By Chris Margolin

"Call it wine, call it art, either way, it's truly unforgettable!"

About fifteen minutes west of the Livermore Valley wine region, lies a small, or rather two small wineries rolled into one, Westover Winery and Palomares Vineyards. Owned by William Westover Smyth and Jill Smyth, the wineries sit in lovely, bucolic Palomares Canyon in Castro Valley on a winding road through rolling hills forested with oak and eucalyptus trees. It is definitely off the beaten track, but this is a perfect place for wine production and wine drinking. The site is a tranquil, Mediterranean villa with a creek, a waterfall and lush surroundings. Additionally, the Smyths offer the winery for weddings, corporate events, a summer concert series, a Wine Club, and a most unique event called “Cigars Under the Stars.”

Established in 1985, Westover Winery concentrates on vintage vineyard and vineyard designated wines, while Palomares Vineyards, opened in 2000, focuses on blends and other unique wines, such as Tempranillo and Portuguese style port, which recently won Best of Show at the San Francisco Bay Wine Competition. Westover/Palomares actually produces fifteen different ports and is, in fact, the largest port producer in the United States. Annual production for the two wineries total 3,000 to 4,000 cases, and besides port, include sherries, champagnes and an extensive wine list, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio, among many others.

“We want people to enjoy their time at Westover,” says Smyth, and visitors certainly do experience wonderful wines, but also the great ambience nestled amongst the outdoors. Educating guests about wine is a joy to Smyth, and he compares making wine to creating an “art project.” As Westover/Palomares has its own bottling line onsite, Smyth is involved in every aspect of the production, from start to finish, hence one easily grasps that there is a lot of love and care that goes into each bottle produced here.

Adding to the uniqueness of these wineries are the many social events offered. Joining the Wine Club allows for discounted wine purchases, and an initiation that demands that a new member choose a club name. The "herd" as club members are called, have names such as Ben Herd, Cowafornia Girl and Hugh Heffer, puns on the true club name, Connoisseurs of Westover, or C.O.W. for short.

Summer Concerts:
The summer concert series with local entertainment are usually sold out. People bring their own picnics, or purchase barbeque at the winery. An evening of music, dancing and enjoying wine proves ever more popular.

Cigars Under the Stars Event:
A most unusual event, "Cigars Under the Stars" held twice a year, is one where guests bring three cigars---one to smoke and two to trade. For fourteen dollars entry fee, a guest enjoys all the port he or she can drink, and fans come from all over the Bay Area to attend this event. Additionally, Westover is currently offering a "futures" program on their vintage 1998 Tawnies port that will be bottled in 2008 (aged in the barrel for 10 full years). When buying a "future," each shareholder receives a certificate of ownership with registration number, proof of shareholder status on the barrel, barrel samples when visiting the winery, shareholder parties at the winery, fulfillment of participating in the process of bottling their investment, and a case of the vintage Tawnies port.

Winery/Vineyard Location:
Westover/Palomares is open on Saturdays and Sundays, Noon to 5:00 pm (year round). They are located at 34329 Palomares Road, Castro Valley, CA 94552. The phone number is 510.537.3932, and the website is A more down-to-earth and unique winery would be hard to find here in the Bay Area, or possibly anywhere. The Smyths take great pride in their wine production and in their hospitality to visitors. They truly want guests to enjoy the overall experience at Westover/Palomares, including the wines.

Facilities Manager
Chicago Title Company
6210 Stoneridge Mall Road, Suite, 320
Pleasanton, CA.94588