These reviews are based on samples provided by the winery or another company acting on their behalf. Prices noted are the Suggested Retail Prices.
Over the last month, I have had the extreme pleasure of tasting through a dozen different wines from the Steven Kent and La Rochelle wineries. Every wine has been outstanding and distinctive. These aren’t the cookie-cutter wines being offered by some of the larger wineries in the world. Every wine shows the distinct terroir of the vintage, region, and vineyard from where they originated. Generally these are wines that taste good now with some aeration, but have the balance and all the key ingredients to age and improve with extended cellar time.
The wines, though above some people’s normal price points, are reasonably priced based on their level of quality. These are small, limited production wines, most are produced in quantities under 100 cases.
I highly recommend these wines. The winery also has a number of wine clubs that can guarantee you an allocation of the wines at discounted prices and offer other benefits. Visit the website for more information.
The Steven Kent Winery Was Born.
In 2005, Steven joined forces with the Ghielmetti family who owned a spectacular vineyard site about three miles east of the winery. The site was planted to Bordeaux and Rhône varieties, many of which he used to make small-lot releases for his burgeoning wine clubs. Steven realized in 2007, though, that the farther he went down this path, the further away he’d be from the vision with which he started in the business – to make a single, great, statement wine.
Lineage—our Livermore Valley Red Wine—then, is the renaissance of that need to have the effort mean something; for the wine to be a symbol of the passion to create something of great quality, an emblem of one family’s generations-long commitment to the grape.
Also in 2005, Steven found an opportunity to close a circle. His cousins, who had earlier sold the Mirassou brand to Gallo, had started a brand called La Rochelle, named for the town north of Bordeaux from which their progenitor had come to America in 1854. La Rochelle had an amazingly talented winemaker, Tom Stutz, and a portfolio of wines whose only focus was family vineyard fruit from Monterey. Steven acquired the brand and brought it and Tom up to Livermore with a new focus on Pinot Noir. Seven years later, La Rochelle is making some of the best Pinot Noirs (and a newly released, small-lot production focus on Chardonnay) in California.
Much more information, links to the wineries, and purchasing information is available at their website.
Steven has a very nice blog here – Steven’s Blog.
Steven Kent Winery Info
“Steven Kent is producing today’s greatest Livermore Cabernets, wines that hearken back to the valley’s roots as one of California’s best wine regions.” – Wine Enthusiast
The Steven Kent Winery was started in 1996 with one mission: to make Cabernet here in the Livermore Valley that rivals in quality the greatest red wines made anywhere in the world.
Livermore Valley has a long, dedicated history of growing the “Bordeaux” varietals, and in particular Cabernet Sauvignon. In the 1880s, pioneering winegrowers began to discover the potential of the Livermore Valley region. Then, as today, L.V.’s climate and soils closely resemble those of Bordeaux’s famed left bank of the Gironde. By the turn of the last century, Livermore Valley was already far ahead of its Napa Valley neighbor in specializing in the Bordeaux varieties. Our goal at Steven Kent is to carry on that tradition.
“We have worked joyously and strenuously to know our vineyards; to learn how our fruit expresses itself from those sites; to discover the best winemaking and barrel regimens that translates those grapes into world-class vintages. We’re very gratified that customers, critics, and collectors alike consider our “historic Cabernet” to be an essential addition to their table, their “best of lists,” and their cellars”. – Steven Kent Mirassou
More information is available at their website.
La Rochelle Info
Our mission at La Rochelle is a simple one: to make California’s best, most interesting, most collectable Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
My family introduced the Pinot Noir grape to California in the 1850s. Today, we partner with the state’s most renowned Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards – Garys’. Sleepy Hollow. Rosella’s. Londer. Paraiso. Tondre. Ferrington. Deer Park. We craft Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grown on these famed estates that let the individual vineyard’s terroir, its special sense of place, shine through.
My great-great-great grandfather left the French port of La Rochelle one hundred and sixty years ago on a voyage of possibilities. Our journey at La Rochelle Winery is an equally exciting one: to discover the best vineyards and translate those exceptional estates into limited releases worthy of our heritage.
Steven Kent Mirassou
La Rochelle Winemaker, Tom Stutz also has a blog – Tom’s Blog.
Much more information is available on La Rochelle wine at their website.
To check availability or to purchase any of these wine or other wines offered by the wineries in the Steven Kent Portfolio, visit their website.
2009 La Rochelle Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow Block A – $48.00
This 100% Pinot Noir was aged 26 months in 45% new oak and 55% second use. The barrels were 74% French and 26% American.
The vineyard is one of the most northerly sites in the Santa Lucia Highlands. The vineyard has been a source of fruit to La Rochelle since 2003, and provided fruit to the family’s Mirassou Vineyards label for close to 20 years before that time. This is generally one of the “bigger” Pinot Noirs produced by the winery.
The final alcohol is 14.7% and production was 11 barrels.
My Tasting Note
The wine is a medium ruby red color. The very inviting nose has black cherries, raspberries, warmed baking spices, earthy underbrush, a nice smoky element, cola, minerals, fresh wild flowers, and a touch of pine needles. This has medium body, soft, ripe tannins, and very good acidity. The palate has a nice helping of darker fruit, spice, and good earthiness. The wine thins a touch on the finish which is flavorful with nice length. I think with additional cellar time, the finish will fill out and the wine will develop additional complexity. (92 pts)
2009 Steven Kent Cabernet Sauvignon Livermore Valley – $48.00
This is a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Home Ranch, Ghielmetti Estate, and Folkendt vineyards, as well as a few percent each of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.
The lots were made and aged separately before being blended about six months prior to release. The wine spent a total of 24 months in 75% new oak barrels. The barrels were 52% French, 43% American, and 5% Hungarian.
The final alcohol is 14.4%
My Tasting Note
The wine is a medium to deep ruby red color. The interesting nose has cassis, cedar, Asian spices, tobacco, black olives, dark chocolate, dried herbs, black cherries, and a touch of earthiness. This has medium to full body, fairly solid tannins, and good acidity. The palate has nice fruit and spice up front with olives and earthiness coming in on the back end adding nice depth. The finish has nice length and leans heavily on the savory elements. This improved a lot with air; initially there was a green bell pepper element that after a couple hours integrated nicely. (90 pts)
2009 Steven Kent Cabernet Sauvignon Folkendt Vineyard – $65.00
There were 82 cases produced of this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The 4.5 acre vineyard was planted in 1992.
The wine was aged 24 months in 100% new French oak barrels. As with all their red wines, this was bottled without fining or filtration.
The final alcohol is 14.6%.
My Tasting Note
The wine is a medium to dark ruby red color. The sexy nose has cassis, cedar, melted licorice, dried herbs, black plums, baking spices, dark chocolate, and some black cherry. This has medium to full body, solid tannins, and very good acidity. The palate has solid dark fruit and spice with some dark chocolate and spicy oak in the background. The finish is long and full of spicy fruit and chocolaty oak. This really needs a couple years in the cellar to strut its stuff, but tastes nice now with several hours of air. (93 pts)
2009 Steven Kent Malbec Ghielmetti – $50.00
The Ghielmetti Vineyard is a touch under 65 acres and is planted to 11 different grapes on 20 distinct blocks. This Malbec comes from Block 13, which is comprised of 66 rows and 5,940 vines that were grafted over from Petite Sirah in 2006. This is the only block of Malbec in the vineyard.
The four barrels used in this offering were aged in 100% new oak and yielded a total of only 98 cases of wine.
The final alcohol is 14.1%.
My Tasting Note
The wine is a medium to dark ruby red color. The exotic nose had plums, blackberries, stony minerals, Asian spices, licorice, cedar, charred meat, cherries, dark chocolate, and a touch of vanilla. The wine has medium to full body, solid tannins, and good acidity. The palate has big, bold, spicy fruit up front with very nice savory notes coming in on the back end adding considerable depth. The finish is long and very flavorful with the spicy fruit, cedar, and a touch of dark chocolate slowly adding some cherry. Very tasty today with some air, but this could use at least a year or two in the cellar. This was much better on day two. (94 pts)
***** Shameless Self Promotion *****
Here is a link to a YouTube video of me getting “coal” from Santa for being named the “Nicest Person in Social Media” in 2012.
Remember to support your local wine store!
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Notes – I use the “official” Cellar Tracker name for the wines. I use Cellar Tracker to help manage and organize my cellar. I highly recommend checking it out at www.cellartracker.com. Loading you existing cellar is a lot less intimidating than it would first appear. There is a good chance 99% of your wine is already in the system, so you generally only need to enter part of the wine’s name and the system will find it for you.
Prices noted are the prices I paid at the time of purchase. I don’t shop around to find the best prices, but my local store is usually VERY competitive. I generally get case discounts, and since I work there part time, I get a 5% discount. Wines purchased direct from a winery do not include any shipping charges. None of the prices include the sales tax.
All wines that were sent to me free of charge to sample will be noted and I will show suggested prices when available.