Whilst the origins of viticulture in the valley can be traced to the Spanish missionaries of the 1760s, the area’s first commercial vines were planted by Robert Livermore some eighty years later. These served as a catalyst to kickstart the industry, and by the time of Prohibition in 1920, Livermore Valley was a booming viticultural hub and home to more than fifty individual producers.
Part of the larger San Francisco Bay AVA, today the appellation has more than two-thousand hectares under vine and a growing number of wineries, many of which are small, family run operations. Tastings and tours are casual affairs and opportunities to meet winemakers are more plentiful here than in more popular tourist areas such as Napa Valley. That said, the valley and the city of Livermore itself offer much to the visitor, and with this in mind it seems only a matter of time before tourism - and wine tourism in particular - experience a significant upturn; guaranteed sunshine, diverse scenery and a host of festivals throughout the year make this region a fascinating choice for both the casual tourist and the wine connoisseur.
The climate of Livermore is heavily influenced by its geography. A transverse valley - running from east to west as opposed to the usual north-south orientation - its formation guides the ocean breeze and renowned bay area fog along its course. These conditions - warm days and cooler nights - along with deep, free draining soils of gravel, are favourable for producing rich, balanced, flavoursome grapes and subsequent award winning wines.
Elegant, complex whites from the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay varieties, along with rich, well-structured Bordeaux style reds made for laying down in the cellar, are the typical offer of Livermore’s winemakers, but diversity is a key theme here with a new generation of winemakers exploring the potential of terroir and technology. Amongst the varietals now being produced are those from Italian grapes along with fruits native to the Rhône Valley.