This often overlooked wine country, a roughly 1-hour drive east of San Francisco, is one of those places that make you feel like you’ve (happily) stumbled upon a secret find. It’s not unusual to pull into a winery and have the place almost to yourself—especially if you come in spring—an especially lovely time of year when the surrounding hills turn emerald green and new leaves sprout from the twisting grapevines.
The Livermore Valley, in the San Francisco East Bay region known as the Tri-Valley, is home to more than 50 wineries, and has a long-standing tradition in wine: founding father Robert Livermore first planted vines here in the 1840s, followed by C.H. Wente and James Concannon in the early 1880s—establishing labels that are still famous today. The region also has a strong heritage throughout the state: according to the Wine Institute, 80 percent of California Chardonnay can be genetically traced to the Livermore Valley.
Start your visit with a drive along winding Tesla Road (it was named before the car company, by the way). Stop in at La Rochelle for Pinot Noir. Next door at Steven Kent Winery, sample the Cabernet Sauvignon, or stop by Tamás Estates for a crisp Pinot Grigio and other Italian varietals. Now head to Arroyo Road to tour Wente Vineyards, California’s oldest continuously operated family-owned winery. Great picks? The Cab gets raves, as does estate-grown Sauvignon Blanc.
Discover more of the area on a self-guided bike tour. The 27-mile Livermore Valley Wine Country tour takes you to some of the area's best vineyards and eateries, including Campo Di Bocce of Livermore, where you can follow your Italian meal with a round of bocce. The trip also includes a stop at Fire Station 6, where the world's longest burning light bulb (aka the Centennial Bulb) still shines.
The town of Livermore has its charms too, with wraparound porches on historic homes and handsome Blacksmith Square circled with—you guessed it—more tasting rooms, these representing some of Livermore’s smaller wineries. Try California sparkling wines from Battaion Cellars, and organic, estate-grown vintages from Retzlaff.