Livermore Valley is one of the oldest wine regions in California, it is also one of the most under-rated. Located forty miles east of San Francisco, Livermore Valley lies in the shadows of its famous wine region neighbors. However, its unique micro-climate provides an ideal location for viticulture. Murrieta’s Well Winery epitomizes the high quality wines at value prices being produced in Livermore Valley.
Robert Livermore planted the first commercial grapes in Livermore Valley in the 1840’s. In 1883, Carl H. Wente and James Concannon founded the first wineries in the region. It became a thriving wine community, with over 50 wineries, until Prohibition shut down most of the wineries (Wente and Concannon survived) in 1919. Post-Prohibition the region began to rebuild. In 1936, Wente Vineyards sold the first varietally-labeled Chardonnay. In 1981, the winegrowers association was formed and in 1982, the AVA was formed. By 2003, 25 wineries were members of the winegrower’s association – today that number has risen to 50.
Livermore Valley has an east-west orientation, unique among northern California wine regions. The AVA is 15 miles long and 10 miles wide, and is surrounded by coastal range mountains and foothills – resulting in higher altitude than regions to the north. Livermore Valley stays cool due to coastal fog and maritime breezes that are funneled in from the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. The soil is mostly gravel with sand and loam with excellent drainage, which stresses the vines, resulting in concentration of flavors in the grapes.
In 1884, Louise Mel fell in love with a piece of land in Livermore Valley. He purchased the land for him and his wife to live. He built a gravity flow winery into the hillside, and planted vine cuttings from Chateau d’Yquem and Chateau Margaux to begin his vineyards in Livermore Valley. Today, descendants from those vines still grow in the Murrieta’s Well vineyards and are found in wines throughout their portfolio.
In 1933, Mel sold the property to his friend Ernest Wente, it has been part of the Wente Family ever since. In 1990, Philip Wente and his partner Sergio Traverso revived the property and renamed it Murrieta’s Well in honor of the property’s rich history.
Today, Murrieta’s Well winemaker Robbie Meyer seeks to craft wines that offer a sense of time and place in the glass. He has deep passion about winemaking and embraces the art of blending as his favorite aspect of the process. My first introduction to Meyer came during a Snooth virtual tasting three years ago. Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity to meet him in person Meyer when he came to Dallas earlier this year; thankfully, Snooth hosted another virtual tasting of Murrieta’s Well recently so I could once again walk with Meyer through his wines.
2017 Murrieta’s Well Small Lot Sauvignon Blanc Livermore Valley California USA: Crafted of 100% estate grown Sauvignon Blanc; this is a mineral driven wine with additional notes of citrus, stone fruit, and white floral notes; reminiscent of an old world style, this wine has texture and weight along with high acidity making it highly enjoyable and ideal with food. It also has some age-ability for up to four years. Visit Murrieta’s Well to purchase.
2016 Murrieta’s Well ‘The Whip’ White Wine Blend Livermore Valley California USA ($26): this wine expresses Meyer’s love of the blend; crafted of estate grown 33% Sauvignon Blanc, 24% Semillon, 21% Chardonnay, 12% Orange Muscat, and 10% Viognier; this is a layered and complex wine that is quite approachable; notes of vibrant white flowers, citrus, orchard and stone fruit, ripe tropical fruit; it has a rich mouth-feel and vibrant acidity; a true dazzler. Meyer explains he wants The Whip to deliver three things: 1) aromatically, he wants it to be “beautiful and striking;” 2) on the palate, he wants it to have “texture, weight, density, and significance to it;” 3) finish, he wants it to be “a lively, food-friendly wine.” Meyer uses all the varietals to develop what he seeks in this wine; “it is not a set formula; instead looking for a style.” Visit Murrieta’s Well to purchase.
2017 Murrieta’s Well Dry Rosé Livermore Valley California USA ($30 – current vintage sold out): Crafted of estate grown 42% Grenache, 39% Counoise, and 19% Mourvedre; it is an inviting pink with aromas of fresh strawberries, summer watermelon, Korean melon, and wild jasmine; it has a refreshingly high acidity making it crisp and clean. This is an intentionally made rosé – mature and serious in the glass and at the table. Meyer sees himself as a wine consumer before wine maker; as a consumer he says he really loves this wine.
2015 Murrieta’s Well ‘The Spur’ Red Wine Blend Livermore Valley California USA ($35): Crafted of estate grown 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petite Sirah, 18% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, and 6% Cabernet Franc; notes of red and black fruit, red flowers, baking spice, licorice, black pepper, cassis, tobacco, vanilla; full-bodied, approachable wine, rich and round with layers of flavors and textures; medium+ well integrated tannins and high acidity, structured, long finish. Meyer explains this wine is a survey of the Murrieta’s Well property, with each grape highlighting the terroir of specifically where it is grown. He wants this wine to deliver the same three elements as The Whip. Furthermore, Meyer said this is the wine to order at a restaurant when everyone at the table is eating different meals because it is so versatile in pairings. Visit Murrieta’s Well to purchase.
2015 Murrieta’s Well Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon Livermore Valley California USA: Crafted of estate grown 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, and 2% Malbec; inviting aromas of baked and dried black and red fruit, dark chocolate, dried roses, cassis, olive tapanade, baking spice, dried tobacco; this wine is expansive, bold and brooding, full-bodied, complex; high tannins and high acidity bring balance and structure, this wine will age beautifully for many years. Visit Murrieta’s Well to purchase once available.
Meyer explains Murrieta’s Well seeks to produce “serious wines – great in the glass but better at the table; intentional and mature food-friendly wines.”