An Overnight On Livermore’s Exotic Far East Side
By Laura Ness
Best for: Overnight mid-week get-away (March through November)
Begin your midweek overnight adventure to this really charming wine country getaway by stopping at Concannon on Tesla Road and picking up a couple bottles of chilled Conservancy Chardonnay and Assemblage Blanc – these are excellent wines and will serve you well poolside after you check into The Purple Orchid Inn, just past Greenville Road on Tesla Road. But fear not – if you don’t have time to stop on the way – the owners, Rhiannon and Derek, have a wonderful local wine list, including the Concannon Conservancy Chardonnay, which is produced from vines on land forever protected from development by a joint partnership between Concannon and the Tri Valley Conservancy, a land trust organization that seeks to preserve the unique agricultural heritage of the Livermore Valley, which extends far beyond vineyards to include hundreds of acres of olives.
Because The Purple Orchid is so popular for weddings, it’s best to stay here Tuesday through Thursday, from March through the end of October. Arrive by 3 p.m., if possible, so you can enjoy a very relaxed afternoon at this intimate bed and breakfast inn surrounded by olive trees and roses so amazing, they will transfix you with their enormous dinner-plate size and color swirls. The tranquil setting is enhanced by the constant water music from the waterfall that frames the pool. Dip into the relaxing whirlpool, then take a swim in the stunning pool, enjoying the sound of the wind and the jets flying high overhead. They serve complimentary wine every afternoon, and carry a good local selection if you didn’t bring your own. The Double Eagle room is ideal for those who want a big indoor Jacuzzi tub and a private patio leading directly to the pool.
Head to Poppy Ridge Golf course – just a four-minute ride away on Greenville Road – for cocktails and dinner, with a drop-dead gorgeous view of John Madden’s vineyard on the dramatic hills to the east. Or you could head into town to one of many fun restaurants, including Strizzi’s, Star Anise (Thai), El Sacromonte (gourmet Mexican/Central American) and First Street Ale House (great burgers and beer-battered onion rings).
Make your selection from The Purple Orchid’s breakfast menu, served 8 to 10 a.m., before you turn in for a restful evening on the sleek microfiber sheets and comfy pillows. You’ll be lulled to sleep by the incomparable breezes filtering through the windows. You might even hear a coyote chorus in the distance, serenading the moon.
The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast poolside or in the charming dining room, take a walk and explore the grounds before saddling up for a day of winetasting.
If it’s a Thursday, begin at Nottingham Cellars, where young winemaker, Collin Cranor, is turning heads with his stunning Viognier, superb vineyard-designate Cabs and stellar GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre) called “Awakening.” His Malbec from Bodegas Aguirre vineyard is also worth tasting, for its vivid strawberry-watermelon fruit. Open Thu-Sun, 12 to 4:30 p.m. and by appointment. Everything here is so good you might want to join their wine club!
Literally next door is Occasio, open Friday through Sunday, 12 to 5 p.m., where owner/winemaker John Kinney’s love of history shines through in every stellar wine he makes, each of which honors the heritage varietals of the Livermore Valley. Recent vintages of Pinot Gris, Pinot Rose, Sauvignon Blanc, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon are wonderfully crafted to emphasize bright fruit.
Adjacent is Longevity, where the pink Pinot Grigio is something of a novelty, as are their cute t-shirts. Longevity is open Friday through Sunday, 12 to 5 p.m.
Head down Vasco to East Avenue and check out Cuda Ridge, where winemaker Larry Dino has a cult following for his Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, but don’t miss the Merlot. This guy is onto something. Open Friday through Sunday, 12 to 4:30 p.m. and by appointment.
Head to Café Garré at Garre Winery on Tesla Road for lunch. (Open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Friday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Their fresh salads are always good, and their sandwiches, hearty and well made.
Then it’s on to McGrail, just up Greenville Road, for a fabulous view, some righteous Chardonnay and legendary Cabernets, all made by rockstar winemaker, Mark Clarin, truly one of the region’s superstars. He also crafts some fantastic Livermore Merlots and Sauvignon Blancs for Picazo. It’s hard to beat the full on perspective of the expansive beauty of the Livermore Valley from this wedding-perfect location. Open Thursday through Sunday, 12 to 4:30 p.m.
Time for one more? Head a few yards up Greenville to Bent Creek, home of some amazing Syrahs and Petite Sirahs that will always hit the spot. It’s such a pretty vineyard setting, too. Open Thursday through Sunday, 12 to 4:30 p.m.
And, if you’ve got room for just one more, Dick and Bonnie of Charles R will welcome you with their Chardonnay and Petite Sirah, and maybe a sip of Zin. This setting, amongst the gorgeous old oak trees, will truly relax you. Open Friday through Sunday, 11 to 4:30 p.m.
If you want to spend an extra night, indeed, you should. That way you can take in a movie at The Vine, and then spend another day wine tasting. Lodging gets more limited as you approach the weekend, but you can usually obtain Fridays and Saturdays at Hawthorn Suits by Wyndham, Hilton Garden Inn, Courtyard by Marriott or The Rose Hotel in Pleasanton.