Rolling green hills with acres and acres of fresh grapes tended by winemakers with the utmost care. Sunshine on a windy day sweeping the smell of barbecue and fresh air through doors and windows. Semi urban landscapes planted right in the middle of the Bay Area’s own little Napa Valley tower above me with the sounds of weekenders grabbing a drink during the football game at Sauced.
Many years ago, my Auntie Laurie moved to Livermore from Fremont and it opened my eyes to the beautiful wine valley we have just a short drive north of my hometown. Even now as an adult, I realize that I didn’t appreciate just how beautiful and quaint my Bay Area backyard could be. Just after we make it through the stretch of Highway 84, we reach the summit and it’s vineyards and wineries for as far as the eye can see. It’s just… ahhhhh. Amazing.
With my brother home from Brooklyn for a few weeks, Auntie Laurie was excited to have us out to her neck of the woods to visit some of her favorite home grown wineries. She pours at Charles R. Winery about a 20 minute drive from her downtown Livermore townhouse. She says the big wineries are great, but when you make it out to the smaller ones tucked away in the private, restful corners of the hills, you meet the most incredible winemakers, wine pourers and wine lovers who know this art down to the specific notes. The whole method of tasting and palette cleansing and pairing of foods is just remarkable, and the amount of knowledge these artists have of their work is just fascinating.
Knowing we’d be in prime Livermore vineyard wedding country, there was no question I’d be bringing my camera. It’s not often I bring my camera along for personal experiences like this—I’m not sure why! Because now I have memories of these beautiful little wineries with the most amazing stories. Check them out below!
Our first stop was Auntie Laurie’s pouring place: Charles R. Winery. Owned by the Bartlett family, 30 years of Livermore living prepared them with all the right knowledge they would need to begin producing fine wines in 2002. My aunt’s coworker, Mike, treated us to a private tasting just outside on the cozy patio with heaters, a fire pit and a gorgeous gazebo that would be PERFECT for an intimate private wedding at a Livermore vineyard. The sound of the wind chimes and the bustling breeze through the trees was just the right soundtrack to the start of our afternoon. We even got to meet Charles Richard Bartlett—his friends call him Dick—who visited with us for just a few minutes and shared his heart for wine with us. The best thing about this winery? The Port tasting at the end with homemade brownies by Dick’s beautiful wife, Bonnie. If only Michael and I weren’t on Whole30!!
A short drive back up the dirt road out in the foothills of Livermore, Big White House & John Evan Cellars welcomes you into a visually stimulating and homegrown artistic atmosphere hosted by the most friendly and down-to-earth people. Normally we don’t expect to see the winemaker himself, but John was just on the other side of the wall meticulously caring for inventory and other business details. These people are hard workers! They love what they do and love when people come in to enjoy their hard work! And his sister even plays a role—every wine label we saw and all the art that lines the walls is hand painted by her. It’s amazing what some people can imagine on a canvas! I could never paint like that!
Okay. Guys. Staying Whole30 at this winery was THE WORST! Now, Michael and I aren’t the biggest fans of wine. Michael is more of a fan than me, for sure. But there is a type of wine that I could definitely nurse for a while with refills coming. That would be Port. Port Wine is my favorite because it tastes like a dessert, and that is exactly why Cedar Mountain Winery is amazing. They do a special Valentine’s Day Port Wine Tasting specifically for all their different Ports that they make… including a White Port! Have you ever even heard of that!? Michael and I both were just like WE MUST COME BACK! And my aunt was all smiles because she volunteered to tag along, too. The people here were just the sweetest. This would for sure be a beautiful Livermore wedding venue if I was planning my own. I’ll be back here for sure!
photographer for joyful LOVE STORIES in the Bay Area and beyond.