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Gary Barlettano

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Livermore: For Mr. Walter Nissen and others who know the turf

by Gary Barlettano » Mon Aug 14, 2006 2:38 pm

We're going to a wedding in Pleasanton at the end of September (not ours!!). In any event, we'll be spending the night in Pleasanton and want to hit the Livermore Valley on the way back. Even though Livermore is within spitting distance, I haven't kept up with the goings-on there. Aside from the usual suspects, i.e. Concannon, Wente, and maybe Murrieta's Well, who'd be worth dropping in on? I once knew a guy who worked at Garré (ex-boyfriend of a friend of my second ex-wife) who had some phenomenal wines from there. How do they look to you? Is that café worth chowing down at?

Any guidance would be much appreciated.
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Re: Livermore: For Mr. Walter Nissen and others who know the turf

by rhunker » Sat Aug 19, 2006 2:45 pm

I was in Livermore last week and visited four wineries that I thoroughly enjoyed both for their wine and their hospitality.
1. Steven Kent - great cab and I attended their unfilitered Chard release. My first such experience which was truly enjoyable.
2. La Rochelle - same property as Steven Kent. Nice Pinot Noirs
3. Cedar Mountain - down Tesla Road from Steven Kent. Nice port. Try their white port. Had great conversation with the owner/winemaker, Earl.
4. Bent Creek - I liked their Duet 50/50 Cab Merlot.

I've visited each at least two times, always felt welcomed and intend to go back. Livermore has a lot more to offer then I anticipated.

Richard
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Re: Livermore: For Mr. Walter Nissen and others who know the turf

by Gary Barlettano » Sat Aug 19, 2006 2:56 pm

rhunker wrote:I've visited each at least two times, always felt welcomed and intend to go back. Livermore has a lot more to offer then I anticipated.Richard


Thanks, Richard. I've been to Livermore several times over the years, just not recently. It's about a 30 minute drive south of here, but it's just not as pretty a ride as when I head north to Napa and Sonoma, so I'm not motivated to hop in a car and go in that particular direction. I need to overcome inertia!
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Re: Livermore: For Mr. Walter Nissen and others who know the turf

by rhunker » Sun Aug 20, 2006 3:59 am

I live in Vegas. Wish I had your problems...Napa, Sonoma, Livermore :?
Life's a game and I'm enjoying the 4th quarter.
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Re: Livermore: For Mr. Walter Nissen and others who know the turf

by Gary Barlettano » Sun Aug 20, 2006 12:39 pm

rhunker wrote:I live in Vegas. Wish I had your problems...Napa, Sonoma, Livermore :?


Hey, Vegas is none too shabby, but if I lived there I'd be fatter than I already am because I love to buffet.

Yeah, folks who live in the Bay Area and like Californina wine are truly blessed by the gods of location. (The gods of cuisine, weather, and scenery also play a rôle.) I came out here on vacation from New Jersey about 15 years ago and decided, whilst still standing on the tarmac at SFO, that I wanted to live here. It was a weird electricity. The wine hobby grew out of my love of the area. It took me about five years to find a job and someone to move me, but I made it in '97. Now the trick will be to afford living here after I retire in a decade or so!
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Re: Livermore: For Mr. Walter Nissen and others who know the turf

by rhunker » Sun Aug 20, 2006 1:58 pm

I couldn't agree with you more. I've enjoyed wine for the last 30 years (I'm 59) and tried to learn as much as I could. I retired on Feb 1 and since then it's been my greatest passion. My wife and I just spent the last 6 weeks in SF. I enjoyed, Napa, Sonoma, Livermore, Paso Robles and Monterey. Can't wait to get back.
Life's a game and I'm enjoying the 4th quarter.
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Re: Livermore: For Mr. Walter Nissen and others who know the turf

by Gary Barlettano » Mon Aug 21, 2006 2:05 am

rhunker wrote: Can't wait to get back.


Well, let us all know next time you do!
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Re: Livermore: For Mr. Walter Nissen and others who know the turf

by wnissen » Tue Aug 22, 2006 12:39 am

Dear Gary,

Apologies for my slow reply. Below is a post I did about the restaurants in town, figured I'd post it here.

As others have said, Wente is by far the best restaurant in the immediate area; super service, very good to excellent food, and an expensive but relatively deep wine list. Herbs grown on site, menu changes twice daily, etc. They'll try to steer you to the "signature" double-cut applewood-smoked pork chop, which is delicious barbecque but doesn't really show what the kitchen can do. The fish are always impeccably fresh, and I've never had a soup that failed to impress. Oh, and avoid the Wente "selected vineyards" wines on the list; they're the supermarket kind. Stick to the reserve selections and the Murrietta's Well (also owned by Wente). Lunch is a better deal, typically uncrowded, and the light in the room is beautiful. Oddly, no tasting menu is available, an oversight I'm planning to ask them to correct when we go for our fifth anniversary.
From the wineries, you'll have to drive a few miles to downtown no matter where you go. In downtown I like Sansar, northern Indian food done well. For American Zephyr Grill on the western edge of downtown (10 blocks long, don't worry) serves good California-ish food with ambiance (also fun happy hour). South of town is a branch of the small chain restaurant Emil Villa's, resolutely American comfort food (try anything with bacon) at low prices. If you're willing to go a bit farther afield, the Tri-Valley Seafood Restaurant in Pleasanton serves pretty authentic dim-sum all week during lunch and has tanks of live seafood for dinner, though service can be lacking (one of my pet projects is to figure out the precise hierarchy of dim-sum cart ladies, waiters, runners, check-bringers and suit-wearing managers). Also, if you've never eaten a fried prawn head whole, try the omakase at Tomo in downtown Pleasanton (I think it's $40). For Jaliscano Mexican food, try Anita's
Tacqueria in Livermore. Their carnitas (only available on weekends are super), as is any dish with tounge.


As for wineries, there are a number I'd recommend, and a number I wouldn't. Garre is one of the few that I haven't had, though the couple meals I've had at their cafe have been mediocre, Trio at Stony Ridge down Tesla is a better choice for a midday al fresco sandwich.

The place I always recommend people try is Livermore Valley Cellars (LVC). They make some superb zinfandels from a couple Livermore vineyards, as well as good quality Meritage (red and white). Extremely friendly folks, no attitude.

Depending on your taste and pocketbook, a new winery is making some great estate petite sirahs. They are Bodegas Aguirre, wines are big, tannic, oaky, and expensive, but delicious. Thomas Coyne has solid, interesting wines from all over the state, including some from Detjens Farm, which is right outside the door of his historic Chateau Bellvue winery. Worth a visit just to see the old bottles from the pre-Prohibition Livermore wine industry, which was the same size as Napa's.

I like Murrietta's Well, the Zarzuela is a fine blend, though not cheap. Wente (there are two tasting rooms, one free on Tesla, the other south on Arroyo that charges but also offers tours of the sparkling wine cellars) is decent, and their reserve wines can be quite good.

Hope you enjoy yourself, we almost always do.

Walt
Walter Nissen

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