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03 August 2005

Abstract AVAs: Livermore Valley I

It appears that the term AVA may rapidly become meaningless.  However, some AVAs are still unique - at least from a novelty standpoint.  For example, take the Livermore Valley AVA in California.  I found a grand total of two wines from Livermore in my local wine shop.  Both appeared to be non-mainstream grapes (i.e. not simply Cabernet, Merlot, or Chardonnay).  And both piqued my interest.

LivermoreareamapBut first, let's explore Livermore.  Some fun facts:

  • The Livermore Valley is situated at the foot of the coastal range, east of San Francisco
  • It's 25km long ( 15.5 miles) and 38,000 ha (96,00 acres).  It's also situated east-west, rather than north-south, which makes it unique among northern California wine regions
  • Like many other magical AVAs, the valley boasts warm days and cool nights (yawn)
  • The first grapes were planted by Spanish missionaries in the 1760s.  The Wente family got its start here in 1883.  Wente operates Wente  and Murrieta's Well

Now onto Livermore wine #1:  Murrieta's Well "Zarzuela."  Zarzuela is Spanish for operetta - a romantic musical.  The winery's Website touts Zarzuela's richness.  I found it to be a solid, good wine.  However, "rich" isn't one of the words I would use..

The Skinny

Muriwellzarz01Murrieta's Well "Zarzuela" '01 ($27)

  • From California's Livermore Valley
  • 62% Tempranillo, 17% Touriga Nacional (Spanish grapes), 13% Petit Verdot (French grape - traditionally blended in Bordeaux), 5.5% Barbera (Italian grape), 2.5% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Semi-opaque dusty ruby in color with a thin pink rim
  • Scents of smoke, red & black berries, and licorice
  • Medium-bodied, slightly tannic with noticeable acidity.  It finishes with mouth-coating tannins.  The flavor is much less extracted than expected

*** (3 stars out of 5)

I applaud this effort as a unique wine of the non-fruitbomb variety.  At $27, I think the price is a little steep.  Zarzuela isn't quite bold enough for a spicy barbecue fest.  However, it would really hit the spot with a slow-cooked pot roast or beef medallions in gravy


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Nice write up, a couple things though. Concannon was sold to the Wine Group a couple years ago and isn't part of the Wente Family. (I'm not sure it ever was.) Ivan Tamas (Website) also falls under the Wente umbrella of wineries.

Can't wait for installment number two!


Thanks for the info. I misread the Wente Concannon thing here:

I'll edit the content..

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