Between the Vines is a biweekly column on wine and winemaking in the Livermore Valley region. This column was contributed by the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.

Livermore Valley wine country has an exciting crop of winemakers under 40 with one important thing in common -- a deep love for the fruit of our region's vines.

Collin Cranor, 28, of Nottingham Cellars is the Livermore Valley's youngest commercial winemaker. He was just out of high school and working in construction when his father became a minority partner in an urban winery on the Peninsula. Collin was curious about the winemaking process, so when harvest came, he spent evenings and weekends working alongside a winemaker to learn the basics and stuck with it for three years.

Collin joined the wine industry full-time when he launched Nottingham Cellars with his family in 2009. The 2014 harvest is Collin's sixth as a winemaker and he has won dozens of awards for his wines.

"I've learned to be a winemaker by getting my hands in the bins, cleaning the equipment and respecting the process. The rest I have picked up from my colleagues here in the Livermore Valley," said Collin. "We are continuously pushing the envelope on quality, and I am educating myself every day."

Collin and his family recently created Vasco Urbano Wine Company to showcase their Rhone-style wines, and Nottingham Cellars continues to flourish with Bordeaux varieties. All of the wines are made with Livermore Valley fruit.


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Winemaker Chris Sorensen, 32, also fell in love with wine as a teenager. "I was 15 when my uncle was working at the Cedar Mountain tasting room, and they needed help putting labels on bottles," remembers Chris. "The rest is history."

Today, Chris is the associate winemaker at Occasio Winery and winemaker at Crooked Vine and Stony Ridge. He also co-owns one of Livermore Valley's newest wineries, Caddis, with his wife, Courtney.

"Right now, I am most proud of the 2011 Caddis Tempranillo ($38). It was the first wine I sent out to a competition from Caddis, and it came back with a Double Gold from the S.F. Chronicle," said Chris. "It's vibrant, with aromas of blackberry, black plum, black pepper and smoke and the perfect partner to food, especially grilled eggplant or smoked pork."

Fifth-generation winemaker Karl Wente, 37, is looking forward to his 2013 Cabernet Sauvignons.

"The 2013 vintage was phenomenal for Wente Family Estates. We had outstanding color, the extractions were fantastic and we had great fruit character throughout," says Karl, who grew up in Livermore Valley and has worked through 15 vintages. He received a chemical engineering degree from Stanford University and holds two master's degrees -- one in viticulture and one in oenology from UC Davis.

"I chose winemaking because I love the history of the Livermore Valley, and the impact that my family has had on the wine industry continues to amaze me," says Karl. "After five generations, we're still going strong, and I'm proud of the opportunity to contribute and make an impact. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

For help planning your wine tasting trip to Livermore Valley wine country, please visit www.LVwine.org.

Wine country events

  • Charles R Friday Uncorked: Black and White Party -- 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday at Charles R Vineyards, 8195 Crane Ridge Road in Livermore; www.charlesrvineyards.com. Cost is $5. Dress, casual that is, in black and white for a night of fun and music on the patio. Music by the always-popular James Nagel. Relax, enjoy a picnic and start the weekend out right. Wine by glass or bottle available for purchase.

  • 33rd Annual Harvest Wine Celebration -- 12 to 5 p.m. Aug. 31 at more than 40 Livermore Valley Wineries; www.LVwine.org. Cost is $45. Celebrate the exciting crush season on Sunday of Labor Day Weekend! Each winery hosts activities including wine tasting, arts, crafts and music. Wine lovers have come from all over the Bay Area and beyond for the past 30 years to enjoy this unique event. Open only to ticket holders -- don't miss it!