At first take, Livermore, California, seems more Central Valley than Bay Area: pleasant city center, quiet residential streets with tidy lawns and fluttering American flags, hot summer days. Yet gravelly soil and the sea breezes that hit this spot 45 miles east of San Francisco allow for great winemaking in one of California’s oldest appellations. Meanwhile, a clutch of Afghan, Sri Lankan, and Korean restaurants lends this burg a flavor all its own.
Wente Vineyards has made wine in the Livermore Valley since 1883. Stop by to see their Winemakers Studio, a tasting room crossed with an interactive wine lab. Visitors can sample small-batch blends and, for $110 per person, spend two hours wielding beakers—with professional guidance—to craft their own.