Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thomas Coyne Winery

Livermore Valley was once home to a wide assortment of wineries, farms and ranches. A visit to the Thomas Coyne Winery in South Livermore Valley takes you back to those days. Drive down the long gravel road, past the Detjens farm house and park next to an old barn that appears to have been there for 100 years. You spy a small garden and jackrabbits searching for a tasty meal. Walk up the hill to the century old tasting room pass the shady trees along the road. Bring your picnic lunch and purchase a bottle of fine Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon at the tasting room because you will want to extend your day here and enjoy the moment. Move out to the picnic table on the bluff overlooking an active sheep ranch with views extending to the orchards in the distance. You are taken away from Silicon Valley and back to an era when life was simpler. Sip your wine and admire the view as the tranquility it offers seems to make time stand still.

Thomas Coyne was not the first winery on this spot. French engineer Alexander Duvall built the “Chateau Bellevue Winery” here in 1881 and it was an active winery until it closed in 1912. Thomas Coyne has been in the winemaking business since 1969, starting in New York. During the 1980’s he was at Rosenblum where he sharpened his skills with California grapes. In 1989 he started producing wine under his own label and in 1994 he reopened Chateau Bellevue as Thomas Coyne Winery.

Here Thomas produces award-winning Rhone and Bordeaux varietal wines. Usually on one weekend they will serve a selection of Rhone varietals and the next weekend it will be Bordeaux. Usually Tom or Emilie Coyne are there to greet their visitors, and I found all of the tasting room staff very friendly and helpful. If you are a Penn State fan you will be especially welcomed! Nittany Lions do rule here.

Their selection of Rhone varietals is vast. Start with the 2007 Viognier and experience its good acid, and peach and honeysuckle character. The nose presents the floral qualities you would expect from this fine wine.

A favorite of all is their Rhone blend called Quest containing Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Petite Sirah. The Southern Rhone valley in France is famous for such blends and Thomas Coyne has shown that this same style works well with California grapes.

Estate wines grown here on the Detjens Farms include Syrah and Petite Sirah. The 2002 Syrah is a medal-winning wine full of blackberry and earthy flavors with a white pepper quality. The 2005 Chateau Bellevue Syrah Estate Reserve, named after the original winery on the property, is a limited production wine full of blackberry and dark fruit flavors, a touch of chocolate and pepper.

Both their Livermore Valley and El Dorado County Petite Sirah’s are hand-crafted, full-bodied wines rich in berry and plum flavors. Finish off your Thomas Coyne tasting experience with his interesting White Chardonnay Port “Sweet Emilie”.

Thomas Coyne Winery is open weekends at 51 East Vallecitos Road in Livermore. They also have a tasting room at Blacksmith Square in downtown Livermore.

For more info: Thomas Coyne Winery

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