Ways to Spend a Day in Northern California's Tri-Valley Wine Country

Discover the different ways to experience the wine country east of San Francisco

Harvest season is the perfect time to visit the Tri-Valley. The birthplace of many of California’s cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay grape varieties is just 30 miles east of downtown San Francisco. While an entire weekend could easily be spent in historic tasting rooms, the Tri-Valley’s miles of natural preserves beg to be explored on foot, as does the selection at California’s largest outlet mall, the San Francisco Premium Outlets.

Grapes at Wente Vineyards in Livermore.

Morning

Caffeinate with lavender-infused espresso or an Earl Grey latte at Livermore’s new Espresso Rosetta. The light and bright local favorite is less than five miles from the area’s best-known wineries. For a throwback breakfast that satiates cravings for both comfort classics and healthier choices, bustling Denica’s Real Food Kitchen in Livermore and Dublin serves up a wide range of morning go-tos, from eggs Benedict to the Happy Vegan Burrito.

Head over to Livermore’s Tesla Road via Interstate 580, the main thoroughfare for exploring Livermore’s (more than 50) wineries. Steven Kent Winery is the most decorated, with two tasting rooms serving different experiences. Aficionados can opt for the cabernet-focused reserve tasting served in the reserve room, and those looking for something more casual can try a general release tasting of four wines in the barrel room. Neighboring Nottingham Cellars winery operates a tasting room in downtown Livermore where you can sample pours of Ralphi’s Red Blend and Supremacy Bordeaux Blend, among others. The tasting bar and outdoor picnic area at Retzlaff Vineyards have a cozy, family-friendly vibe and luxuriating over wine and local cuisine at the recently renovated Murietta’s Well can drift into late afternoon. The area’s heaviest hitter is Wente Vineyards, owned by the same family after whom California’s main chardonnay clone is named, and to which 80 percent of California’s chardonnay can be traced.

Steven Kent Winery in Livermore.

Afternoon

If you’re running from winery to winery, a quick lunch that won’t bog down your tasting schedule is key. Hole-in-the wall El Charro Mexican Food & Cantina is close to the area’s wineries. Locals come for the enchiladas with sauce made from scratch. If you’re more into marinara than salsa, Pleasanton’s Gay 90’s Pizza draws locals with its saloon decor and family-friendly atmosphere. For a savory after-lunch treat, pop over to the Victorine Valley Farms’ tasting room to sample housemade olive oils and nab a few bath products made from olive oil.

Walk it off by cruising the sale racks of Livermore’s San Francisco Premium Outlets or trekking up Mount Diablo, the highest point in the Tri-Valley, rising to nearly 4,000 feet. You’ll find hikes ranging from three-to-eight miles and plenty of waterfalls along the way. Or if wine tasting leaves you more inclined to relax, Livermore’s Purple Orchid Spa offers the best in local pampering with an essential oil massage that uses infused olive oils grown onsite.

Evening

After watching the sunset at Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park, home to views of the entire valley, head about four miles into downtown Pleasanton for a taste of the Tri-Valley’s best seasonal dining. At Sabio, chef Francis Hogan serves a stunning, California-meets-Spain menu of small plates using only the best in local produce. The excellent new whiskey program could be at home in San Francisco or New York, and the famous HMB English peas and favas alone are worth a visit. For a meal by the vines, head to the Restaurant at Wente Vineyards for cuisine made from produce grown onsite and served in a white tablecloth atmosphere. It's perfect for a special occasion. Posada's dishes change with the season, save for the treasured blackberry mole, which can be found atop a rotation of seasonal proteins. 

Dine at the Restaurant at Wente Vineyards

Margaux Lushing
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