East Bay Area Wineries

Go to the Napa and Sonoma Valleys and you’ll find world-class wines, top-shelf dining establishments, rolling hills, row on row of grapevines and touristy shops with banners bearing slogans like, “Wine a bit. You’ll feel better.” If you like to wine a bit but dislike the crowds, traffic and, depending on which wineries you visit, corporate feel of some valley wineries, you can still drink and eat well even closer to San Francisco. The wineries in Livermore Valley and other East Bay areas have been a best-kept secret for decades. However, that secret is not being kept so well these days, as East Bay wines keep getting better and better and earning much-deserved praise from critics and other wine lovers.

The Livermore Valley was once California’s leading wine region. In the 1850s, Robert Livermore planted some of the area’s first vineyards and his legacy lives on today, with more than 50 vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms thriving and earning market share and rave reviews from discriminating oenophiles. In addition to the mainstream chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel wines, those willing to go wining and dining off the beaten track can also find lesser-known wines, such as trebbiano, touriga nacional, albariño and other wines worthy of sampling and exploration.

Wine lovers will also appreciate the less arbitrary fee structure of most East Bay winery tasting rooms, with most wineries dispensing with tasting fees altogether or willing to waive the fee with a purchase or apply it to wine purchases. While the hours of operation at many of these tasting rooms are not as generous as those in Napa and Sonoma, the pours generally are, and visitors have a much better chance at being served by and chatting with the vintners who craft these wines. Some of these smaller wineries only allow tastings on an appointment-only basis, so it is best to check the website before your visit. The dining options in the East Bay are no slouches either, with many fine restaurants and bistros next to tasting rooms or within easy walking or driving distance.

So if you’re in the mood to sample some fine wines, eat some great food, explore the Livermore Valley and do some inexpensive vacationing off the beaten track, check out some East Bay wineries and make a weekday feel like a weekend. If you want to extend your mini-vacation by a day or two or your thirst warrants it, you can spend the evening at one of the many nearby hotels and B-and-B’s as well. So go ahead and wine a bit. You’ll feel better!