The history of wine in the Livermore Valley spans 250 years. Spanish missionaries planted the region's first grapes in the 18th century, and Robert Livermore sowed the first commercial vines in the mid-19th. These early efforts led to America's first international gold medal for wine at the 1889 Paris Exposition, when California grapes beat out bordeaux in the annual race to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
The guides at Livermore Valley Wine & Cycle Tours lead cyclists into this historic, scenic valley in which some 40 wineries currently reside. Rides between them follow moderate routes, letting peddlers soak in views of the canyons and ridges that rise and fall between the clustered rows of vines.
Since 2004, Super Jet Limo's smartly dressed chauffeurs have transported clients in a fleet of stylish town cars. They drive travelers to and from San Francisco International Airport, Oakland International Airport, and Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport. In addition, they facilitate sightseeing tours and provide transportation for special events, such as proms and weddings. In the case of the latter, they'll even outfit limos with customized Just Married signs.
It's a daunting task to visit all the wineries in the Napa/Sonoma region—there are more than 900 of them. Luckily, Stacy's Wine Tours is up to the challenge. They whisk visitors to a wealth of boutique wineries and vineyards during customized wine tours aboard a fleet of luxury vehicles. Guests can cruise through the grape-dotted countryside inside a stretch limo or opt for a basic designated-driver service.
They can also skip the wine tastings and head out on a brewery tour via Tap in Tours. A tour bus described as an "Irish pub on wheels"—though it's missing drunken novelists and poets—ferries passengers to various microbreweries along the 121 and 101 corridors, including Lagunitas, Hop Monk, and Petaluma Hills Brewing Company.
Casa Flores crafts a menu of traditional Mexican entrees that can quell even the most persistent hunger mobs. Guests can choose from more than 20 combination platters, in addition to a savory selection of fajitas, seafood, and chef's specialties.
Northern California Travel and Tours books trips with Delta Charter Bus to get people to and from local casinos such as Jackson Rancheria Casino. The buses stop at 11 prearranged locations and drop people off at the casino. After five hours, the bus makes the return trip.
In the years following World War II, Dutch immigrant John Van Ruiten sought to fulfill his dream of owning a vineyard. With a simple handshake as his contract, he purchased the land that would help him turn that reverie into a verdant realty. More than a half-century later, the wine empire spawned by that handshake continues to sprawl as quickly as the vines of its zinfandel grapes. These grapes and more now stretch across the 800 acres that Van Ruiten Family Vineyards call home, earning the winery high accolades—including a nod in the Wall Street Journal proclaiming their 2007 old vine zinfandel among the top 12 wines in the world in 2009.
In Van Ruiten's tasting room, guests can sample the winery's signature zinfandel, chardonnay, and cabernet sauvignon–shiraz blend before retiring to shady corners of the courtyard or an outdoor patio overlooking the vineyards. Among the vines, nesting boxes house owls that—as an alternative to pesticides—hunt down rodents and use their bright eyes to scare away enterprising grape thieves.