The Livermore Valley Harvest Celebration:
Rediscovering the Charm of Family

By Jason Barlow

It is easy to get lost gazing out at the gentle rolling hills of the Livermore Valley, with warming afternoon sun caressing your back and fresh country-side air filling your lungs. The soft, fertile glow of wild grass swaying in the breeze is a little bit hypnotic. Only the marked contrast of vibrant blue sky and lush green vineyards can spark the senses and mind back to a more cognizant state. Each year, thousands and thousands journey out to this charming stretch of land to indulge themselves in the beauty of music, food, and most importantly, great wine. Luckily, everyone who enjoyed the fruits of the 27th Harvest Wine Celebration managed to find their way back from the quixotic landscape. But Iím sure they returned home with very fond memories.

There are 43 wineries spread throughout the valley, and over the two days of the festival, I was able to visit twelve. Out of those I stopped at, there was a common charm which connected all of them. A strong sense of community and a personal touch to each visit were hallmarks of these wineries. Even with the grand crowds that circled around, many of the winemakers and owners were out among the people, happy to stop and chat, answering questions for anyone that wanted to ask, and not just those in an inner circle. On the busses that ran conveniently between the different wineries, strangers struck up conversations, compared notes, and even gave the occasional high-five. Good friends enjoyed an amazing variety of hearty fare, with succulent BBQ dishes, rich cuisine from the Mediterranean and Middle East, and scrumptious desserts. The inspired danced, with varying levels of grace, to the live music that provided a delightful compliment to the festivities. Booths displayed the fine wares of local artists and craft makers, with unique creations for sale. In short, there was something fun for everyone.

There is a very special, very particular charm to the Livermore Valley, the kind that can only come from a genuine family atmosphere. And at nearly every winery, family is what itís all about. There are fathers and sons, husbands and wives, and even some more extended relatives running the show. Itís not about gilt and glamour around the valley; it's about satisfying a passion for making great wine and having fun doing it. At Crooked Vine, the owner Rick Corbett walks around chatting with patrons just like heís one of them, laughing and joking while he relates stories about his 1941 Chevy pick-up and 1919 Studebaker. Behind the counter at Page Mill, the owner pours samples just like any other staff member, and with his soft-billed cap, you wouldn't know the difference unless you asked. At Big White House, the winemaker John Even Marion is happy to reminisce about how he got his start making wine at only 15, before he could even drink it himself. With such a relaxed atmosphere, it is easy for everyone to feel welcome no matter who you are or how much you know about wine.

If you enjoy speaking to the winemaker in person or getting to shake hands with the owner, and you still want to wear sandals on a picturesque day, then the Livermore Valley is for you. Around there, you can feel like a friend and not just another customer. Plus, the wines are first-class, and many come without the heavy price tag of other wine growing regions. So, experience the tranquility and beauty of the Livermore wine country. Find the charm for yourself, and get to know the unique story of all the small family vineyards that dot the roadsides as you wind your way through the rolling hills.

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