The Terroir of Livermore Valley Wine Country

Article by HearHere Productions

It reads like the name of a horror movie but is the complete opposite! Actually, the word “terroir” means “soil” in French and when you’re talking about a wine-growing region, otherwise known as a “Viticultural Area,” the soil is of utmost importance. The French use the phrase “gout de terroir” when speaking of certain wines. It translates to “taste of the soil” and no, it doesn’t mean that the wine taste like dirt, it refers to that rich, earthy flavor that some wines carry. Read More

And the Winners Are…

Congratulations to the winners of Thursday night’s Annual Quest for Pairing Excellence and thank you to everyone who participated!  Let’s not delay… here are the winners who make your cooking look like it needs improvement, or is that just me?

Judges Best Pairing – Wente Vineyards and The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards

This team may have had the upper edge, I mean, who knows the wine better than their own restaurant?  But their pairing of the 2014 Small Lot Serenity with berkshire pork sausage with bing cherry mostarda and Riesling fermented kraut ensured that they were ready for victory!

Best Classic Pairing – Rodrigue Molyneaux Winery and Gan


The team paired their 2013 Chateau Molyneaux Merlot with wedding cheeks with a charred Korean pepper soubise, crisp potato and pickled red daikon.  Difficult to imagine it all together, but this definitely had us going back for more!

Most Innovative – Dante Robere Vineyard and Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar


This team paired their 2013 Roberitage, 50% Syrah 50% Cabernet Sauvignon with minced chicken in lettuce spears with a sweet hoisin sauce. Oh my!  One of the best things about this dish was that it was delicious and savory without being heavy.


Our panel of judges consisted of Linda Carruci, Culinary Instructor and Author, Fred Swan, Wine Writer & Educator at San Francisco Wine School and Deborah Parker Wong Journalist & Educator for The Tasting Panel, SOMM Journal and Clever Root.  While they may be the experts, our guests voted the following as their favorites.

People’s Choice Red Wine Pairing – McGrail Vineyards and Winery and Beet’s Hospitality Group

This team paired the Cabernet Sauvignon with a 12-hour house smoked dry rub brisket with homemade smoky paprika pimento cheese in a crispy risotto shell.  And let me tell you, every hour that was put into this pairing was worth it.

People’s Choice White Wine Pairing – Longevity Wines and

Johnny Garlic’s Read More

The Countdown is On!

Taste Our Terroir is less than two weeks away and I am excited.  Why am I so excited?  To put it in one word, Taste Our Terroir is awesome, inspiring, delicious, worth-throwing-your-diet-out-the-window fun!  Ok, so maybe I can’t exactly describe why I love Taste Our Terroir in one word, but here are some of the things I’m looking forward to in next week’s event.

Thursday night’s Quest for Pairing Excellence.  This event kicks off the Taste Our Terroir weekend and it is spectacular!  18 teams of local restaurants and wineries create their perfect pairings.  You’re going to wish you were a cow and had four stomachs to consume all the delicious food.  Personally, I was blown away by the pairings last year.  I’ve had a glimpse of some of this year’s pairings and it looks like they’re going to be even better than last year, which seems impossible, but it’s true.  The best part is that you get to vote for your favorite red and white wine pairings!  I love seeing who ends up winning and it’s announced with time for you to get around and try those pairings if you hadn’t tried them already.

In addition to those 18 teams tantalizing your taste buds, there will be ten additional wineries pouring on the patio and in the dessert room.  Yes, you read that right, a dessert room.

As if that wasn’t enough there are some truly amazing auction items this year.  There’s a cruise with either Retzlaff Vineyards or 3 Steves Winery, a chance to get your cellar stocked with wine from the competition, and so much more.

This event sells out every year, so go get your tickets now… seriously… you don’t want to miss this event!  Here, I’ll even give you the link. CLICK HERE! Read More

The Chefs Tell All

With Taste Our Terroir less than a month away we sat down with a few of the participating restaurants to hear about what makes for the perfect pairing and what trials and tribulations they endured as they started their careers.

Let’s start with the Quest for Food and Wine Pairing Excellence on Thursday night.  This event brings 18 winery and restaurant teams together to compete for five awards.  So what makes a pairing perfect?  Sabio on Main says that they aim for the wine and food to really cooperate and have a long, memorable finish.  Salt Craft claims that the trick is to make a connection between the local food and wine.  Johnny Garlics is excited to knock some socks off with bold flavors while Beets Hospitality aims for simplicity and clean flavors saying that food and wine should be fun, having too many things going on can confuse the palette.  No one sums up this event better than The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards: I don’t think that the Bay Area wine community gives Livermore Valley the recognition it deserves, so for me, this event does just that.

Now that we’re all dying to know what these chefs have up their sleeves (sorry you’ll have to wait until Thursday night to discover their actual pairings). Let’s discover how these culinary teams got to where they are today.

About 20 years ago I was working at a very busy seafood restaurant that had an open kitchen.  As I watched the people pour in, I thought that I had gotten off hook because I was not getting any orders.  It turns out that my ticket printer was not turned on.  That was the longest set of tickets I had ever seen.  – Salt Craft Read More

Your Summer Bucket List

Today is the first day of my favorite season.  Happy summer to all!  With any new season I think it’s important to write a list of things to accomplish, so without further ado here’s my bucket list for the summer.

  • Bike through the Vineyards. There are so many places you can go on your bicycle!  Hop on and ride from winery to winery and enjoy the beautiful views that Livermore Valley has to offer.  For all of the local bike paths, click here.
  • Taste Our Terroir. This is four days of wine and food from your favorite wineries and restaurants.  The line up couldn’t be better this year with a lobster feed, progressive dinner, brunch in the vineyards, wine seminars and so much more.  Click here for the full list of activities.  Attend one event or multiple for a full weekend of delectable fun.
  • Picnic in the Vineyards. You don’t have to get down in the dirt to enjoy a picnic.  Many of the wineries have great spots to picnic.  Find a full list here.
  • Garden Trail. Did you know that there is a Drought Resistant Garden Trail throughout Livermore Valley?  Check out this map and view beautiful gardens.  You can even stop in at some of the wineries and sip while you commune with nature.
  • Harvest Wine Celebration. Sadly, the end of summer, but celebrate the change in seasons and the newest harvest of wine grapes.  Over 25 wineries will be participating in this two-day event.  This is also the 35th Harvest Wine Celebration so expect the weekend to be better than ever.  Click here for tickets and details.
  • Try a new winery. We all have our favorites and it is so easy to just keep going back to them. This summer, branch out and try a new winery or two before heading to your old favorites.  You may notice that your favorite winery list will get longer and longer.  For a full list of wineries, click here.
  • Movie Night in the Vineyards. More than one winery will be hosting movie nights throughout the summer as well as a multitude of other events.  Enjoy the summer heat as the sun sets and watch one of your favorite movies.  For a full list of winery activities, click here.
  • Ride the Livermore Trolley. Have you heard that you can hop on and hop off at certain Livermore Valley wineries this summer?  This is a great way to get around without having to drive.  Don’t want to share your ride?  Here’s a full list of our transportation partners.
  • Livermore Airport Open House. Technically, not in summer, but who doesn’t love to make plans ahead of time. Check out the newest hangar at the airport, peruse airplanes, all while sampling some of Livermore Valley’s finest wines.  Check back here for more details as the event gets closer, but for now, mark your calendar for October 1st.
  • Try a new restaurant. Oh how I wish we could simply drink wine all day.  Unfortunately, we must eat food as well.  Try one of these restaurants for some delicious bites before, during or after your wine tastings.
  • Read More

    #TBT to TOT

    Taste Our Terroir is less than two months away and I have been daydreaming about this event pretty much since it ended last year.  For those of you who don’t know what this is, here’s a quick rundown.  It’s ten events over four days that focus on Livermore Valley’s terroir.  What is terroir?  I thought the same thing too the first time I saw the word and no, it’s not a dog.  In a nutshell, it’s the characteristic taste and flavor imparted to a wine by the environment in which it is produced.  Check out this quick video for how to pronounce it.

    Alright, now that you’re an expert on terroir, let’s get back to why this event is so incredible.

    First there’s the Annual Quest for Food and Wine Pairing Excellence on Thursday night.  This year there are 18 restaurant and winery teams that will make fabulous food.  I love this as a chance to try a sample from a new restaurant or see how creative some of my regular favorites are.  Check out some pairings from previous years and try not to drool too much on the keyboard.

    The best part about the Thursday evening event is that you get to vote for the team you think has the best red and white pairings.  I’ve seen a sneak peak of what some teams are creating, and let’s just say… yum!  And this is just the beginning of it.

    The weekend events give you some face-to-face time with chefs and winemakers.  You can learn their processes and philosophies.  At the very least, you’ll have some very interesting tidbits to drop at your next dinner party.

    For the foodies, in the past there have been some amazing chef demonstrations and component tastings.  I love watching chefs prepare meals, their little tips help me so much when I’m burning cooking meals in my own kitchen.

    This year, learn how to make the perfect summer risotto with Linda Carucci, author of Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks and an event that focuses on different pairings of Brix chocolate and wine.  If you didn’t get enough of the competition on Thursday night, check out the

    Chomped! Competition at Whole Foods Market in Dublin Read More

    Livermore Food and Wine Tastes Better All the Time

    By guest blogger, Laura Ness.  This article first appeared on

    Taste Our Terroir, 2015 edition, paired Livermore wineries and their chosen restaurant partners to create what were some memorable marriages of food and wine. This year, 19 winery and restaurant teams went head to head to win over the palates and hearts of both professional judges and the consumers who came to enjoy this annual competition. Read More

    Wine: Livermore’s Taste our Terroir Expands to Four Days

    I’ve been going to Livermore Valley’s food and wine pairing competition, Taste Our Terroir, since I moved to the Bay Area 10 years ago. As a guest or wine judge, I’d taste my way through that packed Thursday night event, deeply aware of how much thought had gone into every team’s lip-smacking entry.

    If you haven’t been, here’s the gist: Teams of two — a Livermore winemaker and a Bay Area chef — meet up, often months in advance, to select a wine and create its ultimate culinary companion. That night, they are judged for their innovation, use of local, seasonal ingredients and of course, deliciousness. As fun as the event was — the cheese and dessert room alone made me swoon — I always wondered why the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association didn’t use the event’s momentum to fuel a weekend of activities, especially since the Thursday night event often sold out.

    Last year, they read my mind and added a few events. But this year, Taste Our Terroir will start at Pleasanton’s Casa Real and span four days, July 24 to 27, with a boatload of first-time activities across Livermore Valley, including celebrity chef cooking classes, vineyard tours and wine seminars on everything from sommelier secrets to the relationship between wine and music. Find out more at

    “Over the past few years we’ve seen a real hunger (among consumers) to go deeper in understanding food and pairings, so we’ve created a program to meet those interests,” says Chris Chandler, executive director of the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association. For me, it’s all about the two-hour cooking demonstrations.
    On July 25, cookbook author Rocky Fino of “Will Cook For Sex: A Guy’s Guide to Cooking” (Stephens Press, 2010) will prepare three dishes to pair with wines from Page Mill Winery’s portfolio.

    On July 26, food blogger My Nguyen of My Healthy Dish will focus on creative tools to add wholesome twists to everyday meals — paired with Las Positas Vineyards wines. Nguyen is a chef and nutrition expert with a whopping one million Instagram followers. Another interesting Friday event: Wine consultant and CSU Fresno lecturer Clark Smith and winemaker Karl Wente will discuss how your wine preference can be strongly influenced by music. And, if you’ve always wondered how professionals describe and compare wines so well, you can join sommelier Gerald Gilligan of Double Barrel Wine Bar on Saturday as he takes you on a step-by-step journey through six classic grape varietals. “Secrets of the Sommelier” will help you uncover clues that the experts use to identify wines. At the end of the seminar, put your skills to the test in a blind tasting competition.

    If Thursday night’s food and wine pairing competition is still at the top of your list, be on the lookout for first-time winery participants, Dante Robere Vineyards and Darcie Kent Vineyards, and several non-Livermore restaurants, including Forno Vecchio (Pleasanton), 1300 on Fillmore (San Francisco) and Venga Paella (Oakland). For the first time, the competition will open one hour early — at 5 p.m. — for VIP ticket holders. Also for the first time: You’ll be able to buy the wines you taste at the competition. “Consumers would always ask us where they could find the wines they were tasting and we would always say, ‘Uh, at the winery,'” Chandler says. Not anymore.

    This year, Livermore Valley’s popular food and wine pairing dovetails into four days of activities, including cooking demonstrations, vineyard tours and wine seminars throughout the valley from July 24 to 27. Opening night starts at 6 p.m. (5 p.m. for VIP ticket holders) July 24, Casa Real, 410 Vineyard Ave, Pleasanton. Tickets: $125, VIP; $85 through July 10; $95 thereafter. See the full lineup and get tickets at

    Chef and Owner David Lawrence of 1300 Fillmore

    We are always excited to have new restaurants participate in Taste Our Terroir. We couldn’t be more curious to try 1300 Fillmore’s executive chef and owner David Lawrence’s pairing with Longevity Wines. David grew up in London with Jamaican parents, was French-trained and southern-inspired. So you know the food will be as dynamic as he is. His San Francisco restaurant is a testament to fresh food that brings an experience of warmth, vibrancy and a sense of belonging to its guests. Here we learn more about his inspiration and the man behind the iconic restaurant.

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    Chef Chris Corey of Underdog Wine Bar and Lounge

    Chef Chris Corey has lived in eight different states and worked every position possible in the restaurant industry. His experience in wine bars, catering companies, family restaurants and bars has brought him to his newest position as the Executive Chef of Underdog Wine Bar and Lounge. Now he is enjoying the view and the bountiful produce of the Livermore Valley Wine Country terroir. His experimentation and passion for the quality of the vegetables, grapes, meats, and seafood that comes from the area is sure to shine at this year’s Taste Our Terroir and we are anxiously awaiting to taste.


     When did you first know you wanted to be a chef? Read More