Art and wine is a natural pairing, and Darcie Kent Vineyards has mastered how to host the multisensory experience without intimidating the heck out of you. Last July, Kent, a fifth-generation vintner and Livermore artist, and her family took over the space formerly occupied by Cedar Mountain Winery and transformed it into the ultimate art gallery-meets-tasting room.

Walk into the bright, 3,000-square-foot wine gallery, and an associate will not only greet you but come out from behind the bar to shake your hand and check you in via iPad for a tasting of estate merlot, petit syrah, and a new cabernet franc. Enjoy them at the bar, on the patio, or the cozy couch -- there are no rules -- as long as you take time to savor the dozen California landscape paintings decorating the walls.

Kent still paints in her signature watercolors but recently dipped into a unique 17th-century technique using acrylic paints on metal leaves, which creates a rich, dynamic canvas that changes, depending on the angle and lighting. Sip. See. Sip again.

The details: The winery is open 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Fridays-Sundays for tastings ($10) at 7000 Tesla Road, Livermore. For more information, go to www.darciekentvineyards.com.

The sips: We liked the earthy 2009 Madden Ranch Sirah ($20) and the elegant 2010 Infinite Stone Cabernet Franc ($40). Darcie Kent also makes a rare gruner veltliner ($15) from the Rava Blackjack Vineyard in Monterey. Grab a bottle before the 2011 vintage sells out.

Two more stops: Rios-Lovell and Garre are both nearby.

-- J. Yadegaran, staff