The Livermore Valley American Viticultural Area is one of California’s oldest wine producing regions. Part of the Central Coast AVA and the San Francisco Bay AVA, it was among the first appellations designated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco in 1982. Sitting about thirty miles east of San Francisco in Alameda County, it’s roughly fifteen miles long and ten miles wide.
Surrounded by the Diablo Range, the Livermore Valley is linked to the San Francisco Bay by the Amador Valley to its west. A pronounced diurnal variation in temperature is created by the cooling marine winds and fogs entering the valley, preserving acidity in the ripening grapes through its warm days and cool nights. The region gets about 18 inches of rain a year in its winter months, with hot and arid summers averaging high temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s. The soil is fast draining with low nutrients, ideal for reducing wine vigor and concentrating flavor in the grapes.
Planted by Spanish missionaries and California pioneers, wine grapes have been cultivated in the region since the 1840s. C.H. Wente, James Concannon, and Charles Wetmore planted 3 of the oldest and most iconic wineries in California in the 1880s (Wente Vineyards, Concannon Vineyards, and Cresta Blanca Winery respectively), two of which are still in operation. Cresta Blanca’s inaugural wine won an international gold medal at the Paris Exposition of 1889, making it the first internationally winning California wine in a competition. While Cresta Blanca closed in 1965, it runs in spirit as Wente’s Tasting Lounge and The Course to this day.
Livermore Valley has more than fifty wineries with more than 4,000 acres of vineyards under cultivation. Petite Sirah, traditional Bordeaux varietals, white varietals, and warm climate Italian, Rhone, and Spanish varietals are among the thirty grape varieties harvested. The region is the historic center of California Chardonnay, and wineries were the first to bottle varietal labeled Sauvignon Blanc, Petite Sirah, as well as Chardonnay expressions. Roughly 80% of California’s Chardonnay vines are descendants of a Livermore Valley clone according to the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.