Five surprising facts about the Livermore Valley
Susan Hathaway | Mercury News | March 18, 2013 | link
Brett Caires, co-owner and winemaker of BonaVentura de Caires Winery, grew up in Livermore with fifth-generation winemaker Karl Wente. Before he made wine, Caires worked as a real estate broker in the area for 26 years. Here, he shares five surprising facts about the Livermore Valley — things you probably never knew.
1. It’s old
The Livermore Valley is probably the oldest wine region in California. There were well over 50 wineries in Livermore Valley before Prohibition, but the 18th Amendment demolished much of the wine industry there. In fact, the wine business still hasn’t caught up to its pre-Prohibition winery count, which was around 70.
2. It has its own orientation
Most California wine regions run north-south, but Livermore runs east-west. This is a good thing for wine grapes because it helps the vineyards cool as coastal breezes come through from the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay.
3. We saved the French
We gave them phylloxera, the wine version of herpes, and then gave them the cure. A lot of grape cuttings originally planted in the Livermore Valley were from France and when some cuttings went back to France, they brought with them the sap-sucking pest that wiped out much of the French vines. Later, phylloxera-resistant American root stock from Livermore was sent to France to help them recover.
4. It’s fueled by geek power
About half the winemakers in this region are highly educated in areas like physics and engineering. Many retired from Lawrence Livermore Lab or Silicon Valley, and come armed with other technical backgrounds. They are off-the-charts smart.
5. Agriculture conservation is a priority
The South Livermore Area Plan, first adopted in 1993 to ensure “orderly development” of the area, includes permanent agricultural easements that must be followed by developers. Each building permit must include one acre used for “intense agriculture,” which has led to significant expansion of vineyards in the region. Today, you see newer subdivisions with vineyards planted between them.