Sunday, May 31, 2009

Livermore Valley Wine Country and the South Livermore Valley Area Plan

Livermore Valley, just a short distance north of San Jose, is one of California’s oldest wine regions. Spanish missionaries were growing wine grapes in the late 1700’s. English sailor, Robert Livermore, jumped ship in 1844 and planted the first commercial vineyards. And major winemakers C. H. Wente and James Concannon founded their wineries in the early 1880’s. Prior to Prohibition there were over 50 wineries in Livermore Valley. And, long before Napa Valley wines were winning awards in Europe, Livermore Valley captured America’s first international gold medal in 1889 at the Paris Exposition.

Besides vineyards, Livermore Valley has long been an oasis of farms and ranches, countryside that residents of the growing cities around the Bay Area sought for tranquility. But in the early 1990’s, with the burgeoning Silicon Valley and the sprawling suburbs of San Jose and other cities around the bay, pristine Livermore Valley was facing intense pressure, forcing agriculture to sell out to developers, turning pastures and vineyards into housing tracts.

In 1993, following a five-year period of study and public workshops, Alameda County and the cities of Pleasanton and Livermore jointly adopted the South Livermore Valley Area Plan, a land use plan for the preservation of the 14,000 acre valley that confines urban growth to the adjacent cities. Working together with landowners, citizen groups, developers and viticulturalists, these government organizations formed the South Livermore Valley Agricultural Land Trust (now called the Tri-Valley Conservancy) to implement this plan. Its board consists of representatives of Livermore, Pleasanton, Alameda County and the wine industry.

The goal of the South Livermore Valley Area Plan was to preserve the remaining vineyards and wineries in the area and to enhance the wine country image of Livermore Valley. The agricultural land acquisitions are funded primarily by revenue from source-development fees placed on new homes in the area as mitigation for farmland conversion.

As a result of this joint government/industry/citizen plan, cultivated acres in the Valley increased from 2,100 to 5,000 acres within the first 10 years of its implementation. The South Livermore Valley Area Plan helped draw in new winemakers to work together with fifth-generation winemakers in the renaissance of Livermore Valley wine country. Over 40 wineries exist in the valley with friendly tasting rooms welcoming visitors from around the Bay Area.

For more info: Livermore Valley Wine Country

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