California’s magnificent Tri-Valley is an aptly-named triangle-shaped region in the San Francisco Bay area just 35 miles east of the city. Yet, in many ways, it feels a world away.
With close to 60 wineries, picturesque surroundings, a craft beer trail, phenomenal cuisine and almost picture-perfect weather, Tri-Valley provides a splendid experience for so many reasons.
Stay in Perfect Accommodations
Aloft Dublin-Pleasanton is the ideal central location for a Tri-Valley stay.
Opened in 2018, the delightful boutique property with state-of-the-art technology is one of the first to utilize Alexa for Hospitality, a voice-activated system enabling guests to request services from the comfort of their room. Rooms are well-appointed, service is top-notch and the hotel sports a swimming pool, hot tub and fitness center. The lobby bar specializes in craft cocktails and light bites.
Discover Delightful Small Towns and Museums
This magnificent region includes the communities of Danville, Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton, each uniquely reflecting a slower almost-utopian pace of life.
Danville is home to Tao House, the former residence of playwright Eugene O’Neill. The charming town also boasts one of the most impressive car museums in the world. Blackhawk Museum not only delights vintage car enthusiasts, but its Spirit of the Old West exhibit showcases the rich history of the Western Frontier along with honest renditions of the struggles between its Native Americans and early settlers.
Dublin, named after its many Irish immigrants who once lived here, is home to some of the best ethnic cuisine in the Bay Area. The town is known as “America’s backyard” and its eateries, such as Mayflower Chinese Restaurant, specialize in dim-sum dishes that are out of this world.
Livermore isn’t just about the renowned wineries scattered throughout the scenic region as its downtown is also home to a vibrant cultural arts community. Bankhead Theater hosts a myriad of plays, comedy acts and musical performances on its stage.
Pleasanton is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream with 1,200 acres of parks, trails and open spaces. And its easily-walkable historic main street and side roads are filled with charming boutiques and splendid dining venues.
Explore the Wineries
Spanish missionaries began growing grapes in California’s Livermore Valley in the 1760s, making it one of California’s oldest wine regions. The valley was named for Robert Livermore, the pioneer who planted the first commercial vines here in the 1840s. The quality of its wines was proven on the world stage in 1889 when a white wine from Livermore Valley’s former Cresta Blanca Winery was awarded the Grand Prix at the International Paris Exposition.
Only two of the valley’s wineries survived prohibition by making sacramental wines. But today, this amazing region, with its ideal climate of coastal breezes and fog coming in from the coast, is filled with thriving vineyards. With its warm sunny days and cooler evenings allowing the vines to rest, Tri-Valley is producing over 30 varietals of ribbon-winning wines.
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The Valley’s first family-owned boutique winery, Fenestra Winery boasts a rustic tasting room on the site of century-old former George True Winery. Surrounded by antique wine-making equipment and vintage remains, the winery is literally a walk through history.
Winemaker, Aaron Luna is passionate about his award-winning creations made primarily from Livermore Valley grapes. A combination of whites, rosés, reds and dessert wines are available for tasting. Fenestra’s best-seller, TruRed is a blend Luna fondly refers to as the “kitchen sink.” Its 15 varietal combinations make this magnificently smooth red wine quite popular.
Wente Vineyards, founded in 1883, is the country’s oldest continuously operating family-owned winery. In 1912, the winery imported Chardonnay cuttings from Montpellier, France to the Livermore Valley. In 1936, Wente introduced Chardonnay to California for the first time. A fortuitous decision for today as over 80 percent of all California Chardonnay stems from the original Wente Clone.
The picturesque winery is known for its summer concert series featuring world-renowned entertainers. Extensive gardens on property provide its restaurants with a variety of herbs, fruits and vegetables. We were in awe of Wente’s magnificent barrel room, once a part of the old Cresta Blanca winery housing meticulously hand-carved 1882 wine barrels, but it’s the extensive array of wines here that steal the show. Morning Fog and Riva Ranch Chardonnays are outstanding, as are its rosés, reds and blends.
“A hobby gone wild” is what Larry Dino, founder and winemaker, calls his Cuda Ridge Winery. What began as casual garage winemaking for him and his spouse progressed to serious business focusing on Bordeaux-style wines. The winery is named after Dino’s vintage purple Barracuda with wine labels paying homage to the car’s color and design.
Livermore Valley’s only certified organic winery, Retzlaff Vineyards & Estate Winery is nestled among 100-year-old pepper trees and scattered almond and eucalyptus trees. Victorian structures from the historic former Connelly Estate were lovingly refurbished and now house the family’s residences, winery and tasting room. The verdant grounds are popular for casual picnics or organized social and family events. Sparkling, whites, reds and a blush are all made here, though it’s the Cabernet that put Retzlaff on the map.
Experience the Craft Beer Renaissance
Livermore Valley may be known for its award-winning wines, but it’s the buzzing brew scene that’s an up-and-coming superstar. Hops have been grown in the Tri-Valley for hundreds of years so it’s no wonder the California craft beer craze has caught on here like wildfire. Today, the valley features a Brew Trail with 24 stops that is an increasingly popular part of the local scene.
One of its participants, BottleTaps, a craft-brew taproom and upscale joint, pairs mouthwatering savory bites with its extensive collection of tap and bottled beer, ciders and kombuchas. One of its most popular items is the Banquet Pretzel Board, an impressive pretzel delight filled with a variety of meats, cheeses and accompanied by olives and nuts that are perfect for sharing. Make no mistake, BottleTaps culinary creations are not your typical pub fare.
Savor the Fork-to-Table Scene
Restaurants in the Tri-Valley are turning to the area’s bountiful produce from its local farms, and innovative chefs in the valley’s honest to goodness true-blue farm-to-fork eateries are turning out foods that are simply to die for.
Danville Harvest takes fresh locally-sourced ingredients and creates dishes that are simply divine. It’s no wonder the rustic eatery with its touches of elegance is so popular. Must-tries include its Scallion Hushpuppies with sugar cane syrup butter and Avocado Bruschetta on a rosemary focaccia.
It’s all about sustainability, local ingredients and top-notch gourmet small-plates at Pleasanton’s Sabio on Main. Along with its extensive wine list and creative craft cocktails, dining here is a sublime experience. Seafood entrees like oysters and salmon are caught from local waters. Chicken and beef cheeks are from California-raised stock. Be sure to leave room for dessert as the Meyer Lemon Posset with toasted meringue, blueberries and a brown butter madeleine is amazing. You won’t want to share.
Located in an 1800s renovated brick building in downtown Livermore, Range Life’s menu isn’t extensive, but it is impressive. Working with local farmers, ranchers and fisherman, its seasonal California cuisine is as fresh and quality-driven as it can possibly be. We loved the blistered sugar snap peas with fresh ricotta, sunflower and dried padron (chili peppers) as a starter. And the grass-fed sirloin steak was a standout.
Discovering the Tri-Valley region was an unexpected treasure. Rich in culture, history, culinary gems, craft brews and vintage California wineries, the area offered far more to do than we had time for. Rest assured, we’ll be back.
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