Like many wine and non-wine regions of California, Spanish missionaries planted the first grapes in Livermore Valley. They used the wine for sacramental reasons, of course. I’m sure none of them consumed wine because they enjoyed it or the way they felt after drinking it. The original plantings were somewhere in the late 1700’s. One could say there’s pretty much always been vines there. Even the town’s namesake, Robert Livermore, had grapes planted in the 1840’s. But it wasn’t until the Wente and Concannon families arrived in the late 1800’s that the region saw fine wine grapes.
Even though this wine growing area has been around a very long time, it seems to me that it’s still considered up and coming. It’s kind of like Dippin’ Dots, you know, the ice cream of the future for the past 20 years. Not to say there isn’t great wine out there, I just think it takes some hunting to find some of the great ones. But I guess you could say that about many of the wine regions.
What spurred this research?
This wine was a recent gift to me, so I thought I’d open it tonight and give it a try. Bodegas Aguirre winery in Livermore has been around for about 15 years. They make primarily Bordeaux varietals and also a Petite Sirah. This particular one is pretty good. It’s not outstanding. At least to me, but not all wine is going to be. I’m really glad I’m drinking it though. It’s wonderful to experience other areas and see what other parts of California, the U.S and the world have to offer.
I’ve had a number of Livermore wines, including a couple of wine trips out there. Not nearly as many as Sonoma (or Napa), but enough to get an idea of what that area tastes like. All the reds that I’ve tasted have this earthy, cooked / stewed characteristic. It doesn’t matter what varietal, they all have it. For instance, in this Merlot, instead of black or Bing cherries I get cooked cherries like in a pie. I find it interesting. I wonder if it has to do with the climate, soil or winemaking preferences?
I’m thinking it’s the climate or the soil, but it could be all three. I’ve tasted enough different wines from Livermore to know that all those winemakers aren’t using the same techniques and barrel programs. In addition, the soil in the area is pretty similar throughout the growing region. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s similar to areas in Sonoma. But I’m going to hedge my bets and say it’s mostly climate.
Livermore boasts climate similar to many other growing regions in California. Foggy nights (cool) and warm days. The fog comes in from the San Francisco Bay and, it’s true, it does arrive in Livermore. There is, however, a large hill / mountain that it has to travel over to settle in the valley. So, the fog only arrives with significant fog events. While these do happen they aren’t all summer long.
What does this mean? Well, most of the time it’s a little warmer than other growing regions. Just a guess, but the few degrees warmer it is there is encouraging the “cooked” characteristic.
There is another thing that could be happening. If you don’t get what you’re looking for out of the vineyard, there needs to be some “fixing” in the cellar. It could be that all these wineries I’ve tasted are using similar techniques for adjusting the wine to help it along. Just a theory.
If you haven’t had any Livermore wines, give them a try. I don’t know that most of the ones I’ve tried are stand-by’s that I would reach for time and time again, but I’ve found some interesting wines for sure. And some of them are at really great prices.