Wood Family Winery has been known as one of the most consistent, quality wines in the Livermore Valley for a time now, and now thanks to opening a tasting room just off Vasco Road in Livermore, more people are getting to experience the excellent Wood Family wines.
Rhonda Wood, the winemaker and part of the trio of husband Michael and son Harrison, that make up team Wood, has built up tremendous reputation in the area as a top-flight winemaker and more importantly, a tremendous person.
The story as to how Rhonda got into the business is as interesting as any in the area.
Wood was a pilot for US Airways, with a base in San Francisco. But on September 1, 2001, the company closed their SFO base, meaning that if Wood was to keep flying, she would be commuting to the East Coast.
Ten days later 9/11 took place and US Airways decided to furlough a bunch of pilots. Wood, who had been tinkering with wine-making for a few years, took a 5-year furlough.
“I wanted to give (making and selling wine) a shot,” said Wood. “At first we were making about 150 cases and I figured if I can’t sell it, then I can drink it.”
Initially the family poured wine at their house by appointment only, either out in the yard – it was very comfortable and relaxing – or in a small building on site. This is how we cut our teeth on Wood wines and it was always an enjoyable time.
But as Wood Family continued to grow and it just wasn’t practical to use their existing facilities. They needed more room, both for production and for tasting.
“The original plan was to build a winery (on their property),” explained Wood. “My husband was in charge and he’s an optimist. I’m more of realist and the prices weren’t going to be the same as when we first started.”
They looked off site and found some warehouse space – they sublet from Thomas Coyne’s family following Thomas’ death. Initially, Wood used the space to store some barrels, as well as help the Coyne family move on from Thomas’ death.
Then a 10,000 square foot parcel came available next door and they jumped at the chance to take over.
“Everything just fell in place,” said Wood. “We’ve been open 1-1/2 years and we love it here.”
It’s an interesting new direction for wine tasting. Wood is joined in the area by Nottingham, Embodied, Longevity and Occasio wineries, as well as the Altamont brewery. Instead of a boring warehouse location it’s turned into an adult playland all within a short walk of each other.
All stay open later than the traditional 4:30-5 p.m. closing time for wineries.
“Most tasting rooms close around 4:30 p.m.,” said Wood. “What are you supposed to do until you go to dinner? Most people want to eat around 6:30 so they want to find something to do until then.”
It’s worked like a charm. We were there until almost 7 p.m. on a Saturday and it was still going strong when we left. There were families, as well as your standard wine tasting adults in the place. It worked and it was a lot of fun.
“We get a lot of people that start their days later,” said Wood. “Some people, whether it’s because of work, family responsibilities or even playing golf, might not get out and start tasting until 2:30 or so.”
It’s a different vibe at Wood as well. Almost all the wineries you visit require muscling in to the bar in order to start your tasting. At Wood you come in, grab a seat and the staff comes to you. It’s a refreshing and relaxing way to enjoy the quality Wood wines.
“We want to come to you,” explained Wood. “We don’t want you to have to wait. I have always hated lines. We hope to provide something different, but still educational.”
One really cool aspect of the tasting was the Wood “interactive tasting.”
The wines were brought to our table, but instead of telling us initially what we were drinking, we were asked to come up with the type of wine. Perhaps it was because it was our fourth stop of the day, but we failed miserably at identifying the wine.
There are also promotional events taking place each week. Thursday night is Happy Hour from 4-7 p.m. with half-off flight and glasses of wine and on Friday nights, Wood Family has live music from 4-7 p.m.
The portfolio is impressive and diversified. Whether it’s a nice solid Cabernet Sauvignon or a Rhone-blend, Wood Family delivers.
My personal favorites were the 2015 Especial Cab ($55 a bottle), the 2015 El Loco Rojo (a Bordeaux blend) and the GSM (a Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre).
For more information, please visit www.woodfamilyvineyards.com.
By Dennis Miller