Tuesday, October 19, 2010

First Red Grapes Arrive at Steven Kent

Sangiovese being Harvested
The red harvest has finally begun at Steven Kent. Normally the first red grape to come to the Winery, we harvested our Home Ranch Sangiovese this morning, 20 days later than we did last year; volumes were almost 50% lower this year as well.

Sangiovese is the primary grape in Chianti and we use it for a 100% varietal offering for members of our Collector's Circle wine club as well as in a blend with Cabernet, as Vincere, for members of our Future Release Program. With 4.225 tons, we should have a very small total of only 250 or so cases.
Sangiovese at the Crushpad
A long-time favorite wine for guests and members, the Sangiovese fruit tasted beautiful at the crushpad today; plenty of sugar and great acid. 

Sangiovese is typified by gorgeous aromas of black cherry compote, five spice powder; a supple mid-palate, and great acidity. It is the perfect wine to pair with a roasted pork loin, veal, and chicken.

We have found, too, that our Sanigovese-based wines will age quite beautifully for 7-10 years. Our first Sangiovese, Cherry Blossoms, a 2001 vintage, is still holding on well.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Sound of Wine

Fruit's coming in everyday now, and some - which came previously - is doing its wine thing.

Our 2010 Steven Kent Chardonnay - Livermore Valley is fermenting away in barrels...making quite a mess of it as you can see in these photos. And to hear what fermentation sounds like, click the link here. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Premier Cabernet Collection Preview - Ghielmetti Vineyard, Clone 337

We had a wonderful turnout last week for the release of our Premier Cabernet Collection - Clone 30 offering. This wine, fewer than 100 cases of which were produced, was one of two releases we felt was of great enough quality to be accorded our highest quality designation.

In conjunction with this release, we previewed the first of the 2008 Premier Cabernet wines...the Ghielmetti Vineyard, Clone 337. For this wine fewer than 50 cases will be available. Consistently producing a wine with very rich red and dark fruit notes, the 2008 Clone 337 was the first vintage that this clone stepped it up a notch and yielded a wine, not only with the richness we prize, but also with a structure that portends ageability.

This is a wine that Cabernet lovers should have in their collection. Elegant, complex, and delicious, this wine is extremely limited and will not be around long. Click here to be among the first to reserve your three-pack of Clone 337. Tasting notes are below:

In the nose, aromas of black cherry and cassis liqueur dominate while underpinnings of licorice, cocoa powder, and subtle tobacco enhance the wine's aromatic complexity. On entry, lush dark fruit flavors come to the fore first, but as the wine aerates, fruit gives way to licorice and caramel and the subtle oak and tobacco aromatics become more forceful flavors. Wines of this distinction tend to show their true quality after time in bottle or glass. So too with this wine. After several hours in the decanter, all aspects of this wine blossom: fruit gains more intensity, mid-pa;ate shows more depth, and the chewy finishing tannins presage the capacity to age. This Cabernet will benefit from several years of bottle age, beginning to show all of its grandeur in 2014. With care, this wine should age effortlessly through 2020. Fewer than 150 three-packs and a small number of magnums were produced in this vintage.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Friday Snippets

Cloudy Weather at Ghielmetti
The 2010 Harvest is beginning to take on a little shape, finally. Walking through the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blocks this week, the flavors in the SB are really wonderful. Seriously considering picking a couple of tons early in the week (about 22 sugar) and then a couple more about a week to ten day later (depending on weather) to get closer to the sugars we have had in the past (about 24). Check out the video for more observations.
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Our Sales Manager, Gregory Peebles, made his first Southern California tour for Steven Kent and found a very enthusiastic audience. In the next couple of weeks, Southlanders will be able to find the wines at K&L Wine Merchants in Hollywood, the Wine Exchange in Orange, and at Ozumo Restaurant in Santa Monica.
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The latest in our series of Premier Cabernet Collection wines made its debut this past week. The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon - Ghielmetti Vineyard, Clone 337 was poured for those who purchased the 2007 Clone 30. This is the first time the 337 has made the top tier in quality. This wine is wonderfully integrated already and boasts notes of black and red cherry, tobacco, black plum and terrific structuring tannin on the lengthy finish. Only 150 three-packs are available in this release...only half as much as the previous year! Click here to order your three-pack before they are gone.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hen of the Woods - 2007 Petite Sirah - Release Celebration Saturday

One of Livermore Valley's superstar varieties will be on display at Steven Kent Winery on Saturday when we release the newest offering for members of the Collector's Circle wine club...Hen of the Woods...a 2007 100% Petite Sirah from the Ghielmetti Vineyard.
Label photograph by Tracey Hoff
Tracing an origin back to the Rhone Valley, where it was mistaken for a small-berried clone of Syrah (hence the name Petite Sirah), this variety has been grown in the Livermore Valley to great acclaim for decades. I chose the finest 6 barrels from a larger lot of PS for this release.
In the nose, one get abundant notes of characteristic lavender and violet floral essences, licorice and black fruits. Supporting the fruit and flowers is a nice toasty American oak underlayment. The wood is carried into the mouth where it turns from toasty to subtle caramel and cinnamon. As the wine gets some air the varietally correct chalky tannins and undifferentiated black fruit become a silkily structured wine highlighted by blackberry and black cherry flavors.
This wine will age beautifully for the next 5 years and could use another 6-12 months before you start drinking it. Hen of the Woods was made exclusively for members of the Collector's Circle.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What a Day Was #Cabernet Day

Even this Chicken showed up for Cab Day
Celebrated around the world on September 2nd was the first "Cabernet Day." The brainchild of Rick Bakas of St. Supery Winery, Cabernet Day was created to celebrate both the noblest of red grapes and the rapidly growing community of folks who take to the various social media outlets to share their wine experiences.

From what I've heard, Cab Day was the largest on-line tasting ever, with tens of thousands of people all around the world joining in the fun. If you google #Cabernet Day, you get over 1.8 MILLION hits...a pretty good indication of the number of people participating.

At Steven Kent we turned over the Barrel Room to four new extremely-limited Cabernet Releases and welcomed more than 4 times the average number of guests for a Thursday.

What Cabernet Day meant for us was a chance to show off what we think is a gloriously good Cabernet growing area, and the breadth and depth of our offerings was indication that the Livermore Valley is not only capable of making a great Cabernet; it's capable of making many of them.

For those who didn't get a chance to join us, small quantities of the single-vineyard Cabernets are available. Click the Home Ranch, Smith Ranch, Ghielmetti Vineyard, and "Estate Grown" links to be taken to the on-line store to order before the wines are gone.

For video tasting notes click Home Ranch, Smith Ranch, Ghielmetti Vineyard, and "Estate Grown."

Monday, August 30, 2010

Honoring a Great Wine Institution

Multi-generational businesses (especially in wine) are rarer and rarer these days. Rarer still, are businesses in which the people on the selling end are treated with great respect and kindness. Just a couple of reasons why it was such an honor to be invited to Joseph George's 70th anniversary tasting for his best customers at Villa Montalvo in Saratoga yesterday.

Back in 1966, my family started distribution of its wines in California, and Joseph George was our first. Over the years, we've maintained contact with the George family, especially with Bert George (pictured, right) who opened the family wine shop in San Jose in 1997. Bert George is one of those legends in Bay Area wine, and his wine shop is home to the rarest and best wines from California.

Under normal circumstances, getting owners (especially those from Napa) to attend tastings is extremely rare, but on Sunday there were many wine stars present pouring their wines. Though, I didn't get to taste as many wines as I wanted, a couple that stood out for me were the 2006 Lewis Cellars Cabernet and 2006 Portfolio (made by Genevieve Janssens).

We had the great fortune of having tables for La Rochelle and Steven Kent, and we poured, among others, the 2008 Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir and 2007 Clone 4 and Clone 30 Cabs (Gregory Peebles, our Sales Manager pictured, left).

The evening was terrific: a beautiful venue, great wines, and a great family. Here's to another 70 years!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Friday's Snippets

From the department of "be careful what you wish for" came this weather forecast from the center of the Earth:
Monday - 99
Tuesday - 107
Wednesday - 105

Luckily for all of us, and the grapes...it was much cooler later in the week 75 and wind gusts like the remake of Mary Poppins on Friday.
Check out videos on Block 30 Cabernet here, the variability of Veraison here and Ghielmetti Vineyard here. If I seem out of breath in some of these...I was. It was about 105 degrees, and I'm out of shape! Hopefully the content is interesting.
Writing the notes right now for Fratello, our annual Tasting Room team blend put together to benefit breast cancer research. This year, we focus attention on men who have the disease...in honor of one of our own recovering team members, Domenic.

This wine is a blend of Barbera, Petit Verdot and Merlot and was put together by members of our Tasting Room team. Fratello will be available starting September 2, 2010. Help us to help breast cancer research...and get a great wine as a thank you.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Did someone say Cab?

Last night at our winemaker's pairing, Chef Neil Marquis dazzled 30 guests with his cuisine which he paired with our La Rochelle 2009 Pinot Gris, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Home Ranch Vineyard, and two soon to be released Single Vineyard Cabernets for Steven Kent; 2007 Smith Ranch and 2007 Ghielmetti Vineyard. The pairing was wonderful and we enjoyed another evening of fine food, wine and friends. Pictures are up on our Facebook page if you're interested!

If you didn't get a chance to sip on these wonderful Cabernets, we invite you to come out to the winery on Thursday, September 2nd from 12-4:30 for #Cabernet Day! This day is devoted to the King of all Grapes and lover's of this varietal will be tweeting and status updating for 24 hours singing it's praises! In honor of the day we're offering a special one day menu in the Barrel Room with the three Cabernets from our pairing as well as another new release for us, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley.

Click Here for the deets

Hope to see you at the winery!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday's Snippets

Just bottled the 2008 Premier Cabernet Collection - Ghielmetti Vineyard, Clone 337. Due for March 2011 release, this is the first time this clone has ascended to the top of the Cabernet mountain. Beautiful fruit on entry, mid viscosity, and focused tannin on the finish, this wine will be a favorite. Available to order in September, only two barrels this time around. A few three-packs of the spectacular Clone 30 are still available. Reserve one before it's too late!
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Traveled to Atlanta earlier this week to meet with a great retailer in the metro area, Chris Hinton, whose store - Hinton's Wine Shop, is noted for having one of the best selections of high-end wines in the area. Chris and his crew (Keith, Richard, and Cory) liked the wines and will hopefully become a flagship location for Steven Kent in the near future. 
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For those wondering about the lateness of the growing season, given all the rain we had in the winter and spring, and the cool temps so far in summer...ripening is not just about heat, it's also about the amount of solar radiation, or sunshine, the grapes get. Cooler temperatures generally mean less smog hanging around and clear skies means more sunshine. Steve Heimoff notes this in a recent blog post. The cool growing season has many people optimistic, however.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

'Cabernet Day!'

'Cabernet Day!'
Click on the link to read about our special Cabernet Day menu at Steven Kent on Thursday, September 2nd!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

If it's Saturday, It Must be Blending Day...

For those of you who have tuned in to my Blog or Facebook, you know, I'm sure, that the time spent blending in the cellar is nearly as good as it gets.

Saturdays before and after harvest are the perfect time to go through barrels, talk to myself, whoop (when the barrel is whoop-worthy) and generally celebrate all things vinous. I'm alone, I have 800 barrels of wine in various states of readiness and a list of wines I want to put together.

Today, the attention was focused on 2009 Sangiovese...the 100% offering that goes to our Collector's Circle members, the blend of Sangi and Cab (Vincere) that's for the Future Release Program and the Single Vineyard Series Cabernet Sauvignon - Home Ranch that is for everyone who loves great wine!

After tasting through 22 barrels of Sangiovese and 17 barrels of Cab, I messed around with specific barrels until I got what I wanted for three different wines. The 2009 vintage of Home Ranch Cab and Sangiovese are lovely. The SVS Cab is outstanding, very lush, very black-fruited, and with another year in barrel, the wine will be rounded out, ageable and delicious.

The Sangiovese was a little more difficult. I thought the newer barrels showed barrel than the second-use did. There is enough fruit in the wine to compensate for the more obvious wood notes... in fact, the new French oak barrels highlighted the fruit, adding structure along the way.

I am very excited about the wines...2009 Vincere, 2009 Sangiovese, and 2009 Single Vineyard Series Cabernet - Home Ranch Vineyard...and hopefully over the next two release years, you'll be as excited as I am!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Radius 5 - What Our Club Members Thought

Radius 5, a blend of 75% Cabernet and 25% Syrah was released last weekend to our Future Release Program club members. Looking for feedback and an interesting way of sharing comments, we asked members to jot down words to describe their reaction to their new wine. Thanks to everyone who played along.

To the right, you'll find a wordle of those comments. The wordle assigns weight to the font based upon how many times a word is used. As you can see "smooth" and "sexy" were repeated a number of times. "Mo-better" and "yum-mo" were used less frequently but with every bit as much panache.

Single words work better for this exercise, but we want to leave you with a few comments about Radius 5:

"If I took it to dinner...we'd make out."
"It is so good it makes me want to cry." And, finally,
"I joined the club. Need I say more?"

Click here to learn more about Steven Kent's wine clubs.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The First Hints of Color

The first hints of color in the Home Ranch vineyard are a very welcome sight. Due to a very rainy and cool early Spring and current temperatures hovering in the high 70's, this growing season is off to a very slow start.

If this were Bordeaux where harvest-time rains are a common occurrence, being at least 2 weeks behind would be cause for much hair-pulling and Gallic consternation. But this is California, land of sunshine and perpetual optimism (only way to survive in the wine business!), and more than likely late August and September heat will rapidly decrease the gap between where we are and where we should be.

The photo above on the left is Sangiovese, the first grape to be harvested from the Home Ranch. You can see many more berries on this bunch are beginning to go through veraison, the time of year where the grape skins turn from green to red, berries soften up, and the cells of berries begin to size up.

Below to the right is Cabernet. Only the row along the side of the drive shows any color at this point, due probably to the fact that more light (and consequent higher temperatures) can penetrate to the fruit zone on the road side. Cabernet will be picked last from the site in a normal year.

Thus far, the season looks to be a good one. Volumes are about average and there appears to be far less shatter among our blocks most prone to this problem (Merlot, for instance). There are reports of fairly widespread mildew challenges in some Livermore vineyards. Thankfully, Ghielmetti and Home don't show any signs of it.

As the season progresses, look to our blog for more updates.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Smile at the Cellar Door

A recent blog post by wine critic, Steve Heimoff, leads me to this thought:

if you are lucky enough to live in or near wine country, get to know the wines and the people behind those wines. Letting a a numerical score (which implies an objectivity that doesn't exist) substitute for relationships seems like a recipe for a stunted, reductive experience.

Remember wine is all about relationships, the relationship of the grower with the vines, the winemaker with fruit, the Tasting Room team with its customers, and the customer to the experience. No purported exactitude can ever take the place of a smile at the cellar door.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Evolution's the Thing

Back when my dad started selling wine, there were only a handful of premium wineries in California, and the only model for world-class Cabernet was the wine from Bordeaux. Those wines were significantly lower in alcohol and less fruit-filled than their California counterparts. They were also very tannic, nearly undrinkable wines when they were young.

The concept of laying Cabernet down before you drank it and for ascribing inherent quality to a wine that can (or needs to) age before it is drunk is directly related to the Bordeaux experience. California wineries trying to make exceptional Cabernet emulated Bordeaux even when the viticultural conditions in their home state blessed them with a completely different kind of wine.

To my mind, the biggest, brawniest Cab in the room is not the prettiest pig at the Fair. Often, these huge monsters are so out of balance that by the time the tannins have softened with age, the piddling fruit that had started the journey was long gone when the wine was finally opened.

I love big, BALANCED wines. Cabernet is a grape that has tannin, and even more tannin is imparted to the wine when it is aged in newer barrels. Cabernet shouldn't apologize for having structure, but it also shouldn't haughtily beat its chest for having way more tannin than the rest of its constituent parts can elegantly support.

All wines will age. Tannins will soften out. Some wines will, no doubt, age better than others. What is important is not the wine's ability to age, it is the wine's ability to evolve into something worth waiting for. Great wines give you something substantially new each time you drink them...some new palette of secondary aromas, the dramatic debut of a heretofore shy mix of flavors, the effortless marriage of fruit, wood, and structure.

Great wines are like great books. No matter how long or short, each time you open them they always have something new to teach.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Silver Lining

When business is off for one part of an industry, the negative ramifications are usually felt up and down the chain. Sales for high-end wines have been hit the hardest in the current economic downturn. The total volume of wine is right where it was in 2008, but price points tend to drop as disposable income diminishes.

Where the silver lining lies is in new opportunities for purchasing fruit. La Rochelle Winery will be getting a couple of tons of Pinot Noir from a new site in the Santa Lucia Highland called Soberanes Vineyard. This site was planted and is being farmed by the same people behind Garys', Pisoni, and Rosella's vineyards...three of the best sites in the world.

On the Chardonnay front, Merrillie will now be getting fruit from Rosella's Vineyard (pictured right) one of the top Chardonnay sites in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Coupled with the Sleepy Hollow Vineyard fruit from which we made wine for the first time in 2009, Merrillie is poised to begin her new life as a Chardonnay-only brand in 2011 with a stable of some of the top Chardonnay vineyards in the state.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Steven Kent's First Malbec to Debut

Members of our Future Release Program have come to love the Bordeaux-variety blends we make exclusively for them. Until now, we have not had a Malbec to share. With our February release, however, the last of the five classic varieties will make its debut.

Aromatic notes of dried cherry, brambly berry, and spice join seamlessly with a viscous mid-palate and substantial finishing tannin to create a supremely interesting and delicious wine. 86% Malbec and 14% Cabernet Franc, this wine will be at its peak from 2011-2015. Fewer than 200 cases were produced.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010: Looking Forward

As 2010 dawns, a new year of wonderful wines await. But first a few words about 2009:

The last couple of years, especially 2009, have been difficult for many people. On behalf of all of us at Steven Kent Winery, I just want to thank everyone for their very generous support. We are honored by your continued commitment to our mission to create world-class wines from the Livermore Valley.

2010 will see:

  • Not only our first Malbec (a blend for members of the Future Release Program in February; and a 100% Small Lot Offering in May) but also our ninth vintage of Sangiovese for Collector's Circle members in March.
  • Radius, a blend that has morphed from predominantly Barbera to a mix of Bordeaux varieties, will be a Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend starting with its fifth incarnation. 
  • Our Second Open House event will take place on May 15th and will feature the release of our Small Lot Offering Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec among others. 
  • There are a number of Wine Dinners on the calendar as well. We'll let you know, soon, when the first dinner is scheduled.
We look forward to sharing these wonderful wines and occasions with you in the coming year. Cheers to a great 2010!