Livermore Valley may not be the best known wine country of California, but there are plenty of reasons to visit, including Wente Vineyards, the oldest continuously operated, family-owned winery in the country.
The Wente winery has two locations in Livermore Valley. The Vineyard Tasting Room, which is the location on Arroyo Road, includes several historic buildings, all with the Spanish-influenced look of 19th century California, and the well-known Wente restaurant. This location is set in a beautiful area, with the hills of Livermore Valley rising sharply behind the winery. It makes a nice place to not only taste wine but also to walk around--the restaurant's organic garden can be seen at the back of the property, just after the original sandstone caves.
Tastings here are $5 or $10 depending on the flight you choose. While Wente is especially known for chardonnays (and the 2012 Eric's Chardonnay makes it easy to see why), the 2011 Cabernet Franc is one of their many elegant, small production reds.
Wente Vineyards is a place I feel good about supporting not just because it's away from the usual wine country hustle and bustle. It's family owned (the 5th generation is now making the wines) and dates from the 1880s; it's also a certified sustainable estate winery, so careful attention is put into how grapes are grown.