Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bent Creek Winery - beautiful location and beautiful wines nestled in a corner of Livermore Valley

Bent Creek Winery is an education in the development of a fine winery, bringing together the dedication of its founders, the beauty of the surrounding Livermore vineyards, and the skill of the winemaker. Bent Creek started to come together in 1980 as Pat and Tom Heineman sought a country property to enjoy the beauty and serenity of Livermore Valley. Pat was an elementary school principal in Livermore and Tom was the director of curriculum and technology for the district. The met a couple who became good friends and later partners in their project, Carol and Rich Howell. Carol was also an elementary school principal in Livermore and Rich was a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Labs. Both couples had a love of good wine.

As the area around the Heineman’s country homestead began to sprout vineyards, Pat and Tom were pleased with the beauty of the acres of vines and in 1997 with the assistance of Wente Winery; they planed a Syrah vineyard on their property. The grapes from this vineyard were used by surrounding wineries to produce some great wines. The four friends considered opening their own winery and took enology classes at UC Davis. Bent Creek Winery opened in 2002. 

The passion these two couples in this operation are evident not only in the quality of the wine, but the friendliness of the tasting room. Check out Yelp and you will see that most reviewers give this wine tasting experience five stars!  Rich Howell is the winemaker while Tom Heineman cares for the vineyards.  Pat and Carol manage the tasting room and their hospitality is reflective in the wonderful tasting room staff who make sure your visit is a fun experience.

The tasting room is a comfortable establishment between the Heineman’s home and the beautiful surrounding vineyards. It is reached down a long driveway off Greenville Road on the east side of Livermore Valley. There they host musical events (during this reporter’s visit, a local school jazz group was performing), along with wine club events. Picnic tables are set up to relax, enjoy the wine and partake of the views, taking you far away from the hustle of the Bay Area.

The 2008 Livermore Valley Chardonnay is produced with grapes from two vineyards, including the famous Del Arroyo Vineyard across the fence line from Bent Creek Vineyards. This rich creamy, balanced wine has the flavors of pear and apple leading on to a nice long finish. This Chardonnay won a Silver Medal in the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The price is $19.

Bent Creek 2006 Livermore Zinfandel has intense plum and black cherry aromas and flavors with a pleasant balance of acid and tannin. This wine received silver medals from both the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the 2009 California State Fair. Price is $23.

The 2005 Livermore Valley Estate Syrah is from Bent Creek’s Syrah vineyard just outside the tasting room. It is loaded with dark fruit flavors including black cherry and plum with a pleasant earthy quality together with white pepper and spice. The structured textures lead to a nice finish. Price is $19.

The Bent Creek 2007 Livermore Valley Red on Red is a blend of 66% Syrah from the Bent Creek Vineyards and 34% Cabernet Sauvignon from the McGrail Vineyards. It is a favorite of Bent Creek’s visitors. It is also a Silver Medal winner in the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. You will enjoy the aromas and flavors of dark fruit including black cherry, plum, currant and blackberries, enticing spices and the softness of oak leading on to a smooth lingering finish. The price is $25.

The 2007 Livermore Valley Petite Sirah Port has intense dark fruit flavors including black cherry and plum, interesting spices and a slight earthiness. All of these flavors are heightened by the grape brandy added to make the port. This is another silver medal winner from the Chronicle Wine Competition. The price is $23.

For more information: Bent Creek Winery website

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