Heard of Napa? Marlborough? Bordeaux? Stellenbosch? Yep, thought so!! How about the Tri-Valley? Ahhh, stumped you! Well, let me tell you, people not knowing is awesome, because that leaves more for us! Hurray!
What is the Tri-Valley?
The Tri-Valley is a collection of small towns around 30 miles from San Francisco, including Livermore, Pleasanton, Danville, Dublin, San Ramon, and Blackhawk. Each has its own distinct character, yet with a common vein that they make good food, great wine. The best discovery though is realising it looks about as near to time travel as is possible
Tri-Valley has a number of towns, which are in the absolute best way, unaffected by the passing of time and the hustle and bustle of the major metropolitan area of SF, San Jose and Silicon Valley, which are just over the hills. Think mom-and-pop stores, genuine smiles and the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, with an awesome theme of pushing local produce and being really proud of the local businesses and products. And why not, because these guys are masters. We blended to-die-for reds at the Wente Vineyard, an awesome half day experience that was a highlight of the trip for me.
The wine – why is it good?
A couple of years ago I saw a terrific movie called Sideways about a wine connoisseur and his best friend exploring the Santa Ynez wine region. It was this film that encouraged me, (indirectly!) to think more critically about what I was drinking, where it came from and the difference in varietals and grapes. The awesome blending class at Wente Vineyard, (who opened especially for us as we weren’t able to make any other time, THAT’S the kind of people who make the Tri-Valley so special) really helped me to expand my knowledge and understand why I liked like things, not just what I liked. We also had some really interesting and challenging food.
The food you dream of
Sabio on Main is criminally underrated. You drop those guys in Malibu and it’d be full 24/7, celebrities wall to wall – it’s that good! The quality of the food and encyclopedic knowledge of the staff made it a surprise favourite, I certainly hadn’t expected such a high-quality eatery in a ‘small’ town. Similarly, the Danville Harvest where we enjoyed a terrific lunch, was laid back in location and presentation but razor sharp with the quality of their dishes. For those who love movies, the restaurant from Mrs. Doubtfire is literally a stone throw away from Danville Harvest. Our lodging for the stay was the Four Points Sheraton on the edge of Pleasanton town, a well appointed and unassuming chain hotel, scrupulously clean and (essentially for our trip) with lots of free parking, the breakfast was enormous and really tasty, the perfect start to the day.
What else can you do in the Tri-Valley?
What else can you do if the wine isn’t your thing, or you don’t fancy a day of eating their delicious food?! Plenty! Shopping is a must with all these boutiques! But if you want to really get a grasp of American culture and history, the Blackhawk Museum should be on your itinerary. Seriously, this place was just incredible!
Firstly, it wasn’t open on the day we were passing through and they opened especially to show us around. It was lovely to discover the manager who we met on arrival, originally reigned from the UK and he loved the place so much he’d moved there! We also found out that, Ken Behring, the museum owner, once upon a time owned the Seattle Seahawks! It was just one discovery after another and it was clear everyone who worked there loved what they did.
It isn’t your ‘standard’ museum based around one genre, it plays host to a variety of decades and interests. We started out in what can only be described as the epitome of classic car collections, if you love vintage automobiles you have to check this out. I wouldn’t know where to start in telling you about the cars, but seeing them in such pristine condition and from such a broad range of years was an honour. I was particularly impressed by the green Harrods car!
Beyond the automotive gallery they have Art of Africa, Into China and the Spirit of the Old West. The Old West exhibition is where we decided to explore next. On entry to the collection, the first thing that jumped out was how much detail had gone into it. Over 10,000 pieces formed a miniature visual of the history of the Old West which spanned across the large room. They had pieces of garments from both cowboys and Indians – but the chief head dresses were simply out-of-this-world good and something I found the most astonishing as they were still in such impeccable condition.
I won’t give too much away, but head over the Blackhawk Museum Tri-Valley to get all the information about visiting you might need.
The people, The location
We were so busy we didn’t spend heaps of time there but it’s a great value and in a superb location to explore the area. Something that was really important to us after a night in San Francisco (pretty sketch, to be honest, read up before you go and make sure you stay somewhere safe) was that we were absolutely comfortable in all the neighbourhoods, restaurants and bars at night.
We spent time in each of the main towns of the area at night during our stay, and we always felt confident about our safety. There were a few times in SF when we weren’t so sure! The scenery is superb, the food and drink are out of this world, and there are no Napa crowds or coach tours. If you want to experience a world-class wine region, with enthusiastic, boundlessly friendly locals, it’s literally just down the road from Oakland Airport. And for now, it’s still a secret, so don’t tell too many people…