Monday, October 10, 2011

This article will appear Thursday in the Independent news paper.

The Winemaker’s Pour House

Devoted solely to local wineries

by Harry Stoll

These women have their nerve—opening their first business when things aren’t looking good. But what does look good for Kelly McFarland and Julie Racine is their business, The Winemaker’s Pour House, a coolegant wine bar with a corner on the action at 1st Street and South Livermore Avenue, where the fountain splashes and the flag flies.

Right off the sidewalk, you walk under a merlot-colored awning, into warmth and comfort, in a well-laid out space. Choose a 4-person tall table against an old brick wall, a larger lower table, the tasting bar, or a table on the patio in back. The acoustics invite conversation. Art by local artists—to be periodically changed—hangs on the walls. The lighting is pleasant, the paint jobs and other surface treatments are subtle and peaceful—it’s a tasteful tasting place with good-tasting wines.

Either Julie or Kelly—sometimes both—will be there to pour and serve. This is a small business with the owners dealing with the nuts and bolts, the nuts, the cheeses, the salads, the soups, paninis—and, of course the wine.

In a first for Livermore, The Winemaker’s Pour House serves only wines produced by Livermore Valley wineries. Each day, The Pour House pours three pours of 2-ounces each, from $8 to $12.

One night, the tasting menu, simply and clearly displayed on tasty creamy paper, offered sparkling wine, chardonnay, pinot noir, rosé, cabernet sauvignon, and zinfandel—from such valley luminaries as Charles R, Engarde, Fenestra, John Evans, Little Valley, Page Mill, Retzlaff, Rodrigue Molyneux, Ruby Hill, el Sol, and Steven Kent.

Other nights, it had Bodegas Aguirre, Chouinard, Concannon, Las Positas, and Wente. Starting out, Julie and Kelly have more than 15 local wineries, and expect to add more. This is a pleasant place to compare valley wineries varietals or blends.

Winemaker’s evenings will have local winemakers talking about their wine, wine in general, and moving about the place to talk Soon, the Pour House will offer wine appreciation events, with enoscenti presenting the information in a straight-forward way with no pretension but plenty of appreciation. Some nights they will offer wine and food pairing for you to chew on. This could move from the time-tested to recognition of some unusual pairings and maybe some deeper dishing about why they work.

Ooooo, the food:

Five salads—six cheeses from goats, Humboldt, sheeps, France, cows, and Mt. Tam—almonds, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts—how do you like them sliced apples, grapes green and red, and strawberries. The cheeses are served with a mini baguette, or go for the Pour House plate of four cheeses with fruit and nuts.

It’s a place not only for a stylish nibbling nosh, but also a light meal on the way to the Bankhead for a play, the ballet, or bowling. The panini grill puts out, oh yes, a BLT with Fontina and garlic aoli spread—Chicken blue with caramelized onion, Italian Chicken with tomato pesto—sharp cheddar—and peanut butter and strawberry preserves on cinnamon and sugar crusted bread to take you back to mama’s kitchen.

The brie and spicy apricot chutney croissant livens you right to your toes. Try to take small bites, try not to gobble it and make gutteral sounds. Tapping it to your lips and sighing would be all right with Miss Manners. JR’s (apparently for Julie Racine, Kelly says Julie is the foodie) will warm you with ground turkey topped with bleu cheese.

And a smores panini, brownies infused with Livermore
Valley Port, and nibs and bits of dark chocolate and dried cranberries. Local chef Tiffany Mooney is responsible for the soulful food.

Often, there shall be music wherever you go to the back patio. It is to be acoustic music, no blaring, but plenty of depth. Roger Kardinal opened the place. Other musicians will enter herein. They will either be locally well-known or will be after they play here. The patio looks straight up to the sky and a nice few of the floodlit famous huge Livermore downtown flag. Good place for glass clinking, getting together with friends, getting it together, or eye gazing. Your oldest stories are renewed here.

Kelly McFarland is a retired U.S. Navy chief petty officer. Julie Racine is a veteran of the retail wars. Both these business partners have that shining smile and welcoming way that is necessary for a business that intends to make people feel good. And their hospitality is of the real kind that you can’t make up. But more importantly, they are onto something unique, with their soulful sole dedication to local wineries. Of course, it was, and will be, a lot of hard work. These women are up to it.

Chouinard Winery usually does not sell off site but said Pour House is a delightful exception. “We are honored.” Caroline, George, and Damian Chouinard, said, “ It’s great to see these women open a new business featuring Livermore Valley wineries.”

2241 First Street Livermore


Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday 11:30 am to 8:30 pm

Friday and Saturday 11:30 am to 9:00 om

Sunday 11:30 am to 8:30 pm

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