I got a sense of Tenunta Vinyards’ tasting room before I even entered its doors. Specifically, I heard it. It was the sound of joyous conversation and laughter. You might say that has nothing to do with the winery, but the patrons who happened to be there. Perhaps a limo full of intoxicated tasters arrived just before I got there. But that was not the case. It does not take long before realizing that Tenuta’s tasting room just has a really good vibe to it.
Rich, the operations manager and self-proclaimed hugger, creates those good vibes, in most part. All wineries welcome you, but there are few that make you feel truly welcomed as Rich does. He spends his time bouncing from patron to patron, dishing out hugs and engaging in conversations about the winery and the winemaker, Nancy Tenuta. In essence, he is creating that personal connection between the wine drinker and the wine. It is a smart and effective strategy.
All of these good vibes would mean nothing if the wine was not good, but fortunately, it is. For five dollars we were able to pick our flight of six wines from the 15 wines they offered, including their three ports. My favorite was the NV Trinity. This wine contains 35% 2007 Cab, 35% ’08 Cab and 30% Petit Sirah. Despite it being Cab-heavy, it was pretty mellow. It was also fruity, complex, and delicious. If you like ports, I strongly recommend their 2005 Cabernet Port. It is unlike any port I have had in Livermore Valley in that the cabernet is so clearly present. It spends six years aging in French oak, which cuts through the sweetness and gives it a unique and harmonious finish. In fact, most of the wines at Tenuta spend a few years in French oak, so if you like your wines oaky, this is the label for you.
At this point, Teresa and I could have left with a perfectly pleasant tasting experience,
however, we were not done yet. Rich offered to take us, as well as a few others, on a tour of the facilities. Although we consider ourselves experienced wine tasters, we have been on very few tours, and being that it was harvest, we jumped at the chance to see what was happening behind the scenes.
We quickly learned is that the winery is large. In fact, it’s the third largest producer of wine in the Livermore Valley behind Wente and Concannon. However, only a fraction of what is produced there is bottled under the Tenuta label; the rest is from outside wineries. They cleverly built the storage room into the side of a hill to keep the barrels cool naturally. We also had the opportunity to taste some wine out of he barrel, including their Liquid Gold Chardonnay Port. I’m a port traditionalist, but I also have a sweet tooth, and this was certainly sweet. This port is a guilty pleasure.
To top it all off, Csaba, owner and winemaker at En Garde Winery, was in the middle
of pressing some grapes that will eventually become his 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon. He was nice enough to give the tour members a taste of these freshly picked and pressed Napa grapes. It is no wonder his Cabernet is so highly acclaimed (and expensive): these are great tasting grapes!
The motto at Tenuta Vinyards is “Give us 30 minutes, and we’ll be friends for life.” As we returned to the tasting room to wrap things up, I realized that their motto has merit. From their staff to the tasting room, facilities, and the wine itself, this is a winery that embraces their patrons wholeheartedly. You will want to spend time here, and I am certain that we will be spending more as well.