Head East: Steven Kent Wines Ahead

I recently received an invite to attend a Twitter tasting featuring the wines of Steven Kent Winery.  I wasn’t familiar with the wines from Steven Kent, but I’ve been hearing buzz lately about Livermore Valley, so I immediately accepted.  A few weeks later, a half case of wines found their way to my door.

First, more about the Livermore Valley, one of California’s oldest wine regions dating back to the 1760s.  In terms of location, it’s less than an hour east of San Francisco.  Robert Livermore planted the first vines in 1840 and according to the Livermore Valley Wine Map and Visitors Guide, the wineries in Livermore were the first to bottle Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Petite Sirah.  And, the region has also gained recognition for Bordeaux style wines due to similar growing conditions.  There are more than 50 wineries including well-known names like Wente and Concannon and more than 4,000 acres of grapes planted.

The Steven Kent winery was started in 1996 with a single minded goal to make the best Cabernet that rivals its global competitors.  Steven Kent Mirassou, of the Mirassou family brand now owned by Gallo fame, also owns La Rochelle Winery, which focuses on Pinots and Chardonnays, and was with us for the tasting.

From what I could tell, there were about 100 wine bloggers that were online to taste the wine.   Many – especially those not from California – had limited experience with Livermore Valley wines.  And, I would venture to guess that most immediately figured out what we had been missing.

2011 “Lola” (Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon Blend) Ghielmetti Vineyard $24 — orange blossom, honeysuckle, lime, floral, minerality and pear.  A perfect patio wine on a sunny Spring day.

2010 La Rochelle Chardonnay, Dutton-Morelli Lane Vineyard, Russian River Valley $65 – apple pie spice, pear, butterscotch, white flowers, peach, caramel candy and vanilla.  A very elegant Old World style chardonnay.

2009 La Rochelle Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands $38 – fruit forward, black cherry, raspberry, earthy, very silken with a hint of smoke.

2009 La Rochelle Pinot Noir, Donum Estate, Carneros $75 –  cherry cola, blackberry, oregano, dried cherries and notes of mushroom.  This was the earthiest wine in the bunch.  The Old World Pinot lovers raved and the New World Pinot lovers didn’t in our group.  I liked both the Pinots, but the style was very different.

2009 Steven Kent Petite Verdot, Ghielmetti Vineyard, Livermore Valley $50 –  cocoa, chile, leather, smoke, figs, plum and tobacco.  This was like a spicy fig newton in a glass, but smooth and balanced.  I enjoyed this thoroughly.

2009 Steven Kent Cabernet, Home Ranch Vineyard, Livermore Valley $65, cassis, plum, chocolate, spearmint and oak.  A wonderful representation of the promise of Cabernet.

Perhaps a trip East the next time I am in San Francisco is in due order.