Toast the wine harvest | August 31, 2012 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - August 31, 2012

Toast the wine harvest

Labor Day tradition celebrates the fruit of the Livermore Valley vines

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

This weekend is a great time to explore the wine country right in our own back yard. Twenty-nine wineries are hosting festivities at their tasting rooms as part of the 2012 Livermore Valley Harvest Wine Celebration with wine tasting, food vendors, local artisans and live music.

"It's a good event. It exposes a lot of people to the Livermore Valley," said Mitchell Katz; the winery bearing his name is located on Vineyard Avenue in Pleasanton.

This is the 31st year that people have gathered over Labor Day weekend to enjoy the fruit of the vines of the Livermore Valley. Besides the 29 wineries opening their doors, an additional 12 will be pouring at either Concannon Vineyard or Wente Vineyards on Tesla Road.

The festivities take place between noon and 5 p.m. Sunday and Monday, and the ticket price includes shuttle bus transportation between the wineries on Sunday. The buses will travel on three different routes, each serving six to 11 wineries. Free parking will be available at Robertson Park in Livermore, where guests can board buses and transfer between routes during the day.

During the celebration, wineries are open only to ticket holders with event wristbands and no outside food is allowed.

On Monday, 38 Livermore Valley wineries will present a more intimate affair for guests at their tasting rooms. Some of these Monday-only special events include:

* Bottle your own wine at Cedar Mountain Winery, el Sol Winery and Eckert Estate Winery

* Big White House & John Evan Cellars: Aroma bar and sensory education to discover the aromas of different wine varietals

* Mitchell Katz Winery releasing a microbrew

"You'd be surprised, there's nothing like a cold beer after a long day of wine drinking," Katz said. "My palate just wants a nice cold beer."

Mitchell Katz Winery will have live music both days and different types of snacks, such as little tacos for about $1.

"When I pour an event I try to do my best wine," Katz said. "I won't get them to the tasting room if don't give them my best."

He figures that although people may not buy this weekend, they will remember the quality of the wine and the friendly pourers.

"I love my staff -- that is what has put me on the map," Katz said, noting that the San Francisco Chronicle named it as one of the Top 40 tasting rooms in Northern California.

Tickets for the two-day celebration are $55 in advance; $49.50 each if buying 10; and $65 the day of the event. Designated driver tickets are also available on the day of the event for $10.

Admission price includes a commemorative Livermore Valley wine glass, tastings of at least two wine varietals from each participating winery, an event program and discounts on wine purchases. Food at all winery locations will be locally prepared and moderately priced (under $8).

Tickets are available online at and at all participating Livermore Valley wineries, the Wine Steward in Pleasanton and at Bay Area Safeway stores.

The Harvest Wine Celebration is a fundraiser for the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.