Find inspiration in the art and wine of Concord and Contra Costa County, California. Travel along the Contra Costa Wine Trail for the best of both worlds.
Art and wine connect me to the places I travel to; each establishes harmony and balance in its surroundings. Local art, especially murals, defines a city or town. Like art, local wine speaks of a place, especially in terms of terroir. Both inspire our senses and have a social impact whether we share with friends, family, or in the case of art, make a social statement. Let us dig deeper into the budding art scene Visit Concord and the Concord Art Association. Get inspired by the art and wine in Concord and Contra Costa County, and follow The Contra Costa Wine Trail, including the lesser-known Lamorinda AVA.
Art in Concord
Two projects currently shroud Concord with their artistic and cultural presence. One is the Concord Utility Box giving the area local character by taking an ugly fixture of the urban landscape and transforming it back to life by local artists. You might see an image of a dog or clock adorning a utility box. Some pieces speak to Concord’s history, while others are whimsical.
The other project, Creative Concord, promotes Concord’s newest public art experience. Last June, nine muralists adorned city walls with artistic prowess that ranged in style and themes. Most of the muralists, all professional artists, come from the Bay area and include two Concord natives. These contemporary works of art decorate various walls near the Todos Santos Plaza. Each artist’s concept is different, but these brightly colored renderings invigorate and transform the city.
Todos Santos Plaza is ideal for these murals because this downtown plaza is central to everything in Concord. The project brings the city’s historical past together with the modern day by highlighting each piece of art.
I previewed five murals during my visit to Concord and watched many artists create them. I was amazed at the grandeur of each piece and especially those that evoked mysticism. Many artists are adept at actualizing their murals using spray paint, while others paint with a brush.
Felicia Gabaldon, whose mural is located along Highway 680 behind the Veranda shopping mall, depicts how the Southwest Native American culture influences her art.
David Hyde’s imagery is a fabulous expression of motion. The movement creates a dramatic statement with a limited palette of hues of browns, oranges, reds, and yellows.
Fernanda Martínez’s blocks of color are very abstract. As Fernanda was creating her artwork for the Concord Project, a nearby restaurant patron did not heed the parking curbs and drove their car into the building wall, including a portion of Fernanda’s artwork. I met the artist as she was repairing the damaged mural.
Doran Dada’s work celebrates African history. Urban Egyptian-styled hieroglyphics are the focal point of his art. The artwork features the Anubis, the protector of graves, the embalmer. In this case, the Anubis is a dog-headed mummy protecting both sides of the mural.
Jesse Hernandez, AKA Urban Aztec, an artist from Concord, mixes graffiti and ancient culture into his style. Think of the Aztecs meeting graffiti-esque.
Art and Wine in Concord: Contra Costa Wine
The Contra Costa Wine Trail weaves around Concord and includes one wine bar in the city. Contra Costa County consists of the communities of Martinez, Brentwood, Moraga, Walnut Creek, Lafayette, and Orinda. The wineries within Contra Costa County are part of the San Francisco Bay AVA. Within this AVA is a sub-appellation called Lamorinda. Lamorinda represents the three cities that are part of this AVA—Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda. Eighty growers and seven bonded wineries belonging to the Lamorinda Wine Growers Association came together to establish the AVA in 2016. Most are micro and small boutique wineries in residential areas with hillside vineyards on their properties.
Residual Sugar Wine Bar
Find the Residual Sugar Wine Bar in The Veranda shopping center in Concord. The bar is popular with shoppers and offers more than 30 wines by the glass. The focus is on indigenous varieties from France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Austria, and some from California. They also offer charcuterie boards and small plates.
Deer Hill Vineyards
The connection between art and wine was evident when I walked into Deer Hill Vineyards’ tasting room in Lafayette. Think Italian grotto inside in a traditional ranch-style home. The tasting room is in a basement-like area extension of the garage. The ambiance is inviting, and the murals bring in an artistic flare. I found a surprise viewing of the art and architecture as I sipped the wine and enjoyed a charcuterie board with the wines.
Owner Bill Scanlin specializes in cabernet sauvignon and Sangiovese. His hillside vineyard behind his home is planted with cabernet sauvignon. Deer Hill Vineyards represents a micro-boutique winery at its best. The awards he has won for his wine, especially the Sangiovese, Best in Class at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, sets him up to stand next to some of the biggies in Napa. Bill also produces chardonnay, zinfandel, and pinot noir. I suggest trying the cabernet sauvignon and the Sangiovese.
Located in Martinez, Viano Vineyards dates back to 1888, when grapes were planted on the property. Conrad Viano, who came from Italy, purchased the property in 1920. The area was known as Vine Hill and was home to 15 Martinez wineries. Initially, the family farmed fruit and sold the grapes to home winemakers in the area. Soon after, the winemaking bug hit, and they became home winemakers. They started with jug wine which was apropos for the time. Today the 4th and 5th generation Viano’s run the winery established in 1946. Viano Vineyards consists of 60 acres planted with chardonnay, chenin blanc, French columbard, muscat canelli, cabernet sauvignon, Gamay, Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, and zinfandel. Some of the original vines still exist.
An exciting tidbit unique to this property is that it is part of the Williamson Act, known as the California Land Conservation Act of 1965. The government entered a contract restricting parcels of land to agricultural use in return for lower than normal property tax assessment because these parcels are based on farming and open space rather than full market value.
The Viano flagship wine is old vine zinfandel called Sand Rock Hill Zinfandel. The vines are over 100 years old and grow in sandy rock soils. Another variety unique to this winery is Valdigué. Once called Napa Gamay, but DNA tests show it to be the French variety Valdigué. The wine makes a great pinot alternative. My favorites are the 2018 Chardonnay with its light and bright hints of pineapple and the 2017 Sangiovese, consisting of a Brunello clone from the Montalcino region of Italy.
Art and Wine in Concord and Other Lamorinda Wineries
Since my visit to Concord, through a zoom tasting, I discovered the wines of four more wineries from the Lamorinda AVA: Los Arabis Vineyards, Meadow View Winery, Raisin d’Etré Vineyards, and Thal Vineyards. All either grow grapes or source grapes from hillside properties in the area. The micro-boutique wineries make the Lamorinda AVA a gem to discover.
Los Arabis grows and produces pinot noir; Meadow View features chardonnay, super T, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and Sangiovese. Raisin d’Etre prides itself on its cabernet sauvignon and Petite Sirah, while Thal Vineyards showcases sauvignon blanc. I was duly impressed with all the wines I sampled from this little-known AVA. Not only are the wines excellent, but the price points are very reasonable for the quality of the wine.
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Visit Concord’s Different Forms of Artistic Expression
Seeing the artist’s vision of the murals is similar to tasting the winemaker’s interpretation of a varietal. Both art and wine in Concord and Contra Costa County form an expressive statement about the environment. When planning your next art or wine trip to Concord, greater California, or somewhere else on the West Coast, let Wander with Wonder be your guide.