Category Archives: Wine Tours

Tri Valley, California

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Tri-Valley is one of California’s premier golf and wine destinations.  Located just 40 miles southeast of San Francisco, the Tri-Valley, California’s five-city region, is home to more than 10 private and public golf courses and 40 wineries.  After a round,  golfers can enjoy an afternoon of wine tasting, creative culinary fare, and family friendly activities.  The mild climate and scenic landscapes make this an ideal destination for those seeking a true respite.

Historic Tri-Valley

Tri-Valley takes its name from the three adjacent valleys that make up the region: Amador, Livermore, and San Ramon. The historic communities of Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, San Ramon, and Danville are all found here. The area has welcomed travellers since the California Gold Rush, when the region was the main route from San Francisco to the Sierra Foothills.

The legends of early California and the American West are all part of the history of Tri-Valley. Early Native American villages, Spanish mission culture, Spanish land-grant ranchos, the California Gold Rush, the transcontinental railroad, early movie production, World War II, and the nuclear age have all shaped the region. The early Wild West, with its ranching and farming  have influenced today’s historic districts, and modern business centers.

The properties of Ravenswood and Forest Home Farms are open to the public for tours, allowing visitors to experience life as it was from the late 1880’s and early 1900’s. Additionally, Forest Home Farms is now home to the City of San Ramon’s Saturday farmers markets.

Wineries

One of California’s oldest wine regions, Livermore Valley showcases innovation and viticulture. Overhead irrigation, mechanical harvesting, and roller crushing were some of the innovations developed in Tri-Valley. The region played a pivotal role in shaping California’s wine industry, despite the crushing effects of Prohibition.

Katy at Wente Vineyards
Katy at Wente Vineyards

Wente Vineyards survived the hard times of prohibition by making sacramental wine for the Catholic Church. In 1936, Wente Vineyards was the first California winery to produce a wine labelled as Chardonnay. Today, many of the great Chardonnay vineyards in California are planted with the Wente Clone. And in 2013, Wente Vineyards, the oldest family owned winery in the United States, celebrated its 130th anniversary.

Livermore Valley’s contributions to the state’s enology and viticulture live on today. One of the last non-commercialized wine countries, Livermore Valley is home to 38 wineries. The warm days and cool nights of the valley create ideal conditions for producing the Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon grape varietals the region is known for. Each year brings with it new winemakers who are working alongside fifth generation winegrowers to enrich the traditions and legacies of the region.

Many of the valley’s innovative wine makers are bridging the gap between the science  and the art of crafting wine. Modern trellising, integrated pest management, and recycling are all a marrying of old and new.

The history of Livermore  Valley Wine Country is celebrated every year at community events including the Livermore Valley Live Wine Auction & Dinner, Annual Harvest Wine Celebration, Livermore Valley Wine & Food Experience “A Taste of Terroir,” and Holidays in the Vineyards.

Golf

Tri-Valley’s ten public courses offer scenic views and challenging terrain for all levels of play.

Hole 1 at The Bridges
Hole 1 at The Bridges

First opened in 1999, The Bridges Golf Club is in San Ramon, 35 miles from San Francisco and five miles north of the 580-680 interchange. Graves and Pascuzzo are the course architects and Johnny Miller served as design consultant.

With a 144 slope from the back tees, bring your A game. Many holes are bordered on one side by restricted ecological areas and on the other side, slopes of heather and Scottish Broom. Sloped skinny fairways, forced carries and many elevation changes means you’re going to lose a few balls. Greens are seeded with rye grass and roll around 9 to 10 on the stimpmeter. For the average golfer, bogey will be a very good score. Members complained the course was too tough and in 2013, Bay Area golf architect Jay Blasi was brought in to enhance the playability of the course.

As one of the newest stops on the PGA Nationwide Tour, Tri-Valley is home to The Course at Wente Vineyards, designed by Greg Norman. Uniquely situated on a working vineyard estate, the Course features three distinct topographies – native woodlands, mature vineyard and rolling hills of natural grasslands and is certified as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.

The LPGA Longs Drugs Challenge tees it up in Tri-Valley at the Blackhawk Country Club. Surrounded by acres of open space, detailed landscaping and luxurious homes, Blackhawk Country Club is a favorite among the tour players.

Poppy Ridge Golf Course,  sister property to Pebble Beach’s famous Poppy Hills, is a challenging but fair test for golfers of all abilities. Designed by Rees Jones, Golf Digest’s Architect of the Year for 2005, this 27-hole course offers four sets of tees, top conditions, and panoramic views of the Livermore Valley Wine Country. Each hole is shaped by extensive bunkering, giving the course a links feel.

The newest course to open in Tri-Valley is the Callippe Preserve Golf Course. Golfweek has ranked the course among the Top 10 Public Golf Courses in California, and was additionally nominated for Golf Digest’s Best New Course for 2006. Situated on the hillside of the Pleasanton ridge lands, Callippe Preserve Golf Course provides exceptional views of Mount Diablo and the oak woodlands.

 

 

California Q and A

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Renaissance Magazine interviews Active City Travel on their favorite California experiences.

Why did you visit California?

Primarily, because of the variety of experiences available. It’s possible to cycle the Golden Gate Bridge and miles of beach/river trails in Orange County, golf local and PGA courses and do a Silent Stay retreat in Napa, stay at a private condo with Catalina Island Vacation Rentals, discover new wine regions like Temecula and the Tri County area, try foot golf and walk among the dunes in Oxnard (just north of LA) and visit top museums in San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

 What was one of the highlights of your trip?

Of the many highlights, I would have to say meeting other travelers while sampling local wines at the free, evening wine receptions offered at hotels like The Executive Vintage Court, Fairmont Ghirardelli Square and Half Moon Bay Inn (in/near San Francisco), The Willows (Palm Springs), Embassy Suites Mandalay Bay (Oxnard) and the happy hour at The Kona Kai Resort in San Diego.

The Willows Historic Inn
The Willows Historic Inn

 Is there anything you would have done differently? If yes or no, provide your reason.

I would have spent even more time sampling local products like lavender and olive oil goodies in Temecula, strawberries and local wine in Oxnard and the micro breweries sprouting up all over the state along with locally made cheeses like burrata. 

Temecula Olive Oil Company
Temecula Olive Oil Company

What did you learn about California?

Considering it’s the land of the car, cycling routes are numerous and well established particularly in Orange County, San Diego and San Francisco. Many hotels like The Fairmont and Kona Kai offer free or low-cost bikes.

Kona Kai Lobby
Kona Kai Lobby

 How did this visit to California change you?

I am more open to new experiences after spending three days at Silent Stay, a meditation retreat in Napa, camping by the ocean in a mini RV camping van and visiting an aquarium via a glass tunnel under the San Francisco Bay.

Silent Stay Retreat
Silent Stay Retreat

Will you be back? Explain.

Yes as I feel there is still so much to see, do and eat. San Francisco alone has so many great and diverse restaurants – historically significant places like Scoma (seafood) John’s Grill (classic American) and new places like Pica Pica (Venezuelan). It would take years just to try the restaurants alone.

 Please provide five tips or interesting facts about California.

1.In addition to admission to top museums, boat and open air city bus tours, the San Francisco CityPass includes seven days of unlimited public transportation aboard MUNI (cable cars, buses and the light rail system).

2. The normally $70.00 return ferry to the beautiful Santa Catalina Island (off the coast of Los Angeles) is free on your birthday.

3. You can get daily/monthly memberships at high-end resorts such as the Kona Kai in San Diego which allow full day use of all facilities including beach, pool and gym access and happy hour prices on food and drinks– a real bargain even if you are only in town for a few days.

4. Consider home renting services such as ownerdirect.com,catalinavacations.com and the Fairmont Heritage Place in San Francisco for a homier experience and more square footage than a regular hotel room.

5. Before buying that RV, test drive converted Dodge Caravans from Jucy Van Rentals, a new camping van rental service from Australia with offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.