I recently had the opportunity to join a small group of wine bloggers and participate [virtually] in a Steven Kent twitter tasting. The tasting was led by Mike Wangbickler of Balzac Communications and we reviewed three selections from Steven Kent’s eponymous wine label as well as three selections from sister winery La Rochelle. I paid a visit to Steven Kent winery last year during a trip to Livermore, California. The Livermore Valley is one of California’s oldest wine growing regions. It is a warm-to-hot -- and fairly dry, inland appellation that’s well suited to Bordeaux varieties (both white and red) and Petite Sirah (which I believe has roots back to the Rhone Valley). Tasting rooms for both Steven Kent Winery and La Rochelle Winery are located in the heart of historic Livermore Valley wine country and are a grape’s throw away from each other (aka walking distance).
The Tasting Line-up
The Steven Kent label focuses on limited production, Livermore-grown, single-vineyard wines – with an emphasis on producing world-class Cabernet Sauvignon. While the La Rochelle label specializes in crafting vineyard-designated Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines from nearby cooler appellations. During my visit, I had a very nice time tasting and touring throughout the area as well as dining in Livermore's bustling historic downtown district. There are definitely some nice wines (generally slightly riper and fruit forward) being grown in the Livermore Valley and Steven Kent Winery and La Rochelle Winery are two good producers to get started with. See the wines I tasted below with a bottle shot and my tasting notes. Due to the limited production of many of the wines reviewed, the best way to obtain any of them is by way of the producer's tasting room or website. I have left links to the latter at the end of each review. Cheers!
Steven Kent Winery 2011 “Lola”
1) Steven Kent Winery 2011 “Lola” ($SRP $24): This is a refreshing blend of 65% Sauvignon Blanc and 35% Semillon. On the swirl and sniff, it shows orange blossom and citrus oil scents with subtle flinty mineral notes. There’s a slight richness on the sip (which is pleasant) – likely made possible my Ms. Semillon and lifted by bright, palate cleansing acidity. Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, in my opinion, are a dependent relationship and ideal partnership. Both are well expressed in this 2011 "Lola" blend of which only 256 cases were made. With spring on the horizon, this is a pleasant wine to have around the house and it won't break the bank. Click here to find this wine.
La Rochelle Dutton-Morelli Lane 2010 Chardonnay
2) La Rochelle Dutton-Morelli Lane [Russian River Valley] 2010 Chardonnay (SRP $65): First and foremost this is a texturally generous wine above all other things, that needs to be served at cellar temperature (approximately 55°F) to experience and appreciate its charms and voluptuous nature. This Chardonnay is straw gold in color with aromas of poached pear, roasted nuts, butter-cream, and brioche notes with citrus preserve scents and a touch of lemon curd. On the sip, it exhibits a round mouth-feel with a viscous, [fairly] rounded texture with [soft] balanced acidity and a [somewhat] creamy and lengthy finish. I recommend pairing this style of Chardonnay with a rich, fatty and delicious fish like salmon. It can also stand up well to white sauce and heavy cream dishes. Fewer than 120 cases of this Chardonnay were produced. Click here to find this wine.
La Rochelle Santa Lucia Highlands 2009 Pinot Noir
3) La Rochelle Santa Lucia Highlands 2009 Pinot Noir (SRP $38): This Pinot Noir displays a medium deep color with a fairly ripe and well-structured profile. The swirl and sniff boasts inviting dark cherry, currant, and plum aromas accented by brown spice, slight mineral notes and a touch of vanillin oak on a plush frame with a velvety texture and lasting finish. It exhibits an impeccable balancing act considering its ABV (15.2%). And while sizable it is focused and well-made. What it lacks in elegance it all but makes up for in generosity. With Pinot Noir, you generally get what you pay for (in my opinion), and this wine is fairly priced for those desiring a nice riper styled Pinot Noir. 381 cases of this wine were produced. Click here to find this wine.
La Rochelle Donum Estate 2009 Pinot Noir
4) La Rochelle Donum Estate Carneros 2009 Pinot Noir ($75): This is a refined, layered, and complex example of Pinot Noir that’s medium ruby in color with cherry and raspberry aromas alongside plum, pomegranate, cedar, cacao nibs, and distinct herbal shadings. It is an expressive and harmonious, medium-bodied wine with a supple texture, smooth tannins and a focused and lasting finish. This is one of the first wines in La Rochelle’s Grand Cu Collection; which represents the producer’s greatest wine-making achievement each vintage. Only 115 cases of this Pinot Noir were produced. Click here to find this wine.
Steven Kent Ghielmetti Vineyard 2009 Petit Verdot
5) Steven Kent Ghielmetti Vineyard [Livermore Valley] 2009 Petit Verdot (SRP $50): In the glass, this wine displays a deep and intense purple color that’s almost opaque. The swirl and sniff reveals a rich mix of (dense) ripe dark and brambly fruit accented by leather, cocoa powder, and (exotic) spicy notes with trailing scents of funk/barnyard. The palate is smooth and round, with a mouth-coating texture, soft acidity, and pillowy tannins. Overall, this is a pleasing wine, yet far less intimidating (on the palate) than the color and aromas would suggest. I enjoyed a glass with smoked brisket (no sauce) and fixings. Only 125 cases were produced and it’s worth noting that 100% Petit Verdot (Forman clone) is hard to find. This grape is usually used as a bit-player in blends (adding color, structure, and some aromatics). Click here to find this wine.
Steven Kent Home Ranch Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
6) Steven Kent Home Ranch Vineyard [Livermore Valley] Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $65): After his first swirl, sniff, and sip – a friend of mine said, “This wine is delicious … with a capital D.” That statement just about wrapped up the thoughts of the rest of us at the table. “Steven Kent Winery is Cabernet,” says the winery's tasting note. Cabernet Sauvignon is Steven Kent Winery's flagship wine and this bottling reflects the emphasis, focus, vision, and effort placed on the variety. This wine exhibits a deep, but brilliant, ruby/purple color in the glass with inviting dark cherry, cassis, and plum scents intertwined with subtle wild herb, mocha, and spiced barrel influenced aromas. The wine's complex aromas carry on to the palate with a rich mouth-feel and good acid balance with a velvety texture and polished tannins that melt into the lasting finish. This wine drinks nicely now, though it does benefit from 1-2 hours of breathing. It is also an ideal candidate for cellaring -- as it should reward its [patient] owner. Click here to find this wine.
Corks Out, Ready to Sip!
Have a question about this post? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter. Stay tuned ...more to come. Happy Sipping, my friends! Disclosure: These wines were received as a media sample for an event. Thoughts are my own.
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