophiles!):

A New Napa?

There are those of us who despair at the passing of the old days in Napa when one could drive up that gravel road to the winery, be greeted by the winemaker who would pop the cork on his latest good bottle for a taste, and then buy a case to take home at a price that would not deplete the grandkids' Stanford Medical tuition fund.

The new Napa might well be the Livermore Valley.

Our grandkids live in East Bay Danville, 2500 miles from our home in E TN. We were on our annual visit, this time to observe my speed-limit birthday and to trick/treat with grandkids. Our eldest took a Friday off and took us to Livermore.

Forty years ago, Livermore meant pretty-good wines from Wente and Concannon. Since then, Concannon now benefits from the marketing muscle of new owner, "Two-Buck Chuck" Fred Franzia, and Wente led an effort to divert acreage from subdivision development to small-parcel independent winegrowing.

Today, the payoff is that Concannon and Wente are doing nicely and some thirty wineries now operate in Livermore and most are open to the public for tastings and tours. Mostly on weekends, however. No problem.

Livermore is an easy drive from the East Bay cities. From I-880 or I- 680, you find your way to I-580 east and get off at the N Livermore Road exit and turn right. N Livermore turns into S Livermore which turns into Tesla Road, the main drag past many of the wineries. in case you get lost.

A dozen wineries were open for tasting on our Friday in October. We wanted a good Sangiovese to accompany Calimari later that night, so we tasted at the Rios-Lovell Estate Winery, 6500 Tesla Road ( $US 5 each for a generous tasting flight. Our favorites:

Romero Red, a blend of 50% Barbera, 35% Sangiovese, 10% Syrah, and 5% Zin

A 2002 Cab with a story. Seems that Cab vines had been planted high and Syrah vines planted low (or maybe it was the other way around). When the grapes were picked, nobody told the pickers so the picked grapes were a blend of Cab and Syrah. No way to separate the picked grapes, so the winemaker said what the hey! The result was serendipitious but there is no plan for an encore.

2003 Zin

2002 Sangiovese, which was great with the calamari!

The Wente winery and tasting room is farther down Tesla Road and offers their full line including many at bargain prices. Wente's visitor center and fine-dining restaurant is around the corner and down another road at 5050 Arroyo Road. Jim and I had personal goat cheese pizzas and Rhea enjoyed personal-best Dungeness crab cakes.

A nice place to stay in the area for less that $US 100 a night would be the Extended Stay Deluxe just off I-580 in Pleasanton. Extended Stay America properties are just that-- self-catering studios with a full kitchen, recliner chair, good beds, cable TV. Because they cater to businesspeople and tradespeople on extended stays, they are clean and quiet. No pets, rarely a noisy kid next door, and because the clientele must arise early, rarely will their be an all-nighter in the room next door. We love them.

And if your wine country fantasies are not so demanding, another East Bay alternative for a memorable tasting is Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda.

You ride the hourly Blue & Gold ferry from the either Pier 41 in the City or from the Ferry Building to Alameda. Upon arrival, you walk to the left across the parking lot to a big concrete warehouse building with Rosenblum Cellars painted on the side. The tasting room is on the second floor up the stairs.

What appears to be an ordinary warehouse is an actual working winery, producing some truly memorable wines. Grapes and juices come from vineyards in Napa and Sonoma and even from Australia.

The owner, Dr. Rosenblum is a veterinarian and the winery appears to be more than just his hobby gone wrong. Example is his line of wines for pet owners, one of which is a tasty tribute to Provence's Cote du Rhone wines, in particular Chateuneuf de Pape:

2002 San Francisco Bay Côte du Bone Roan, Château La Paws

And anyone with the temerity to ask where are the vineyards is quickly directed to a simple lattice fence outside the entry with a desultory festoon of nondescript grapevines hanging from it. Worked for me.

Jerry in E TN USA