Livermore Valley

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

California wine region and ava in Alameda County east of San Francisco Bay. Livermore hides behind hills high enough to screen out nearly all of the sea fogs common on the bay itself. It is therefore warm and—a passage between the cool, marine air of the bay and the hot, rising air of the central valley—windy, as evinced by thousands of turbines blanketing the hills of Altamont Pass at the eastern edge of the valley.

If the gods had got it all right, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon would dominate the 1,400 acres/566 ha planted to vines in Livermore Valley in the early 1990s. Those two grape varieties, linked by their history in Bordeaux, first came with French emigrants during Livermore’s first great blossoming in the 1870s and 1880s (see california, history). These original growers believed in the virtues of its stonier-than-graves soils. Today the difficulty of selling Semillon to Chardonnay-besotted Americans has begot changes. Zinfandels and Petite Sirahs have emerged as the best quality wines; Chardonnay is widely planted and promoted. Steven Kent Winery has had particular success with both Cabernets.