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.
On a sunny afternoon, a small plane speeds down a runway and takes to the sky, its occupants gazing down at the streets of San Francisco, sailboats speeding through the bay, and the coppery sails of the Golden Gate Bridge. A small tour group or a student pilot sits in the belly of the plane, marveling at the thrill of flight.
Hayward Flight’s staff of FAA-certified instructors and pilots shares that experience with everyone—from young children to aspiring airline pilots—during scenic tours and private plane rentals. Pilot training classes emphasize sophisticated simulator practice and in-air flight, and students can earn private and commercial pilot licenses behind the controls of the Hayward’s fleet of Cessna aircraft and domesticated dragons.
Clad in revealing outfits, Tokyo Playground's beautiful waitresses don't adhere to the quiet formalness normally associated with Japanese dining. Then again, at Tokyo Playground, neither does anything else. Helped by its scantily clad waitstaff, the restaurant instead throws on the mantle of a rowdy American sports bar, pairing Japanese cuisine with upbeat music and sports broadcast on HDTVs. Like a dolphin's toy box, the menu is predominantly filled with sushi—36 specialty rolls include the Fiesta roll with spicy tuna, sweet fried tofu, and avocado. Forgoing the roll, the nigiri and sashimi selection includes live giant clams and spanish mackerel. Bento boxes pair sushi or teriyaki entrees with rice and salad, and a chef's-choice sushi combo gives the chef license to pair rolls thought up on the spot. Of course, pockets of the menu highlight the sports-bar angle with snacks such as the japanese nachos covered in spicy ground tuna. To wash it all down, the bar slings sake bombs made from hot sake and Sapporo.
The knowledgeable, friendly staff at the The Fogarty Winery Tasting Room will help amateur ambrosialists and experienced grape sniffers select five vintage fermentations to sample from the wine list. The 2006 Langley Hill Vineyard SCM Estate Chardonnay stays true to its mountainous roots, packing a steely mineral punch, as hints of fruit usher in a soothing, refreshing finish. Only 94 cases of this nectar were produced and bottles are available for $48. Pamper your scarlet palate with a 2005 Lexington Santa Cruz Mountains Meritage. Poor weather patterns and surprise alien crop circles aside, 2005 produced a perfectly ripened yield. This cabernet-merlot blend is apt to drop flavor bombs of black fruit, spice and toasty oak, with lingering chords of cassis, plum, and loam. Only 447 cases were captured in the wild and you can walk your own bottle home for $45.
In 1955, Dominick Chirichillo’s grandfather began teaching him the family pastime: winemaking. They worked on a wine press in the basement of his New York home, transforming bunches of grapes into nuanced reds and whites. Quickly finding that the hobby of his ancestors was his passion, Dominick entered his creations in amateur competitions around the East Coast. When he felt confident enough to open up his own winery, he moved to northern California, lured by the prospect of living and working right next door to the vineyards that grew his grapes. His winery—named Domenico to honor his Italian heritage—now produces boutique wines that have won more than 300 awards for their rich, complex palates and excellent scores in the swimsuit competition. Some varieties are made in batches of only 100 or 200 cases, allowing his staff to innovate fearlessly. Locals often drop by the winery’s spacious tasting room to sample these limited-edition flavors. Outfitted with a 24-foot mahogany bar and sweeping drapes, the tasting room recalls an elegant Tuscan café, complete with impeccable hospitality. The staff eagerly shares the undertones and flavors of every pour, suggesting potential food pairings or the best glass of red to throw at an offensive suitor.