Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Longevity Wines - The First Urban Winery in Livermore

It was the first Saturday after Thanksgiving Day. The mobs are at the shopping mall looking for bargains, the sky was a bit cloudy, leaves were all over the ground, and the vineyards in the wine country weren’t looking too pretty.

“Where should I go wine tasting? Hmmmmm...”

How about to an an “urban” winery!

Urban, industrial-style wineries have existed in America for 150 years or more and Phil Long and his wife Debra’s story behind Longevity Wines is common: They fell in love with wine, began making wine at home for family and friends and then a dream to start their own winery was born. For them, wine making is a lifestyle and Longevity is an expression of “A way of enjoying what you live, as well as living what you enjoy.”

Urban wineries are a bit different than your “out in the country” wineries. Often you will find these tasting rooms in downtown or industrial-park settings miles from the vineyards that produce the grapes. The advantage is that rather than paying exorbitant prices for land in wine country, they rent a space in the city, truck in purchased fruit from a variety of regional vineyards and then ferment and cellar the wine on site. Or, they process the juice at a co-op close to the vineyards, then finish it off in the city or suburb.

Behind the proliferation of urban wineries is a growing recognition that you really don’t have to tie the winemaking to one plot of land. Wineries such as Crushpad in San Francisco, Periscope Cellars in Emeryville, an industrial town at the eastern end of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda, near the old Naval Air Station, are examples of wine makers who are successfully establishing a great reputation as an urban winery.

Some of these ventures, such as Rosenblum, source their grapes from some of the vineyards that also supply the famous estates in Napa and Sonoma counties to the north. But other smaller ventures, like Longevity, often have to fight their way through waiting lists in order to source the best fruit possible within their budget and production levels.

One of the advantages in sourcing grapes for an urban winery is that most people who enjoy fine wine pay more attention to where they’re grown, not at where the wine was made. This is especially true for Longevity Wines. Although they are located in Livermore, they’re found in a business park outside of beaten path of the rows of wineries along Tesla Road, they source their grapes from a number of vineyards for grapes that do well in those appellations - Livermore, Lodi, Paso Robles, the Sierra Foothills, and Sonoma. In fact, the Longevity Wine Club is based on featuring a different appellation each month.

On Saturday at Longevity Wines I tasted the N/V California Chardonnay ($16), the 2007 Lodi Viognier ($18), the 2005 Sierra Foothills Merlot ($23), the 2004 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon from the Owl Ridge Vineyard in Paso Robles. ($25), the Dry Creek Sonoma Zinfandel ($18) and their flagship wine the 2005 Longevity Signature Rhone Blend ($28). The 2005 “Longevity” is a blend of 66% Syrah, 16% Grenache, 13% Mouvedre, and 5% Petite Sirah ($28).

Phil and Debra are extremely hospitable and in general I would describe their wines as fairly well balanced with a very concentrated dense fruit forward appeal. The 2005 Longevity Signature Rhone Blend is a real palate pleaser and a “must try” if you are visiting the Livermore area.

Their tasting room is located at 35 Rickenbacker Circle in Livermore California and you can contact them at 1-888-325-WINE.