Monday, May 19, 2014

Barrel Tasting Weekend in Livermore Valley

The rains held back and provided a great weekend of wine tasting on March 29-30 for the Livermore Valley Barrel Tasting Weekend. The Livermore Valley winemakers provided wine lovers with the opportunity to check out some soon-to-be-released wines and to learn more about how a wine matures in the barrel.

Las Positas Vineyards let visitors sample their 2012 Barbara and we had a chance to experience this wine being aged in a French oak barrel and the same wine aging in an American oak barrel. Having tasted various vintages of the Las Positas Barbera, it was a joy to sample this great wine as it was aging. Later, in the tasting room, we tasted the 2011 vintage and were pleased with the finished wine showing aromas and flavors of raspberry, cherry, spice and blackberry.

Cuda Ridge Wines shared their 2012 Cabernet Franc and the 2012 Petit Verdot in the barrel and we got to compare it to the 2011 vintages to see the difference that aging can provide. In both cases you were able to tell what these wines were going to produce. The Cabernet Franc was already on its way with great aromas and tastes of raspberries and spice. The Petit Verdot from Cuda Ridge continues to be one of the best Petit Verdot’s in the state.
Wood Family Vineyards does not have a tasting room so it is a rare pleasure to be able to visit the winery and sample their great selection of wines. They offered visitors tastes of their Chardonnay, Cab and Merlot. Their barrel tasting was the 2012 Muy Beuno Zinfandel. This is a blend of 80% Zinfandel and 20% Petite Sirah. We had the opportunity to do our own blending seeing what various percentages of Petite Sirah does to the final taste of the wine.

Caddis Wines is a new winery in Livermore. Winemaker/owner Chris Sorensen is a native of Livermore and has over 15 years of experience in the wine industry and has made that decision to start his own winery. For the Barrel Tasting Weekend he shared his 2012 Tempranillo. The 2011 vintage won Double Gold at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the 2012 was heading in the same direction with great dark fruit aromas and flavors.

Barrel tasting is a great chance to meet the winemakers, sample wines at different stages of development and learn more about the steps the winemakers go through to make sure that the wine is delivered to the customer at its peak.

For more information about Livermore Valley wineries: Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association

Wente Vineyards Previews the New Winemakers Studio

Wente Family Estates in Livermore Valley hosted the preview of The Winemakers Studio on May 17. The new wine lovers experience will open to the public on May 23 to the public. The Winemakers Studio is a series of educational experiences that enable you to experience what is involved in the making of fine wines.

This all takes place at the Wente Vineyards at 5565 Tesla Road in Livermore at the site of the first winery in Livermore where Carl H. Wente, a first-generation immigrant from Germany, first planted grapes in 1883. Now 130 years later the Wente Family Estates is America’s oldest family owned and operated winery currently run by the fourth and fifth generation of the Wente family. The family estate is now the most popular stop in Livermore offering fine cuisine at the Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, Concert Series attracting top entertainers, the Greg Norman designed golf course, and a winery that produces fine quality wines from Livermore Valley and Arroyo Seco in Monterey County.

The Winemakers Studio is next door to the Wente Tasting Room. As you enter the studio you will be greeted by your host and invited to check out the educational displays around the room. Start with the map of the 3000 acres of Wente vineyards in both Livermore Valley and Arroyo Seco and admire the display of a typical winegrape vine on the wall showing you the structure from the roots to the grapes. On tables in the middle of the room are IPads where you can learn more about the history of Wente, Grape growing and winemaking information, news on other Wente events and trivia games to test your knowledge of wines. Here you can also choose your own wine adventure for the day, choosing between the Winemakers Blending Experience, Wine Aroma Seminar or Wine & Cheese Pairing.

Next to each IPad is a flask where you can sample the various aromas you will find in wines such as apple, cherry, citrus, chocolate, oak and more. Samples of cloth next to the flask will enable you to experience the textures you might experience in wine.

Want to discover the perfect delicious wine and cheese pairing? Then join the Wine and Cheese Pairing class where you can sample a selection of gourmet cheeses with the four Winemakers Studio wines, Artisan White, Pinot Noir Clones, Artisan Red and Azul-Verde. Your host will be glad to set your group up for a Wine and Cheese Pairing experience.

Everyone knows that a component of the enjoyment of wine is the aromas. Some wines offer intense aromas of fruits or oak or earth or more. Do you need help in distinguishing between the various aromas reaching your nose when you taste wine? Then take the Wine Aroma Seminar offered as part of the Winemakers Studio. This class will teach you how to pick out the specific aromas in wine and be able to describe them to your friends with ease (without sneaking a peek at the tasting notes)! This is a fun interactive class and you will be amazed how much you learn. And you will learn that everyone has the same confusion when trying to determine just what are the aromas coming from that fine Cabernet Sauvignon.

And then there is the Winemakers Blending Experience, truly a highlight of the Winemakers Studio and something that you do not want to miss. Sure you have tasted everything from Two-buck chuck to $100 bottle of great Cabernet so don’t you feel that you can also make a fine quality wine? Well this is your chance under the guidance of one of the Wente Wine Educators. In the Blending Experience you will taste, evaluate, and blend estate blocks of wine to create your very own bottle of wine with your special blend not found anywhere else. Here you have fine wines produced using the finest barrels and overseen by the Wente team of experience winemakers. Now all you have to do is blend them in the right proportions to deliver the aromas and taste that is your special wine. One of the wines might have firm tannins but not the right fruit balance. Another wine delivers that blueberry quality you love but misses out on the minerality and depth you desire. And a third wine pops with the dark red fruits but is a little weak in structure. Now you will learn how to blend the right proportions of each of the seven wines available to achieve the correct balance of fruit, structure, tannins and color to satisfy your palate. And you will get to bottle and label that wine and take it home to serve to your friends, or enjoy on your own.

The Winemakers Studio will be open Thursday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Winemakers Studio is also available for special events. It is located at 5565 Tesla Road in Livermore. The phone number is 925-456-2885. Appointments are recommended for the three Winemaker Studios adventures so call ahead.

Wine Aroma Seminar
  • Objective: To understand and identify the most common sensory descriptors of wine varietals.
  • Session Duration: 60-90 minutes
  • Session Size: Up to 12 guests
Wine & Cheese Pairing
  • Objective: To understand how certain wines interact with food.
  • Session Duration: 60-90 minutes
  • Session Size: Up to 12 guests
Winemakers Blending Experience
  • Objective: To let guests taste and blend their own bottle of wine.
  • Session Duration: 90-120 minutes
  • Session Size: Up to 12 guests
For more information: