Between the Vines is a biweekly column on wine and wine making in the Livermore Valley region. This information was contributed by Chris Tarantino, owner of C. Tarantino Vineyards, and Ryan Leininger, of Ryan Leininger Viticulture Consulting LLC.

What's happening in Livermore Valley vineyards this month?

October typically hosts the finale of the local grape harvest. Varietals that are picked later in the season include cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah, syrah and higher-acidity grapes such as zinfandel and barbera. Weather can impact the rate of ripening in wine grapes, either by slowing things down to enable "hang-time," or speeding things up to encourage vineyard crews to harvest grapes.

So far this year, we haven't been rushed. As we near harvest, grape acidity is reducing and causing seeds to brown. This change impacts flavors that will be revealed in the wine. Along with the seed color change, the seeds themselves become crunchier when eaten which helps some vineyard managers and winemakers determine ripeness.

At this point in the season, grapes are typically done enlarging. All season long, the vines have put a lot of energy into creating the grapes, so now the focus of the vine is to maintain them until harvest.

C. Tarantino Vineyards is located at 8451 Tesla Road in southeast Livermore. Our 62-acre site is planted with 51 acres of wine grapes. We grow two clones of cabernet (clone 337 and clone 8) and petite sirah. The vines were planted in 2000 and are 13 years old.

We are very excited to provide special fruit to McGrail Vineyards this year. Our objective was to grow the very best cabernet possible from our vineyard and feature it in McGrail's Single Vineyard Cab wines.

We began with site selection. Having walked every row of the vineyard (numerous times and literally hundreds of miles) over the past 13 years has given us intimate knowledge of each area. We ultimately selected a 1.5-acre site -- the best 17 out of the 955 total rows.

Then, with the help of Ryan Leininger Viticulture Consulting, LLC, we created an ultra-premium farm program to optimize grape quality and character. Now, just days before harvest, the grapes look and taste amazing. The quality should be reflected in a very nice wine.

Our petite sirah grapes will go to Darcie Kent Vineyards this year and are also grown under a premium farm program. We are looking forward to an intense, dark, inky wine from these grapes. The remainder of our fruit will be used by Concannon Vineyard and other local producers.

wine country events

  • Friends "Masquerade" Night Out -- 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 24 at Wente Vineyards Estate Winery & Tasting Room, 5565 Tesla Road in Livermore; www.wentevineyards.com. Cost is $15. The night includes wine tasting, beauty services and shopping. Featuring Masquerade Mask Contest Luna (psychic readings) for $15 per person, $5 for Club Wente members. Includes a glass of wine. For information call 925-456-2305.

  • Spooktacular Tasting -- 12:30 5 p.m. Oct. 26 at Rodrigue Molyneaux Winery, 3053 Marina Ave. in Livermore; www.rmwinery.com. Cost is $5. Taste some great wine and some secret witches brew! Our tasting room will be haunted, so be ready to be scared while tasting wine. We will also share some Halloween candy with any ghouls and ghosts!