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News Flash: Steven Kent Makes Delicious Wines

Steven Kent Winery (SKW) was born in 1996, a product of the imagination, passion and aspirations of Steven Kent Mirassou.  Steven's initial (stated) goal was to produce world class Cabernet, to rival the best and most renowned in the world. Livermore Valley puts that dream within reach but Steven recognizes that developing a relationship with, and an understanding of, the soil and the vines is essential to his development as a winemaker and to the quality of the wines he produces.  His commitment to quality can be most readily seen in his flagship "Lineage" wine, which now commands an enviable level of respect. Although not inexpensive ($140), it does not even approach the cost of many cult California Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends.

That said, SKW has now established a growing reputation with other varietals and blends, including Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These wines span the lower to upper mid-range of retail shelf prices. Here, I took the opportunity to explore some of these more affordable efforts, and they are delicious! Who knew? Well, truth be told, the secret is out. However, sometimes a blog post should simply (re-)introduce you to wines that you should put on your shopping list, if you have not already.  I hope this post makes your mouth water and prompts you to do just that.

2013 Steven Kent Winery “Lola” Sauvignon Blanc Steven Kent Winery Ghielmetti Vineyard. The Ghielmetti Vineyard block responsible for this, fifth Lola release, is planted to two distinct clones of Sauvignon Blanc (SB) and one of Semillon.  Normally assembled as a Bordeaux-styled white blend of SB and Semillon, the latter was deemed to lack the quality required of it in the 2013 vintage and so was excluded from this year’s assemblage. The SB blocks were harvested and fermented separately in stainless steel to retain the essential crisp acidity, although about 10% of the resulting juice was aged in Acacia wood barrels, highlighting some of those exotic fruit notes.

The final product is delightful.  The nose displays pink grapefruit and lime/orange zest edged by a lovely talc note. The attack is bright, but not so aggressive, showing lemon, grapefruit and fine-grained bite of under-ripe pear in its minerality. The mouth-feel carries good density without ever feeling lethargic, resulting in a great full-palate persistence on the finish with all components remaining intact and bright.  In summary, the 2013 Lola is crisp and clean - beautifully put together.  File this under “elegant with an energetic and fun side.”  89 points, $24 per bottle. Drink now.

The 2011 Steven Kent Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley comprises 88% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Ghielmetti Estate Vineyard and Home Ranch; 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc from Ghielmetti Estate Vineyard. Each lot was fermented separately and the final blend bottled 6 months prior to release. In the final barrel selection 60% had seen new oak with a total of 24 months in wood. 

The 2011 SKW Cabernet Sauvignon shows gobs of black and blue fruit on the nose accompanied by elements of spice, pepper, and incense.  On the palate dark fruit predominates, driven by black cherry on the attack. The fruit intermingles with mint, eucalyptus and cocoa and wonderful herby note, presumably, at least in part, from the Cab Franc.  The 2011 SKW Cabernet Sauvignon is mid-full weight but is by no means dense, nor overly tightly wound.  It is actually quite agile, with decent structure and ample finish that is edged by good lifting acidity and earth, dusty, sweet fruit tannin. At $48 per bottle, I give it 90 points – an elegant, accessible and overtly delicious wine, well worth the exploration. Drink now and over the next 5 years.

2011 La Rochelle Chardonnay, Dutton Ranch, Morelli Lane Vineyard.  The 2011 is the second release of this Grand Cru Collection Chardonnay.  The grapes are sourced from the Dutton Ranch (Morelli Lane Vineyard), with primary fermentation and aging in 50% new French oak barrels.  The wine then underwent malolactic fermentation and aged “sur lees” for an additional year, with a marked impact on nose and texture.

The La Rochelle Chardonnay is a beautiful straw color.  The nose integrates lemon curd, with apple and ripe pear.  The palate is a gorgeous interplay of lively lemon zest, pith, Granny Smith apple – bright ripe fruit balanced by energetic acidity.  It’s almost unstoppable through the mid-palate to the finish, providing a piercing, minerality-infused fruit core, baking spice, brioche and a wonderful cleansing bitter bite on a lingering finish.  It paired nicely with fresh, steamed mussels, with shallots, diced plum tomatoes and some fresh, warm, crusty baguette. At $65 per bottle, I will happily give this a yeasty, toasty 92+ points for its fine impression of full-throated white Burgundy - reminded me a wee bit of Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru.  With room for further evolution in the bottle, I would say you can drink it now or at any time over the next 5+ years.

2010 La Rochelle Pinot Noir, Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands. Sleepy Hollow is one of the more northerly vineyard in the SLH appellation and is renowned for producing some of the biggest and most intense pinot, that are often infused with wonderful savory meaty notes.

The La Rochelle Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir is deep ruby in color and translucent at the rim. The nose is intense with Bing cherry, cola, herb, pine needle and caramel.  The attack shows wonderful acidity, with searing black cherry, red currant, layered over cinnamon and clove.  Great bitter cherry and a savory soy-like minerality extend the mid-palate, with an almost Granny Smith-like bite on the lingering, earthy, herb-infused, black cherry close.  In short, this is a wonderfully provocative example of CA Pinot Noir, bright, fresh but not overripe with good complexity and a wonderful edge that keeps the conversation interesting. This offers a great paring for duck, pork or fowl. I enjoyed it with Trader Joe’s pulled pork. At $48 per bottle this delightful Pinot gets 91 points from me.  Drink now through 2018.

You can catch other bottle notes and pictures on my twitter account - please drop in and follow @BruisedGrape  Your comments are always appreciated!

 Disclosure: Reviewed wines were from medias sample provided (not for sale) for the review process.

 All original content, inc. text and photographs remain the copyright of the author (A. McCallion)


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