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Ranches, vineyards, and relaxed appeal east of San Francisco

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With warm sun and wide-open spaces cradling vineyards, ranches, and wine-country estates, the Livermore Valley makes an appealing destination just east of San Francisco Bay. Home to one of California’s oldest wine regions, this protected, sunny valley has a relaxed appeal that feels like an insider’s secret. Take a mellow drive along country roads to choose from more than 50 wineries, with settings ranging from the rustic barnlike building at Mitchell Katz Winery to the lavish gardens, celebrated restaurant, and art-filled tasting room at elegant Wente Vineyards. Or hop on a bike to see Livermore Wine Country on two wheels. This self-guided 27-mile bike tour stops at The Olive Oil Pantry & Tasting Room, Nottingham Cellars, Concannon Vineyard, and many more.

While the off-the-radar quality of Livermore Valley has unhurried appeal, it’s also got an intellectual side. The town of Livermore is home to the sprawling Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a renowned science and technology center, so there’s an undercurrent of sophisticated savvy too. For visitors, that means you can browse for Stetsons and cowboy boots inside Baughman’s Western Outfitters, then relax under twinkly lights on the patio of Blacksmith Square, home to several tasting rooms pouring local vintages.

Livermore, within commuting distance of San Francisco, is also very much a family town, with festivals, farmers markets, and flag-waving parades throughout the year. The second weekend in June brings the Livermore Rodeo, with plenty of ropin’, ridin’, plus barrel races, bull riding, and special kids’ events.

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