Tri-Valley's Grape Scene

Discover a down-to-earth wine tasting scene and sun you can count on less than an hour from San Francisco.
By Tori Peglar ,

Strolling down the vineyards at Retzlaff in Livermore

Photo by Danielle Poff Photography courtesy of Visit Tri-Valley

While Chardonnay is the most popular wine in the United States, few know most of the Chardonnay produced in the United States can trace its lineage not to a fancy vineyard in Sonoma or Napa but to Wente Vineyards in Livermore, Calif. It was at Wente in 1912 that Ernest Wente convinced his father, C.H. Wente to import Chardonnay cuttings. The result, after three decades of hard work, was the nation’s first varietally labeled Chardonnay, a 1936 vintage.

Wine Trail and Vineyards in Livermore

Today, you can visit Wente Vineyards, along with 50 wineries in the Tri-Valley area just 45 minutes from San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. Despite Wente’s claim to fame, you’ll find an easygoing, unintimidating attitude in the valley’s laidback hills braided with green rows of grapes. What sets the area apart from other wine regions of northern California is the friendly factor, says Robin Fahr, marketing and communications director of Visit Tri-Valley. The winemakers agree.

“I get told every day by a non-human how I’m doing in life and that can keep you pretty humble,” fifth-generation winemaker Karl D. Wente likes to say.

Get a Tri-Valley Beer Trail passport

Beer at Shadow Puppet

Photo courtesy Visit Tri-Valley

Yet, long before vineyards scaled the hills and before Prohibition, the area was one of the nation’s largest producers of hops. Today, craft breweries are sprouting up. 

Explore the region and its breweries on the Blue Brew Bus with a Tri-Valley Beer Trail passport that you can download online at visittrivalley.com/tri-valley-beer-trail. The Tri-Valley Beer Trail has 22 stops, strung together across Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin and Danville.

Follow Tri-Valley's Ice Cream Trail

Try a donut ice cream sandwich from The Mix Creamery

Photo courtesy Visit Tri-Valley

In addition to a wine and beer trail, the area also has an ice cream trail sprinkled with 14 locally-owned ice cream shops. Download your ice cream trail passport and hit five locations to receive a Tri-Valley ice cream scooper. 

"Our summers are warm, so it's natural to have an ice cream trail with all the al fresco dining we have here," Fahr says. 

Head to Meadowlark Dairy to get seven flavors of soft-serve ice cream swirled together. Located between a wine shop and a tact shop in Pleasanton, Calif. at 57 W, Neal St., the longtime dairy has a drive-up (or walk-up) window, making getting ice cream easier than ever. In addition to ice cream, it sells butter, milk and cheese. 

"People love it so much they'll wait in a line that does down the street," Fahr says. "It's a picture-perfect place and the people who work there are down-home friendly."

Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery in Danville, Calif., bakes and frosts a daily specialty-flavored cupcake and 12 signature flavors of cupcakes every morning,  in addition to serving small-batch ice cream inspired by its cupcake flavors. Amorino Gelato Au Naturale  in Livermore, Calif., serves delicious scoops that are artistically fashioned into rose petals. 

The Mix Creamery in Dublin, Calif., cuts donuts in half like a bagel and puts ice cream in between the slices, crafting a perfect donut ice cream sandwich. If you have never had a donut ice cream sandwich, don't miss this opportunity. 

Swim or Boat at Del Valley Regional Park 

Photo courtesy Visit Tri-Valley

And if you still want to cool down after enjoying your ice cream, head 10 miles south of Livermore to Del Valle (pronounced by locals as “Dell Val”) Regional Park to cool off. Amid oak-covered golden hills and the five-mile-long lake, relax at a swimming beach, rent a pedal boat, canoe or motorboat or spend the night in a campground.

Shop until You Drop

Forget some items for your road trip to Yosemite? 

Swing by the San Francisco Premium Outlets in Livermore, Calif., to pick up gear, clothes, shoes and more. There's a Columbia outlet for those looking for outdoor clothing, including rain coats, wind layers, base layers and more. You'll also find brands like Nike and New Balance, along with the high-end fashion designers like Gucci and Prada. 

If you couldn't get enough of the Ghiradelli Chocolate at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, head to the Ghiradelli Chocolate outlet store in this shopping center.   

For more information:
(888) 874-9253
5075 Hopyard Road, Suite 240, Pleasanton, CA 94588
visittrivalley.com