California wine country is a lot closer than you may think. Instead of trekking to Napa (however gorgeous it may be), consider instead taking the short drive (one hour from San Francisco, 50 minutes from San Jose) to Livermore Valley's Bent Creek Winery.
Livermore Valley is a wine lover's paradise and a surprising locale for ripe vineyards and pastoral hills. Those in the know have been making wine weekends in LV for years and it's just now starting to gain a reputation as a terroir producing some of California's finest wines.
The bountiful hills of Livermore Valley are bursting with grapes — Photo courtesy of squidish
Bent Creek Winery, located in southeast Livermore, is set among the valley's rolling hills. Quail and other wildlife can be seen running across the dusty dirt road that takes visitors to the tasting room. The staff here is known to encourage guests to saddle up a seat outside and take in the humbling scenic views. For my money, there's no better way to enjoy wine than outdoors, looking upon the vines that produced the grapes and the soil that gave the wines their unique flavors.
Part of what makes Bent Creek so unique is that its owners, Pat and Tom Heineman, never intended their property to produce wine. The two former educators simply wanted land "out in the country" and it wasn't until they saw the beauty of the vines on neighboring land that they decided to plant a small Syrah vineyard of their own.
After taking classes at UC Davis, the owners and their partners started turning their own grapes into Bent Creek's very first vintages in 2002. Since then, the winery has gone on to win a slew of awards. Despite the accolades, Bent Creek has stayed true to its mission of producing small batches of complex wines from grapes grown right on the property and from other Livermore Valley vineyards.
Bent Creek winery, and its wines, is truly is a labor of love.
While not the biggest winery around, wine lovers can enjoy sips of up to eight different wines, including award-winning ports. Bent Creek will often whip up special dishes like grill-roasted pork loin, Jamaican jerk chicken, and steak with Petite Sirah mushroom sauce to pair with newly released wines.
Best of all? Tastings, often poured by Pat and Tom, are an affordable $5.
Drop by Bent Creek's tasting room Friday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. or by appointment to sample the fruit of the vine and soak in the scenery.