Day Tripper

Livermore Valley


Last weekend I wanted to go on a day trip and Carol hrrrumphed that, so she agreed I could put a trip to the Livermore Valley wine country on the calendar for this Sunday.

Saturday, after Farmers Market, I”m making my breakfast and it’s a beautiful day and sposta be shitty on Sunday with lots of rain and I sez to Carol, “Lets go to Livermore today,” and she hrrrumphed that she’s doing laundry and stuff. So I say I”ll do laundry tomorrow, we gotta get out of the house once in a while.

So, we”re off. It’s a shot down the I-580 speedway, which goes south and then east. I”d never been to Livermore. It’s always featured on the TV weather report and usually for being totally hot in the summer, the antithesis of San Francisco, I”m thinking parched and dry. Actually, it has the knobby green hills like Sonoma County, but these are smaller.

I figured we”d find Wente Family Vineyards—the big one—and we”d get a wine map and go from there. My main mission is to find a house white wine for 8 bucks or so. Wente has an $8 Sauvignon Blanc and a $9 Chardonnay, but neither is very good. I can do better at William Cross Wine Merchant, down the block from our house. Well, we”re here and it’s lunchtime and they have a restaurant that’s sposta be good.

It was good. I had two appetizers; a “thin sliced rare roast beef” plate with leafs of arugula and bits of bleu cheese. That was real good. I also had a beet and watercress salad with goat cheese. Carol had a Cheeboigee [SNL reference]. For having lunch there, we got a 25% off a bottle coupon, so we went back to the tasting room and bought a $20 Pinot Noir knocked down to $15, which was about right for that wine.

From there, we went on to other wineries, nothing special until we got to our last stop. Carol says this is like the Russian River when we moved here 15 years ago, tasting room in a barn up a dirt or gravel lane. Trouble is the wine isn”t very good, even for house wine.

Retzlaff_WineryIt’s nearly five o”clock when we arrive at RETZLAFF Vineyards. Now this place really is downscale. The vineyard goes right up to a nice lawn with plastic chairs and tables for picnics, nobody using them today, it’s kind of cool. To get to the tasting room, we walk along a path, through a wire gate, past a garage and through another wire gate. Mind the chickens. The door to the tasting room is open, but there’s a broom leaning across the doorway. I thought maybe we were too late, but the lady said that’s to keep the chickens out.

Sauvignon_Blanc.JPGTheir tasting list is short ($3 for tasting), starting off with a Sauvignon Blanc ($27). Damn all! That’s really good, crisp and earthy with enough fruit to delight. The woman pouring is near my age and probably part of the family and she poured about 3 ounces—way too much for tasting at the end of a day—but damned if I would throw any away. I gave some to Carol and then polished it off. She started to pour the Chardonnay ($24), and I said, “not so much please,” and she complied. This is good, but eh?

The list went on with a Merlot, four Cabs, a Zin and a Late Harvest Port. Not being a Cab fancier, I asked her to skip to the Zinfandel ($29). That’s real good too, but I don”t need any Zin. There’s a Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($55) ($5 to taste), and I asked her about that. She said they have a small fenced family vineyard and when the grapes there are exceptional, they do a special bottling—the last was 1997—otherwise, they blend those grapes with the other Cabs. I didn”t taste that, but pointed to the first Cab on the list ($27), she said she wouldn”t let me taste that after the Zin, too delicate. Instead, she poured another Cab ($41) and said I could taste that after a piece of bread and some water. That was great, but,

I bought a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc, just because it was so good and just because I really like these people and their wine.


We got gas in downtown Livermore and I gave Carol the keys to drive to Leslie’s house in Alameda for a pre-arranged dinner with Paula & John. As soon as we merged onto I-580, we were into one bitchin” traffic jam. I called Leslie to say we”d be a little late. Soon enough it thinned out and we eased on.

Good day.


2 thoughts on “Day Tripper

  1. Been there, done that (although not as in depth as you did). Thanks for sharing. Wish we coulda been with you. Loved your “hrrrumph” from Carol. Kelly does that a lot regarding my ideas, I just never knew how to spell it.


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