With Ken Martin

PARAMETERS: When I started writing “CV Side Trips”, I set up certain parameters for the column. The first and most important was that it always has to be “up” – i.e., no negatives and no down opinions (not easy for me). Another was that, except as it pertained to a particular column, I don’t do history. A lot of other people are doing that. A third was that I don’t write about commercial establishments unless they are holding an interesting special event or events that readers might like to attend. So far, I’ve been pretty well able to work within these limits.

However, there are two rather unique commercial establishments in Castro Valley that present interesting activities that are open to the general public. These would be the two wineries in Palomares Canyon.

WESTOVER WINERY: Every year Jill and Bill Smyth put on a series of events that are interesting and entertaining and all may attend.

One of the first is a “BYOB Party”. You can bring your own bottles and fill them with Westover’s wines. This comes up next weekend (April 4). That will be followed later on by a “New Release Party” where new wines will be introduced accompanied by music and a barbeque.

As they have in the past, Westover will present four concerts of varied music during the summer. Later in the year you can really get into the basics of winemaking at the “Pick’n & Stomp’n Party”, which is kind of self-explanatory, that includes lunch.

The final event for the year will be “Xmas in the Vineyards”.

For more information and details, go to or call (510) 573-3932.

CHOUINARD WINERY: George and Carolyn Chouinard present a similar but different program during the year.

A “Cellar Rat Party” is upcoming shortly with a “Truffle Tasting” a few weeks after that.

In the spring and early summer Wildflower Walks, including picnicking and hiking, will be conducted. During this time, there will be a “Mother’s Day Sweet Wine Tasting” as well as a “Memorial Day Weekend Tasting” which includes entertainment.

Throughout the summer a series of concerts will be held featuring a variety of music. Fall will see the “Green Apple Fall Festival” (Chouinard makes an apple wine) and the “Walk Off the Turkey Walk”. A “Photo & Pottery Exhibit/ Sale” takes place around that time. The season will end with “Holidays in the Vineyards” featuring live music.

As of this writing Carolyn Chouinard told me that they are experiencing some problems with their website so it would be best, at least for the time being, to call (510) 582-9900 for information and details. You can try but it may not have the updated calendar yet.

A LARGER CELEBRATION: In the beginning of September each year the “Livermore Valley Harvest Celebration” takes place. Many area wineries participate as do Westover and Chouinard. Individual wineries feature their own celebrations as part of the whole huge event. Either of the abovementioned vintners can give you more specific information on this happening.

A VERY GOOD YEAR: I don’t know if 2004 will be a vintage year for local wines, but it certainly looks like a great year for local wine aficionados. Get out and join the fun.

“CV Side Trips” is always looking for interesting events like those mentioned above. Contact “Trips” at or (510) 727-9296.