Steven Kent Mirassou as a 6th generation family winemaker had to set new goals. He set as his pinnacle development to produce the best “Bordeaux style” wine California could produce. A lofty and perhaps extreme goal for one man in Livermore Valley. After many years as a successful winemaker at Steven Kent Winery, he decided to make 3 to 5 barrels a year of the absolute premier “Bordeaux style” wine. We just opened his 2008 vintage, which is the second of the Lineage release. This release entailed only five barrels. The blend which changes year to year based on flavor profiles, consisted of Cabernet Sauvignon 81%, Cabernet Franc 9%, Merlot 2%, Petit Verdot 5% and Malbec 3%. While blending is an “artistic” endeavor, Steven also is analytical in his pursuit of the perfect Bordeaux blend.
Here is Steven’s write up on why these varietals and clones were chosen. It is like an artist mixing paint colors for right shading and expression of a painting.
“Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 30: Dark cherry and cassis flavors, fine-grained tannins and acidity. Less opulent but more age worthy than Clone 4.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 191: Cassis, coffee, and mocha flavors, angular, tannic structure and lengthy, persistent finish.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 4: Powerhouse rich, viscous flavors of dark fruit and chocolate with broad tannins.
Cabernet Franc: Not as “big” as CS but with more finesse and an aromatic palate of sandalwood and chocolate. Acidity is the watchword of this variety. Its acid-based red fruit flavors marry well with the darker more tannic Cabernet Sauvignon to enliven and length Lineage’s finish.
Petit Verdot: Contributes tannin, color, and grapey aromas and flavors of violet and black fruit. This variety helps to build density in the mid-palate of the wine.
Malbec: Adds fruit and tannin; quite different from Cabernet in its sauvage mix of dried berry and raspberry fruit notes. It signature aromatic note is obvious when the wine is young. As Lineage ages, the Malbec takes on a dried-fruit edge and nice acidity.
Merlot: Noble variety of Bordeaux’s Right Bank; as counterpoint to CS’s austere structure, Merlot is fleshy and opulent; ripe red/dark cherry flavor, a touch of herbal complexity which adds to Lineage’s rich mid-palate.”
The key take way on blending is that it is extremely selective and requires rigorous decision making of not only varietals, but the correct Clones of the varietals to get the flavor profile. Add another step of both winemaking and personal craftsmanship and abracadabra you have a gorgeous and refined Bordeaux blend called Lineage. I am sure Steven wished it was that simple, but this is the shortened version.
Two of many other detailed undertakings are his hand selection of French oak barrels (Taransaud, Le Grand and Francois Freres) and his constant monitoring of the development of the wine in the barrel. The 2008 Lineage was aged 28 months in barrel and released approximately 36 months after harvest.
The flavor profile and experience of this wine is truly remarkable. First on the eye you see a medium to medium dark red tint and medium viscosity wine. Very different than some of the bold Cabernet Sauvignon’s coming out of Napa Valley. Your first impression is perhaps this may be a “bit wimpy”. But hold on until you get your first whiff which reveals “black fruits, exotic woods and spice aromatics”. On the palate, you get all the above characteristics that Steven purposed in his selection of varietals and clones to produce a crescendo of semi-sweet mocha, dark cherry, dark roasted coffee, sweet tobacco, violets, black fruit, etc. You are a bit mesmerized in trying to dissect each essential trait in this wine drinking experience. But it is a wine to simple enjoy and savor the existential engagement and relationship of such a rare and eloquent treat.