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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.
Isn’t that a mouthful? Now California Wines & Wineries about once a month goes “rouge” and writes about a wine outside of California (yes there are some!). Today’s wine is especially interesting but I want to clear up some misconceptions. First Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo and Montepulicano are two entire different wines. Montepulicano d’ Abruzzo is a totally unique and wonderful wine from the Abruzzo region in east-central Italy and not to be confused with the Montepulicano which is mainly Sangiovese grapes from Tuscany. Colline Teramane became a DOCG region (denomianazione di Origine Contraollata Garantita) in 2003. Essential by being a DOCG vs DOC, they must follow strictly guidelines in producing their wine. Only four provinces can produce this wine. The wine must be 90% Montepulicano with only 10% being Sangiovese grapes. This wine is deeply colored inky red/purple with pepper spices notes. Often it is called “rustic”. In general it is “aromatic, tannic and with low acidity”. Key flavors of earthiness, blackberries and prevalent. Often it is also beholds sweeter tannins and is appropriately paired with hot & spicy peppers and pork dishes. Its ability to age in the cellar is up to 20 years and the price point can range from $8 to $200+. A delightful treat which is often overlooked and confused with the lighter Montepulicano from Tuscany. As the winemaker Antonio Lamona states “I want to make wines that are pleasing to the body and the spirit”. For the typical California wine drinker you will pleased if you get a nice bottle of Montepulicano d’ Abruzzo.
This is a wine from their highest quality barrels, comes a handcrafted single barrel wine. This is a limited release of some of their most prized wines. This was from barrel #2 and is bottle #266. This Italian varietal is fruit forward with texture and solid tannins to be a real winner. The grape is a dark skin, it comes out originally soft and with age develops character. Recently discovered to be a relative of the peppery Syrah thru DNA testing. On the eye it is intensely inky dark and almost black looking down into the glass. On the nose & palate, it can be a bit bitter, but paired with a solid piece of beef, it is remarkable. It is complex, spicy and chocolate flavors abound. This is not a stand-alone wine, but one to be consumed with hard cheeses, red meat and cured meat. 97% of the world production comes from Northern Italy from the Trentino-Alto Adige DOC. In California most of the Teroldego comes from Lodi, Sierra Foothills, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbera.
An awesome pairing last night of paella and McKahn Family Cellars Grenache. While McKahn Family Cellars is located in Livermore Valley, they source this fruit from Shenandoah Valley, Amador County. This wine on the eye was semi-translucent, clear and a beautiful hue of purple/red. On the nose, cherry, herbs and spices which intermingled with the paella. On the palate, red fruits abound like raspberry, cherry and strawberry. BTW, McKahn’s 2016 Grenache won Double Gold & 96 points at the 2018 Orange County Wine Competition! Also Grenache is known as a versatile grape for food pairing possessing a slight sweetness. The paella was prepared in a tradition Spanish recipe by our longtime friends, Floyd and Kathilee Garcia. Linguica, shrimp, chicken, rice, garlic, lemon, peas, tomatoes, peppers, olives, etc., and a host of spices. It tasted even better than it looked! Accompanied by fresh fruits, cheeses and pre-dinner appetizers. Thanks again for a special treat.
It is not often one gets an opportunity to partake in wine from vines now 130 years old. The clear delineation of this wine’s characteristics can only be summed up as astonishing! Zinfandel is believed to be the oldest varietal today. It comes from a region between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. Today it is the second most planted grape in California. Most Zinfandel’s carry a high alcohol level from 15 to 16%. This wine is 15.5%. The Royal Tee, is name for their quarter horse at Jessie’s Grove. This wine on the eyes is semi-translucent, with a beautiful red coloring, but somewhat “reserve” from the first look. But once you get the aroma and taste this nectar, it holds fantasies beyond belief. With ancient vines planted in 1888, you nose and mouth is overwhelmed with blackberry, earthiness, cinnamon, clove, cedar, spicy notes, “Swisher Sweets cigar”, cherry, dark roasted coffee, black pepper and jammy raspberry. This one simple varietal has everything in the kitchen pantry involved in a delightful and at times overwhelming sensation on the palate. A truly remarkable wine and experience. Paired with a well seasoned ribeye steak, this was a truly memorable meal.
2009 Larkmead, the Lark which had been sitting in the cellar for seven years came out to great us! This wine is made from a single rocky soil block at Larkmead Estate. On the eyes somewhere between a cardinal red and a dark crimson red, this is no ordinary wine with a medium-heavy viscosity. On the nose, perfumed aromatics, wet gravel, blueberries and a wash of smokiness (the good kind!). In the mouth, it is all encompassing with dark fruits, licorice and dark chocolate. The finish is complex, structured and enduring with powerful tannins. Reputable wine scorers have given it up to 98 points. Wine Searcher showed this still available at Wine Bank in Menlo Park for $315. Fortunately, I have a few more in the cellar and its time has arrived. #larkmeadvineyards #napavalleycabernetsauvignon #redwine #cabernetsauvignon #larkmeadcabernetsauvignon https://californiawinesandwineries.com
2015 Exclamation Cabernet Franc from Pillitteri Estates Winery, Ontario, Canada. On the eye a semi-translucent crimson with a light to medium viscosity. Aromas of black pepper, black tea and bell pepper dominant with subtle blackberry. Soft pliable leather and a hint of oak evolves in the palate as well as an moist forest floor. Soft tannins makes for an enjoyable finish. Definitely a contender for this years International Division of Cabernet Franc Wine Competition to be held in December. #pellitteriestates #cabernetfranc #cabernetfrancwines #cabernetfrancday #redwine #wine #canadianwines #ontariowines
2016 Petite Sirah from d’Art Winery in Lodi. Helen and Dave Dart have been making some very creative and tasty wines since 2000. Their wines include Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and both proprietary and small lot wines available to their Club Members. This evening was another nice treat as this just won Gold at the California State Fair Wine Competition in 2019 and scored 95 points. On the eyes, a medium heavy viscosity with royal purple hues. On the nose and palate, dark fruits, blackberries and mocha abound. A hearty wine with smooth tannins and a delightful finish.
2016 Thomas George Estate Rosé of Grenache. While Thomas George Estate is well known for their Pinot Noirs, this Rosé showed some strong character. 85% aged in concrete for 4 months and 15% aged in stainless steel. This resulted in a low pH level of 3.12 with the Grenache grape varietal still present. On the eye, light viscoscity, a beautiful hue of salmon and copper. On the nose and mouth, rhubarb, strawberry, soft melon provide a mouthful for this Rosé. A short but clean finish makes this a delicious summer patio wine.
A rare treat this last week at the home of the Krames on their remote and enchanting 300 acre estate. Here is a picture of the appetizers. Home grown tomatoes with fresh spices, marinated olives, hard salami and two unique cheeses: Burrata and Lebni (actually a Lebanese firm sour cream). The wine was a beautiful and silky smooth 2007 Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon. Also had a glass of 2014 Krames Viognier, with mouth filling textures of minerality, flowers and chalkiness. No picture of the meal as we were too busy devouring Bbq’ed ribs, artichokes, salad, vegetables, etc. You know it was exquisite if I didn’t take any pictures!! We feasted overlooking the Joshua’s Starry Night Vineyard from which the Krames produce their wines. We brought a 2009 O’Shaughnessy Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon which also paired delightfully with the ribs.