Livermore Valley, Arise!

March 8, 2012

It would be different if the Livermore Valley appellation didn’t promise such potential.

If our Valley weren’t oriented the way it is — to the cooling mouth of San Francisco Bay — and if it didn’t have such an ideal diurnal temperature range, and a wealth of different soil types and micro-climates; the early history of excellence (the first International gold medal for a California wine was awarded to a Livermore wine, and in the 1880s more acreage was  planted to Bordeaux varieties than Napa), and a core group of vintners intent on pushing the envelope of quality, you could forgive the lack of attention the Valley gets from the critic and high-end wine consumer. But it does…and you can’t. Or you shouldn’t, and neither should any of the producers here in the appellation.

There is too much quality inherent in the land and weather and history here to settle for producing less than terrific wine. For any number of original motivations, the winemakers who are in the Livermore Valley have been called here. But that is not enough; the Livermore Valley makes demands and it is up to us to step up and answer them. And while much has improved on the wine-quality front in recent years, everyone making wine here needs to do a better job if we are to be taken seriously by the larger world.

There isn’t always a precipitous event (like the Paris Tasting) that thrusts a place into the limelight. Much more often than not, it is the steady and quiet accretion of quality that eventually tips over past notions, and — in the words of my father  — 20 years later you’re an overnight success.

Not to put too fine a point on it…that’s your daddy’s paradigm. Information moves too quickly these days and focus is lost easily as new opportunities for wine consumers are offered, seemingly, on a daily basis, and new appellations come to the fore.

If the Livermore Valley is going to ascend to a level it should, the heavy work needs to be done now and needs to be done constantly. This is a call to arms!

It may be cute to be second place, but it sure ain’t pretty.


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3 Responses to “Livermore Valley, Arise!”

  1. Sharyn said

    Just came back from Florida to SFO with one daughter and family. Since we don’t have a car that can carry four adults and two kids legally we rented a minivan..(don’t tell anyone, the preferred SUV was four times the price). The rental agent was hell-bent on sending us away with all kinds of maps (while forgetting to install the reserved child seat, but that is another story), and as I looked through them they were all about Napa, St Helena and Healdsburg!
    I’m going to keep handing out my SK/LaRo business cards and VIP passes far and wide. I like to whisper in the ear of the passenger next to me on the plane when he/she orders the “red wine” and nods off.

  2. I absolutely agree Steven. I’m excited that there are many, like myself, who have come here to the valley to create world class wines and put the Livermore Valley (back) on the map.

    I think one of our biggest issues is “Livermore’s Wine.” You are producing Cab/Bord blends that will compete with the best in the world. Petite Verdot seems to thrive here, and popularity of the varietal is growing.. We have Petite Sirah which was brought here and produced by the Concannon family. PS’s “birthplace” as a varietal- yet many do not invest much to promote the grape, wine and story. We can become known for producing great wine, but I think what we really need is A wine which we can become well known for. Or possibly a couple; or a style.

  3. Chris:

    Points well taken. I think it is important for a region to be able to create an identity for itself, and having a signature varietal (or two) can be an important part of that process.

    It is important to choose a grape that can be grown to the highest possible level of quality, and that expresses the terroir of our appellation.

    I’m banking on Cabernet because I think the Livermore Valley is at least as good as any other appellation in California in terms of producing world-class, complex fruit.

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