April 1, 2002

SUNOL WELCOMES a lovely new business to Main Street as Little Valley Vineyard Espresso Bar and Tasting Room opens today. Sunol's Sandi Bohner and her husband, Bill Webster have transformed what was the Sunol Lounge into an elegant yet cozy, family-friendly establishment. The shop will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, offering espresso, gourmet coffees, tea smoothies, hot chocolate, juices and other soft drinks, and freshly baked muffins, pastries and scones all day.

At noon each day, the wine tasting bar will open, with complimentary tastes of varietal wines, and an additional menu of soups, salads and savory foccacia. Wine and champagne will be available from the tasting bar, by the glass, and for purchase by the bottle. You can also pick up a little gourmet gift such as honey, tampenade and specialty coffees - for giving or as a treat for yourself.

Sandi and Bill have a small vineyard in Sunol, by their home of five years on Little Valley Road. Their grapes are two years away from bottling, but when they're ready, Little Valley will present the first Sunol-grown Spanish tempranillo, a medium red wine with a little spice in the after taste, somewhat similar to pinot noir.

Until their grapes are ready, Little Valley will be barreling and bottling a tempranillo made from Central California grapes, as well as chardonnay from the Seneca Valley and zinfandel and cabernet from local growers in the Livermore Valley. The growth of the extended family of Livermore Valley vineyards is a passion for Sandi and Bill and Sandi is on the board of the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.

"Along with Elliston Vineyards (on Kilkare Road in Sunol), we're the missing link between Sunol and the wineries in Livermore and along Palomares Road," Sandi said. "We call ourselves the Westenders of the Livermore Valley wine country. Sunol is on its way to becoming the gateway to the growing Livermore Valley wine country." And the Espresso Bar and Tasting Room here is a wonderful step in that direction.

The outside of the building has been painted a soft sage green, and inside there are rustic Spanish hues of eggplant, mustard and cranberry, along with candlelight, plants, tables and a comfy couch. "We'd like this to be a nice, comfortable, peaceful place for the community and visitors to Sunol to gather," Sandi explained. And she means it: on the "coffee card" you can pick up at the espresso bar (10 drinks and the 11th is free), it says, "Eat, Drink & Chill Out."

Bill and Sandi plan to have acoustic music for special occasions, poetry readings, comedy nights and other events, and hope eventually to expand to evening hours. The tasting room can be rented for smaller catered evening events now, and the adjacent space that housed the General Store will be ready soon for bigger private events. Little Valley will offer beverage packages for these events. And keeping the business in the Sunol family, Little Valley's exclusive caterer is Kilkare Woods resident Skip Hinsley, owner of Girasole restaurant in Pleasanton and the Big Horn Grill in San Ramon.

Lest ye fear downtown's getting hoity-toity, there is more than a little touch of whimsy in our newest establishment. Little Valley's tempranillo will be bottled under the White Rabbit label, so named, Sandy tattles, "because Bill is always late." The couple collects White Rabbit memorabilia, some of which is displayed in the tasting room, along with paintings from the Bay Area Glover Group of artists. Work by local artists and artisans will be considered for display and sale.

There's also a teeny table for toddlers, and a snazzy drinking bowl and treats for the family pup, who will, of course, be limited to patio dining. Stop by the Little Valley Espresso Bar and Tasting Room soon (11986 Main St., Sunol, 925-862-9006) to meet this charming, friendly couple and enjoy Sunol's new branch on the local wine country vine.

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