There was a time – and it wasn’t too long ago – that I would not have recommended wine tasting in the Livermore Valley.
There weren’t that many wineries and the wine for the most part, was not all that good compared to the other wine regions in Northern California. It was tough for me living in Pleasanton not to push the region to others, but realistically I couldn’t in good faith.
The Tri-Valley needed a boost when it came to wine. Something that would speak to the potential of the region and provide a spark to the rest that the Livermore Valley could indeed produce great wines.
That boost came from Steven Kent Mirassou when he opened the Steven Kent winery.
The winery was started in 1996 with one mission – to make Cabernet in the Livermore Valley that rivals in quality the greatest red wines anywhere in the world.
“He truly wanted to elevate the Livermore Valley,” said Michele Buckett, our hostess in the Reserve Room said of Mirassou’s goal.
He certainly has done that and was among the leaders, along with Wente and Concannon, to give the Livermore Valley credibility in the wine world. Thanks in large part to the success and quality of Steven Kent, the rest of the Valley got the boost it was needed and is now a viable tasting destination in Northern California.
The rise of the Livermore Valley in numbers of wineries, but more importantly, quality of wine, has made it easy to recommend the region.
There are two tasting options for visitors to Steven Kent, with both offering solid tastings.
The Daily Tasting in the Barrel Room is $15 per person (the cost is waived with the purchase of a bottle) and offers tasting of Bordeaux varietals, as well as Cabernets. You can make reservations for the tasting or drop in. If you chose to drop in, the staff is willing to accommodate you by setting you up with the next available appointment.
The other option is the seated tasting in the Reserve Room where you have an in-depth experience of Steven Kent’s small-lot and library wines. All guests in the Reserve Room must be over 21 and reservations are required for this tasting experience.
The cost is $50 for the general public and $25 for wine club members.
Following our arrival on the property, we were given a tour of the entire facility from Shelby, who then led us into the Reserve Room for our appointment with Michele.
Michele was a knowledgeable, congenial hostess, giving us plenty of information while we went through our tastings. We started with the 2015 Merrillie Chardonnay named after Steven’s maternal grandmother. From there we went through a vertical tasting of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 Single Vineyard Series Cabernet Sauvignon from the Lencioni Vineyard.
All four wines were excellent as expected and experiencing the three vintages of Cabernet, one after the other, was wonderful and gave us a full appreciation of the aging process.
The real treat came when we had the 2015 Lineage, which Michele called “Steven’s baby.” Each year of the wine is a different blend, with the 2015 comprised of 80 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 percent Cab Franc, and five percent each of Merlot and Petite Verdoh.
Simply, the wine was amazing and at $155 a bottle is not out of whack price wise with top bottles of Cabernet in Northern California. The Single Vineyard Cabs are $65 a bottle. The Merrillie checks in at a very affordable $34 a bottle.
For a frame of reference with the other bottles available at Steven Kent, the basic 2014 Cabernet is $48 a bottle.
The next time you head out to the Livermore Valley, do yourself a favor. If you have not visited Steven Kent before, make sure to put it on your agenda. The quality of the wines is top notch and it’s a pleasure to visit and learn more about one of the wineries that helped put the Livermore Valley on the map.
If you opt for the Reserve Room tasting, ask for Michele as she will give you a first-class tasting experience.
For more information, go to www.stevenkent.com.
By Dennis Miller