THE NEXT NAPA30 April 2020 Written by By Heather Mckinney
Published in May 2020 Articles
Brentwood’s Future as an Agritourism Destination
“With a thriving downtown and a good selection of family-friendly hotels, Brentwood is poised and ready to stake its claim as a destination for travel trade and agritourism.ˮ
mcCauley Estate Vineyards is a local business profoundly rooted in history. Its owners, Sean and Maria McCauley, along with their three daughters Marissa, Mallory, and Michaela, have a unique commitment to honoring Brentwood’s heritage, while also championing its future.
The McCauleys are on the forefront of a movement in East County. They are passionate about using McCauley’s olive oil and winery operations to make Brentwood the next major Northern California agritourism destination.
Agritourism is a form of travel marketing. It positions the area as a visitor destination and encourages tourism to farms, ranches, vineyards, and agricultural businesses.
“The future of Brentwood lies in the agricultural heritage that it has been made famous for,” said Marissa McCauley. “We are the next Napa/Sonoma. The difference and advantage Brentwood has to other neighboring agritourism cities are the wildly successful stone fruit u-pick businesses we have fostered during the last 40 years. The farming families of Brentwood keep the charm and small-town feel alive. We applaud the hard work these families put into making agriculture relevant and exciting.”
Brentwood’s Harvest Time program has established the area as a top spot for weekend travelers. Building upon that momentum, the McCauleys are dedicating resources and creating venues to draw tourists. One vision is to build an agricultural event center on their property on Deer Valley Road. It will be a hybrid business model that would allow space for the wines and olives to be processed onsite. The event center would welcome visitors for an array of educational and tasting opportunities.
“We are passionate about agritourism,” Marissa said. “In the next ten years, we plan on investing heavily in this sector of our enterprises.”
Visitors can come to Brentwood for a full agricultural experience: seeing how food is grown, picking it themselves, visiting the farmers’ market, sampling the fresh organic fruits and vegetables, and tasting the wines. It’s a full-circle farm-to-table experience. Travelers could create a wine tasting itinerary with almost ten stops in Brentwood, and that list of wineries and/or vineyards is growing.
“They opened their store, McCauley Olive Groves, in 2009 and added to their success in 2018 with their winery and event space, McCauley Estate Vineyards.ˮ
A quick Trip Advisor search shows more than 400 traveler photos from Brentwood, many of which boast the beauty of the agriculture and nature experiences here. Almost half of the top ten attractions are farm or winery based. The city, as well as private initiatives like Everything Brentwood, are dedicating more and more resources to tourism. With a thriving downtown and a good selection of family-friendly hotels, Brentwood is poised and ready to stake its claim as a destination for travel trade and agritourism.
A LAVISHLY DELICIOUS DESTINATION
McCauley Estate Vineyards will most certainly be a draw for those visitors. This beautiful venue, surrounded by lush landscaping, gardens, palm trees, and a beach-like lagoon, offers space for weddings, corporate functions and special events. True to its name, the estate has views of its gorgeous grapevines in a romantic, Tuscan-style setting. The space includes a barrel room reception hall, cocktail hour gazebo, game room (complete with vintage arcade games, a pool table, shuffleboard, and a bar top), bride’s casita, and an outdoor seating area.
On select Sundays, the vineyard and winery open their doors to the public for an afternoon wine tasting. They pour Mourvédre, a full-bodied blend of dark and rich fruit flavors with notes of Italian plum, elderberry, allspice, raspberry, strawberry, white pepper, and vanilla. They also offer Sauvignon Blanc and sparkling wine. The Sauvignon Blanc is light and crisp with hints of green apple, citrus, gooseberry, and passion fruit. The Grand Cuvee Sparkling Wine is a bubbly treat with aromas of pear, pineapple, and coconut. McCauley’s growing array of wine varietals include Cabernet, Barbera, and Chardonnay–all crafted with a new grape harvested on their own vines.
The family also owns McCauley Olive Groves, located at 380 W Country Club Drive, Suite G in Brentwood. After much demand, they opened this storefront and tasting room in 2009 to give local residents and visitors a place to purchase their amazing olive oils on a daily basis. Inside, guests have the opportunity to taste their numerous flavors of extra virgin olive oil including rosemary, basil, oregano, lemon, lime, orange, garlic, chipotle, butter, and jalapeño. All extra virgin olive oils are grown, picked, pressed, and bottled locally. Additionally, they offer numerous balsamic vinegars and will soon be offering their full selection of wines. McCauley Olive Groves also sells farm-stand favorites like honey, spreads, eggs, nuts, spreads, jams, stuffed olives, candies, pies, and pastas, as well as a large variety of locally made products, beauty and bath essentials, home goods, and gifts.
A FAMILY OF GROWERS
Sean McCauley grew up in Brentwood, living here since 1975. His family owned an almond orchard and operated the largest poultry farm in Contra Costa County.
In the early 2000s, Sean and Maria decided to shift the family business and began to plant olive trees, even while it was still a relatively unknown and underappreciated commodity. Sean was a visionary from an early point in his career, seeing the health benefit and sustainability of olives. At the time, only two percent of olive oil was made in the United States, the rest imported from Italy and Spain. He aimed to change this and educate the masses.
The McCauleys have a vast network of landowners willing and excited to plant olive trees on their property. With their year-round beauty and low water needs, olive trees are a smart choice. As their popularity grew, the McCauley’s access to olives they could harvest increased exponentially.
Today, they farm about 300 acres of olive trees and produce more than 100 tons of olive oil each year. They opened their store, McCauley Olive Groves, in 2009 and added to their success in 2018 with their winery and event space, McCauley Estate Vineyards. All three of Sean and Maria’s daughters work at their family’s thriving businesses. Sean operates the farming portion of their businesses and serves as the president of Sean McCauley Investments, Inc. Maria serves as the secretary of Sean McCauley Investments, Inc., runs the accounting portion of McCauley Estate Vineyards, and runs the olive store. Marissa and Mallory are both site managers, coordinators, and handle all of the tours and bookings for the event center. Michaela operates the photo booth for events, helping visitors and guests create a memorable experience.
Their extra virgin olive oils are also served and sold at many local restaurants and stores, including Diablo Foods, Gursky Ranch, The Health Hut, Zephyr Grill and Bar, Main Street Kitchen, The Riata Diner and Tavern, and Trilogy at the Vineyards clubhouse. Several local farm stands and farmers’ markets carry McCauley products including Bacchini’s Fruit Tree, Dwelley Farms, The Stand at Knightsen, Delta Farmers’ Market, Rossmoor Farmers’ Market, Shadelands Walnut Creek, and Moraga Farmers’ Market. Hannah Nicole Vineyards and Winery offers their olive oils as well.
BE A TOURIST IN YOUROWN TOWN
It’s often easy to overlook the beauty in things we pass by on a daily basis. Many of the amazing spots in Brentwood slowly become ordinary. The area truly is a marvel with its family-friendly safe neighborhoods, its official designation as a “Playful City USA” (because of its access to parks), and its outdoor recreation, from hiking and biking to miles of paved walking trails. This spring, make a list of all the attractions you need to visit and be a tourist in your own town.
Photos by Ron Essex