Livermore Valley Wineries

vineyardIn a follow-up to my post “East Bay Booze Boom,” I thought I’d write about the amazing wine scene that’s also blossoming in the Livermore Valley.

I have toured there several times and always find the wines to be delicious, the sites beautiful, and the people friendly. And it’s so close to home!

Although wine has been cultivated in Livermore since the 19th century, it has only recently started to gain popularity. Wente Vineyards has long been the largest producer in the Livermore Valley, making around 700,000 cases of wine annually.

The region has a predominately gravel-based soil and lies on a unique east-west orientation, unlike many other wine-growing valleys. Due to a reliable onshore afternoon/evening breeze off of the Bay, there is a wide fluctuation in temperature between sites, making the growing conditions similar to St. unnamedHelena or Calistoga.

The Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association has a great website that allows you to research different wineries, and plan a self-guided tour through the wine county. To the right is a list of some of the top wineries in the region.

Another great way to explore the area is on the Livermore Wine Trolley! This trolley is the newest way to explore wineries throughout the Livermore Valley.

They offer an all-inclusive wine tour, where you will be transported through lush rolling hills, beautiful canyons, and award-winning wineries. You can also book the trolley for your group’s own private charter.

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One other perk of staying local for your wine tasting tour is that the prices are much more affordable than those in Napa. For example, the top-rated wine tasting in Livermore on Yelp is at Bent Creek Winery.

There, you can pay a $10 tasting fee to try 11 of their wines, and then even apply that $10 towards the purchase of a bottle!

You don’t have to go all the way up to Sonoma, Napa or Healdsburg to get quality California wine anymore.

If you’re living in the East Bay, you can make an easy day trip out to Livermore with your friends to sip on some unique, local wine.

If you have been to any of these Livermore wineries, let us know how your experience was!

 

Top (Fur) Baby Names in the U.S.

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Around this time every year, we always find out what the top baby names in the country are. That’s always interesting, but what about our other babies’ names?

As a dog lover, this blog caught my attention a few months back. It included this infographic that broke down the most common names of dogs, and then went further and broke it down by most popular name by breed, too.

Apparently the top dog names in the U.S. right now are Bella, Max, Daisy, Bailey, and Buddy. My dog is named Bodie, so I was pretty close!

Our team here at Walnut Creek Lifestyle Group is full of dog lovers, and we wanted to share some photos of our fur children here with you to start the New Year. I think we did a little better on creativity with our naming!

Let’s start with my boy Bodie, an 8-year-old Weimaraner rescue:

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We got Bodie when he was 18 months old. We rescued him through NorCal Weim Rescue where they found him running around Fresno.  He quickly warmed up to us and became a loved member of the family. Bodie is a big, 90-lb Weimaraner (the type that basically takes you for walks rather than the other way around!), but he loves to cuddle and play. In fact, he usually feels left out if he doesn’t get to sleep on the bed!

Let’s move along to Liz, and her two dogs, Poppy and Willow. Poppy is a 3-year-old miniature poodle, and Willow is a one-year-old Cavapoo. Liz bred Willow herself, and Poppy is the mother! For those wondering, a Cavapoo is a mix between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Poodle. Here are a couple pictures:

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Liz started breeding Cavapoos two years, ago, and kept Willow from the most recent litter. Cavapoos are wonderful dogs, combining the look of the Cavalier, the non-shedding coat of the Poodle, and the sweet temperaments of both breeds. Also, Cavaliers are great dogs, but have been so inbred throughout the years that the majority of them develop a deadly malady called Mitral Valve disease. Since poodles are not largely affected by the disease, the cross-breeding drastically lowers the Cavapoo puppies’ chances of inheriting that disease.

For more information on Cavapoos, you can check out Liz’s company California Cavapoos, which bring healthy, beautiful, friendly pets to the best families. Take a look at her Facebook page!

Lastly, our freelance writer Jeremy has had dogs in his family forever. From a golden retriever when he was a baby, to a black lab throughout childhood, to the current ARF rescue mix his family loves…meet Sydney, the 8-year-old Australian Shepherd/Blue Heeler/Hound mix:

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Sydney (or “Syddie” for short – she responds to that especially well if you use a high-pitched voice) has an endless amount of energy and absolutely adores humans. If Sydney isn’t on her back with all four paws in the air, begging for a belly scratch within 30 seconds of meeting you, there’s something wrong. As you can see from the photos above, Sydney also loves to go to the Open Space in Walnut Creek!

Share some photos of your dogs – do you have any with creative names?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank You! … for supporting the coat drive

IMG_8135 Walnut Creek is now home to a temporary winter homeless shelter at The Armory sponsored by Trinity Center. It houses up to 30 homeless families while providing transition assistance in an effort to place them back in homes after their stays at the shelter.

As many of you know, I did a One Warm Coat drive that was featured in my latest newsletter. Trinity Center was the beneficiary of those coats, blankets and sweaters, along with a few of the Trader Joe’s gift cards I was giving out to the first 10 respondents. I want to thank all who donated. We ended up with about five large-sized trash bags full of warm goodies.

If you have never stopped by to drop off food or clothing, I highly recommend it. It is an eye-opening and rewarding experience. We were greeted by a group of men sitting in the living room staying warm and eating chips and dip. They kindly offered to carry in our bags of clothes. The staff is kind and grateful.IMG_8136

The Trinity Center is a non-profit based in town here on Trinity. It provides basic human services such as food, showers, laundry, clothing, mail and telephone access.

The City Council of Walnut Creek passed the proposal earlier in the year, to use The Armory on Carmel temporarily through the winter and now it’s officially in operation.

I first heard of the program when it was called Fresh Start and a neighborhood boy asked his mom how he could help the homeless. As a result, Creek Kids Care was born with local kids of all ages having art parties and creating note cards to sell. The money raised was donated to what is now the Trinity Center. What a great story that shows what one small child can set into motion.

 

 

 

 

 

Just in Time for Thanksgiving!

FullSizeRender-2Having a bad hair day?

Apparently you’re not the only one…This wild turkey, spotted near Walnut & Marshall, just discovered that he’s bald!

Vanity withstanding, he is definitely not alone!  I was driving away in my Mini after an Open House at my listing in Clayton, when I came around the corner and — to my surprise — found a gang of turkeys (yes, “gang” is the technical term for a group of turkeys)!

I have seen a few gangs here and there around Walnut Creek, and many at the Lafayette Reservoir! This got me thinking: do we have a turkey problem?

Lo and behold, it’s been an issue in the East Bay since the early 2000’s. Apparently, the turkeys continue to move East, oftentimes destroying gardens, nicking paint on cars and leaving cement-like patties of you know what along the way.

FullSizeRender-1Here are a few facts about the wild turkey that were new to me:

  • There are almost 7 million wild turkeys nationwide
  • They have 5,500 feathers and males have 18 distinct tail feathers
  • Ranging from 5-20 pounds, they can run at speeds up to 25 mph and fly at 55 mph

Watch yourself around gangs of turkeys, too! By nature, they have a proud demeanor and protective instincts, with vision three times better than humans – maybe the turkey above couldn’t believe what he was seeing!

So, think twice before trying to score a free Thanksgiving meal when you see these guys on the street.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

 

 

Best Sandwich in the Bay Area: Morucci’s

One of my favorite lunch time eateries in Walnut Creek is Morucci’s. They have great sandwiches, soups and salads. My personal favorite is the #1: Roasted Turkey.

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One of the best aspects of this deli is their creative menu, which lists their sandwiches from 1-17 (with some items being fractions, too!). It is always fresh and tasty and has my vote as the best deli in the area.

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Some of the most popular sandwiches are the 6 3/4, which is a delicious combination of caprese salad-style tomato and mozzarella, turkey, lettuce, roasted bell peppers, and balsamic dressing, all on a perfectly-toasted ciabatta; and the #5 (California club – fully loaded with turkey, swiss, bacon and veggies).

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For the vegetarians the Caprese is also tasty. I can truly say that every concoction they make at Morucci’s is awesome, and apparently everyone agrees – just check out the line at lunch time! Try to get there in off-hours, though. The secret got out a few years back and now East Bay residents from high schoolers to retirees form lines around the block on any given day at lunch to nab one of these famous sandwiches.


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Consistently voted one of Walnut Creek’s best, Morucci’s is a must-try if you are living in or visiting the area. From their sandwiches, to fresh Italian salads, Morucci’s definitely earns their rave Yelp reviews.

Which sandwich at Morucci’s is your favorite?  Please let me know.

East Bay Booze Boom!

The Bay area is leading the nation in innovation, and not just in the tech sector. A new industry on the rise in the East Bay is the alcoholic beverage market!

75e4cb_70530afefa2c4ac597c7198da59bd280With the craft brewing industry on the rise, many local entrepreneurs have hopped (get it?) on the bandwagon, starting many new breweries in Oakland, San Francisco, and even Concord! Many of these East Bay brewers are really pushing the envelope by making unusual beers, like sours, rare varietals, and other creative concoctions.

One such brewery in the sour beer market is Rare Barrel in Berkeley. They go the extra mile by aging their beer in oak barrels for about a year to develop the lovely tart flavors in their brews. Some other notable East Bay breweries are Linden Street Brewery and Pacific Coast Brewery in Oakland, Jupiter and Pyramid Brewery in Berkeley, and EJ Phair in Concord. Don’t sleep on 21st Amendment Brewery, famous for their Hell or High Watermelon beer, which just opened a huge new brewery in San Leandro. Or the popular Calicraft Brewing Co. based right here in Walnut Creek which is my favorite; I love their Buzzerkeley champagne beer.

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Beer is not the only game in town, however. The wine and liquor industries in the area have also been growing in popularity. St. George Sprits in Alameda has become well-known for their brand, and Hangar One vodka is named after the old World War II-era hangar where the distillery is based. Although they recently sold the brand to be produced next door, the distillery is excited to have more space to focus on new experiments in distillation. Some of their more creative liquors include Green Chili Vodka, Absinthe Verde (I know this one from personal experience and it was not a good one), Agricole Rum, and several Fruit Brandies. They have a great guided tour for $15, which includes a tasting of six spirits! They even have a small outdoor seating area where you can hang out with a drink after your tour and check out the San Francisco skyline from the other side of the Bay.

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Many wineries have also begun to spring up throughout the East Bay. Although this may seem like a new development, the East Bay, especially the Walnut Creek area, was actually one of the main wine-grape growing regions until prohibition in 1920. One such winery making a revival in the area is Urban Legend Cellars in Oakland. They source grapes from other local regions, and use various blending and oaking techniques to produce unique and delicious wines.

Walnut Creek has also been put back on the map with Shadowbrook Winery. This vineyard grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah, right on the foothills of Mount Diablo. Mark Lavezzoli, the Winemaker there, combines traditional and innovative techniques to create some very tasty vino. The entire team there is very excited about Walnut Creek’s potential to produce a first-class wine.

With so many great beverages to try right here in the East Bay, it’s hard to find a reason to leave and another great reason to own a home in this amazing area.

Have you been to any of these places? Please share your thoughts – we would love to hear from you!

Main Street Kitchen

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I recently tried the new restaurant on Main Street, creatively named Main Street Kitchen.  Luckily the menu was much more interesting than the name.  The restaurant features farm to table, local ingredients, and seasonal menus.

 

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To start, I had  the Grilled peach salad with Point Reyes bleu cheese, bacon, and mixed greens.  It was very tasty and refreshing on this warm evening. For my main course, I chose the fish of the day, which happened to be swordfish.  The dish came with a seasonal vegetable salad, consisting of kale, corn, roasted squash, blue lake beans, cranberry beans, and saffron pistachio pesto.  It was delicious and filling, without being overly heavy.  For desert, I nudged in a peach crisp with almond streusel topping, and house made ice cream.  This was my favorite part of the meal, especially the home made ice cream.  Yum!

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I went there again for breakfast recently, and was able to enjoy the peaceful patio.  I had 3 duck eggs, with toast and fresh tomatoes.  I have never had duck eggs before, but
they sure were yummy

With its eclectic variety of California cuisine, made with fresh and local ingredients, Main Street Kitchen definitely earned my repeat business.  I definitely recommend you check out this great new eatery in town.

Walnut Creek Oktoberfest!!

Get your lederhosen or Dirndl dress ready for the upcoming Oktoberfest in Walnut Creek.  The festival, taking place Saturday, October 17, from 10am – 5pm, will be located between Cypress St. and Civic Dr.

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The event is free, and family friendly, featuring a pumpkin patch and other children’s activities.  I can’t wait to enjoy the biergarten, with many local and foreign craft beers, and the gourmet food exhibitors.

 

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There will also be a music stage, featuring Petty Theft, Mustache Harbor, and Revolver.

For more information, visit the Walnut Creek Downtown website.

Can a Seller Reject a Full-Price Offer?

Concerned guyI was recently asked this question as sellers often have concerns if they list their home slightly lower then recent sales, what would happen if they got a list price offer?  I saw a recent article on this subject and thought I’d address this concern in my blog.

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In short, the answer is yes, a seller can reject an at or above listing price offer.  A listing is a solicitation of offers, not an offer to sell.  This means that an offer at or above asking price does not necessarily mean the offer will be accepted.

In order for there to be a contract between buyer and seller, there has to be a “meeting of the minds” on all the elements of the contract.  The seller must agree to all elements of the offer including price, financing, contingencies, and time for performance.  If the seller has a problem with any of these elements, they have the right to reject the offer
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In a sellers market, listings often receive multiple offers, sometimes much higher than asking price.  This means that a buyers offer can be rejected because another buyer had a more appealing offer in terms of price, financing or terms like no appraisal contingency.

The bottom line … until the buyer and seller agree to all the terms of the purchase, there is no contract.

Walnut Festival 2015

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On Saturday September 19th, the 78th annual Walnut Festival kicked off with the Twilight Parade, which wen through downtown Walnut Creek on Main Street.

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Following the parade, a carnival opens at Heather Farms Park, with over 30 rides and many other attractions. The 4 day event run from Thursday, September 24, through Sunday, the 27th.  This celebration of the arts will provide many hours of family fun, with kid zone, live music, beer garden, great food, and a showcase of local artists, and craftsmen

images-2The Walnut Festival has a long history in this city, dating back to 1911, which the first festival took place.  The original festival was a celebration of the grape harvest, and was called the Grape Festival.  Wine grapes were a major crop in the area until prohibition, when most of the grape vines were replaced with Walnut Trees, changing the event to the Walnut Festival in 1936._8469241

For more information about this fun festival click here.  Hope to see you there next year!