Steven Kent Winery – tradition and trailblazers

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Steven Kent Mirassou is part of the California wine industries pioneering royalty, and has grounded himself firmly in the rich soils of Livermore Valley.  As one of California’s hidden wine regions, Livermore offers more than meets the eye, and Steven Kent Winery is no exception. On a hot and bright spring day, the intrepid wine blogger crew headed out to Livermore, a scant hour from San Francisco, and located in the greater Bay Area.  One of many high quality local wine regions, Livermore is often overlooked as a world class growing region.  However, producers like Steven Kent are making their mark and changing what we define as California wine. Founded in 1996, the winery’s original mission was to make some killer Cabernet Sauvignon in the Livermore Valley that would give Napa a run for it’s money.  With the long history of Livermore Valley producing world class Bordeaux varietals.  In recent years, Livermore has become known as a bedroom community supporting the Silicon Valley, and home to government institutions, but the last 20 years have changed the face of the wine business drastically. And now, on to the wines!  Steven Kent Winery is home to two brands, Steven Kent, and La Rochelle.   With each brand represented by it’s own winemaker, the two sisters showcase the best of what the area has to offer.  While Steven Kent is focusing on the rich history of Livermore, producing some excellent Bordeaux style wines, La Rochelle maintains the family line of Central Coast wines, focuses on Pinot Noir f 2011 Steven Kent Merrillie Chardonnay – Named for Steven’s grandmother, the Merrillie Chardonnay is made from an old Wente clone.  As one of the founding wineriesin Livermore, Wente has created a unique line of clones, most noteably for chardonnay and pinot noir.  This wine showed rich custard, bold viscostity and tropical fruit salad. 2010 La Rochelle Chardonnay – Dutton Ranch – Morelli Lane – one of my favorite Sonoma County chard vineyards, the bright Meyer lemon notes are framed by sandlewood and baking spice.  The richness is counterbalanced by the bright acid, capturing the vitality, movement, momentum, liveliness 2010 La Rochelle – Donum Estate Carneros – Bright cherry, brown sugar and molasses are dancing in a mouthful of Dr. Pepper.  The clonal selection on the western block in the heart of Carneros is a luxurious blend that is indicabtive of Carneros fruit, rich and yet somehow not opulant.  The forest floor and jalepeno play in the black cherry of this elegant sipper. 2009 La Rochelle Pinot Noir – Donum Estate Carneros – it sin’t often we are lucky enough to have a side by side of two different vintages.  Richer and bolder than the 2010, there is black fruit, fig, and a touch of salinity on top of cherry pie filling.  This is a classic Carneros Pinot, but I prefer the liveliness of the 2010. For a change of pace, the 2010 La Rochelle Pinot Noir – Soberanes Santa Lucia Highlands – is  a classic example of what Santa Lucia can offer.  Huge cherry and cola […]

Concannon Vineyards – history in a glass

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The terroir at Concannon Vineyards in Livermore Valley hides a rich history.  When the winery was built in 1883, it was one of the first in California and the first in the area.  Now, four generations later, John Concannon’s namesake great grandson leads the way in Petite Sirah, sustainability, and modern winery operations. Concannon is notable both for it’s place in history but also because it is a winery founded by Irish immigrants.  Founder James Concannon was born in the Aran Islands, left Ireland for America in 1874.  Travelling across the country to reach San Francisco, James was drawn to the idea of creating Rhone and Bordeaux style wines in California.  At the time, Livermore was nearly undiscovered, and James became a wine pioneer. Second generation Captain Joe Concannon helped to lead Concannon Vineywards successfully through Prohibition, producing sacramental wines for the Archbishop of San Francisco.  After serving in World War I, where he created wines for then General Pershing and Lieutenant Patton (later General Patton), he hired the first professional female winemaker.  Captain Joe was also instrumental in replacing vines that were lost to phylloxera. Third generation James (Jim) took over winemaking at the vineyard and brought the first named Petite Sirah to the American market n 1961.  Selling the winery when finances were tight, Jim remained as winemaker and continued to represent the family and winery to the public.  He is still active ein the winery business and in Livermore culture. Jump forward to the 4th generation, John Concannon left his career in the medical device filed to region the family business.  Born and raised on the winery property, John III has worked at every job in the winery, and currently seves as the 4th generation vintner.  Ever the rebel, this join is constantly looking and new and innoative ways to incorporate technology in the vineyard and production. Additionally, the current John has spearheaded Concannon’s sustainable practices in environmental conservancy.  Most of the property is owned by a land conservancy and can never be developed.  With a huge price tag attached to any said sale, this is a major investment in keeping the LIvermore Valley’s agricultural history in tact.  This Conservancy lends it’s name to a series of wines made from the grapes grown in the land trust. We sat down with John to taste some of the winerys wines, as well as explore the Underdog Wine Bar, which is situated on site and offers up delicious morsels as well as several other wines for sipping. Concannon has something to offer everyone and offers you a great look at history in the Livermore Valley, someplace with a long legacy in wine but that is still slightly off the beaten path. Wines tasted: 2010 Conservancy Chardonnay $14 – A bigger chard than I care fore, this wine had lots of buttered popcorn and a slight sandlewood finish. 2010 Reserve Chardonnay $30 – This wine went through additional malolactic fermentation and is quite tropical, green apple, citrus and minerality.  It has great acid and kiwi notes […]