Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Just One of the Challenges

As I sit here typing, it's just started to rain in Livermore. It's June 28th...Summer...warm growing area...and it's freakin' raining. Looking at the Mercury News website today, and it notes that the1/4" of rain expected in the South Bay on June 28 may be a "once-in-a-lifetime" experience for people. I don't want any more experiences like that. 

Anyway, this post is not about the challenges of weather, which are ubiquitous and ever-present for farmers; it is about the pests that can ravage a vineyard, taking an investment worth millions of dollars and slowly strangling it.  

Leaf Roll virus is becoming a major problem in California vineyards again. Transmitted by a couple different types of mealy bug which can live under the outer layers of the trunks of vines, Leaf Roll turns the leaves red later in the growing season thereby interfering with photosynthesis and the ripening of fruit. Once a vineyard is infected, there is no cure expect pulling the vineyard out and replanting. When one considers that it can cost more than $30,000 per acre to plant a vineyard and experts advise leaving an infected vineyard fallow for up to 10 years after an infestation, the presence of these bugs and their viruses can be devastating. 

There are only a few things that can be done to slow the spread of the pests and most are of a prophylactic nature:  making sure that equipment that is used in one vineyard is thoroughly cleaned before it is used in yours; making sure you have completely virus-free vines going into your site, etc. Another method currently being employed in the vineyard uses pheremones of female mealy bugs to make it more difficult for the male of the species to find the female. The tag is affixed to every tenth vine or so and has shown promise in our own vineyards.      

Friday, February 25, 2011

"When Should I Drink This Wine?" - Club Releases

Earlier this month, I posted a blog about the difficulty of recommending when wines should be drunk. Wine that are meant to be consumed in the short term don't offer the same difficulties. Most the wines we produce for our Collector's Circle and Future Release Program clubs are meant to have a relatively short drinking window; these wines are significantly more fruit-forward than our Cabernets and are particularly good when paired with food.

To find out recommendations on drinking times and to see which varieties (and in which percentages) make up our club blends, we have just updated our Drinkability charts. You can find the Collector's Circle wines here and the Future Release program wines here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2004 Merrillie - Paired with Asparagus and Yellow Squash and Pesto Pasta

I'm not really good at pairing wine with food...I'll leave that to the experts. After a pre-dinner Negroni (necessitated by too little Hendrick's for a full martini) and putting a pasta sauce together with onions, garlic, yellow squash, asparagus, and pesto...red wine wasn't going to do the trick.

In my cellar, I found one bottle of 2004 Merrillie (unfiltered) and it seemed like a potential match. I've always felt that our Chardonnay was better with significant bottle age. The 2004 proved me right. Just a beautiful wine...wonderful fresh lemon and pear notes, gorgeous underlay of leesy, nutty qualities from the sur lie aging and malolactic fermentation adding layers of complexity; finishing acidity that has rounded out with bottle age but which still girds the wine's substantial fruit and creates length and a mouthwatering finish.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Steven Kent & La Rochelle - What's Going on at the Winery in January

The Steven Kent Winery
January 2011 - Around the Winery

La Rochelle Winery
La Rochelle Winery, located in the historic Livermore Valley, and owned by Steven Kent Mirassou, sixth-generation of America's oldest winemaking family, specializes in producing small volumes of world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

We just wanted to share with you (here and here) what other people are saying about new releases of our wines.  Some of these wines are still available through our store, some are available to restaurants and wine shops as well. Click the links  for more information about our vineyard partners, to view videos about the 2010 vintage, and to check in with what's going on at the Winery.

For those that sell our wines to restaurants and wine shops, there is a wealth of information in the "For the Trade" section of our website including tech sheets, reviews, and release schedules. Here are links to technical information on current wines:

2008 Pinot Noir, Sleepy Hollow Vineyard
2009 Pinot Gris, Mark's Vineyard

90 POINTS - 2009 Pinot Gris, Mark' Vineyard (Arroyo Seco) "Brilliant, mouthwatering acidity marks this refreshingly clean wine. It's very ripe, showing pineapple and lemon sour candy, papaya, green melon and vanilla spice flavors. Straddles the border between bone dry and just off-dry, although the honeyed sweetness might not show up officially. Great with Thai, Vietnamese and Asian-fusion fare." (Wine Enthusiast 02/11 - SH)
90 POINTS - 2008 Pinot Noir, Sleepy Hollow Vineyard (Santa Lucia Highlands)
"A big, muscular Pinot, in the manner of this vineyard. It's dry but sweetly rich and dense in cherries, black raspberries, mulberries, cola and cedar, with thick tannins. The silky texture and bright acidity make it drinkable now, yet it should develop in the bottle over the next six years." (Wine Enthusiast 02/11 - SH)

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The Steven Kent Winery
La Rochelle Winery

5443 Tesla Road
Livermore, California 94550
Steven Kent - 925.243.6440     La Rochelle 925.243.6442

Please enjoy our wines responsibly

This email was sent to stevenmirassou.skblog@blogger.com by steven@stevenkent.com |  
The Steven Kent Winery | 5443 Tesla Road | Livermore | CA | 94550

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Home Ranch Perfume - I'd Know You in the Dark

The French invented the notion of terroir. Terroir is the "it-ness" of the place. The weather, the stuff that makes up the dirt, the direction of the line rows, the amount of sunlight the vineyard gets, the amount of wind are all aspects of the terroir of the vineyard. A more modern definition of the term would include the philosophy of the wine maker, the philosophy of the vineyard manager, the existence of other plants and animals, etc. as part of the whole of the site.

There are many who argue the existence or importance of this overarching site concept, but there are few who would argue that certain sites have something special about them. We believe that our Home Ranch Vineyard is just one of those special places.

We have done many tastings involving all of the Cabernets that we produce, and even when those tastings are done blind, it is impossible to miss the Cabernets produced from Home Ranch fruit. While these wines share a richness with Ghielmetti Vineyard Cabernet and a structure with Smith Ranch Cabernet, what they don't share with any other wine produced in the Livermore Valley is the exotic perfume of pepper and mint and menthol that one associates with the oil from wind-break trees.

As the winds blow in from San Francisco Bay each afternoon they come charging through the Livermore Valley from West to East. Right next door to our Home Ranch Vineyard is a stand of trees - pepper trees and eucalyptus trees - whose essential oils are blown on to the grape skins of the Cabernet that resides right next door. These essential oils become an essential part of all our Home Ranch wines. Being red wines, the skins of the grapes that make them are exceedingly important. There is no way to separate the oils from the trees from the skins of the grapes themselves. Consequently, these aromatic additions become part of the finished wines. In a true sense, the terroir of the Home Ranch Vineyard includes this perfume; a Home Ranch wine that did not have this note, however subtle, could not be said to be a true product of this particular site.

I have come to love and appreciate this quirk of location, this happy accident of arboreal fortune. For without this particular aspect of "it-ness," the Home Ranch would be a much diminished thing indeed.

Monday, January 24, 2011

"When Should I Drink This Wine?"

The question most often asked by wine lovers is also a question that doesn't have a straightforward answer. The answer to When should I drink this wine? has as much to do with the personal preferences of the wine drinker as it does to the relative drinkability of a wine.

I have a love of big, tannic red wines. For my palate, the ability of the wine to age is secondary to the wine's youthful structure and integration. This is purely a personal thing, though. My dad, who was weaned on Bordeaux, prefers his Cabernets with some age on them; he wants to experience the secondary flavors and aromas that come about through the mysterious calculus of bottle + oxygen + time.

But because this question deserves a considered - if somewhat hedged - answer, we have developed a "Drinkability Matrix" that provides a great deal of information regarding the origin of our wines and a range for drinking the wines at their peak.

Take a look at the Matrix and tell us whether the information was useful and if there is anything else that you would like to know that would improve your experience with our wines. The updated Cabernet chart is available on our website now. The Future Release Program and Collector's Circle charts will be up this week.  

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Tale of Two Vinnies

One of our most consistently popular wines has been Vincere. This super-Tuscan style wine, a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet grown on our Home Ranch, has always been predominantly Sangiovese. We have 1.1 acres of this grape planted on the home ranch, and it is the main grape in the Chianti region in Italy. Since 2000, when I made the first blend of this wine for a restaurant friend in South Florida, we have prized Sangiovese for its ability to give this blend its acid structure, its red fruit, and much of its length.

The Cabernet portion of Vincere is there to provide weight and structure and darker fruit notes to the wine. And because of the singular terroir of the Home Ranch, with its "Home Ranch Perfume," a wonderfully complex matrix of aromatic tree oils, the Cabernet from this site serves as a very obvious complexing agent in the blend.

In the nine previous releases of Vincere, Sangiovese has played a dominant role. In 2008, however, we ran short of this grape in our vineyard. After making a number of mock blends, we decided that the Cabernet-dominant wine that is the 2008 vintage was still Vincere; it still retained a spirit of the super-Tuscan style wine we were attempting to make. In fact, it has been the quality of the wine and not a recipe that has guided the blending of  Vincere from the very first vintage.

After recently tasting the 2008 and 2007 wines side-by-side, a number of really interesting things became apparent. Though the wines were different in structure and different in the sense of which variety was most dominant, they were very similar in tone. Vincere is a rich wine that's meant to be explosive aromatically; it's meant to be viscous in the mouth and to provide a foundation for a wide variety of foods with which  you might choose to pair it. Both of these wines passed this test.

They were both very true to their vintage also. 2007 was a classic vintage in California. Nearly every wine we made that year had an opulence and a richness and a dark-hued fruit palate that surpassed nearly every vintage prior to that. 2008, on the other hand, was a vintage of structure. The fruit palate was more about cherries than the black raspberry and cassis that we see in 2007. The 2008 wines have a mid-palate shape to them that is very intriguing; this is a vintage that should age dramatically well. Again, both of these wines passed that vintage specificity test.

Finally, for all of their differences, these two wines share one thing in common: as with most of our wines, they were significantly better the second day. The tightness and shy fruit that one has seen in the Steven Kent wines when they are first opened is present here also. Aerating the wines, or decanting them for a couple of hours prior to drinking, really helps to open up the wines both aromatically and from a structural standpoint.

For those people who have come to enjoy this wine, we believe that you will like the 2008 wine as much as any other previous release. The reasons may be different, but that's what great wine is supposed to be. It's supposed to be a reflection of a vineyard site, a given year of weather, and a winemaking philosophy.

The 2008 Vincere is made exclusively for members of our Future Release Program. For more information about joining our club and getting your allocation of Vincere, click this link.