Steven Kent Winery Bets on Bordeaux
Although he grew up in a family that has been making wine for six generations, it wasn’t until 1996 that Steven Kent Mirassou brought his love of great Cabernet Sauvignon to the Livermore Valley and started The Steven Kent Winery, with the singular focus of crafting the very best Bordeaux wines possible.
Actually, Cabernet was anything but new to the Livermore Valley; it had grown there successfully since the late 1800s. But, inspired by the climate and soils of Livermore, Steven wanted to raise the bar. And he did. Today, The Steven Kent Winery is a standard-bearer for the region, crafting small lot vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux grape varieties. In fact, according to Wine Enthusiast, “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.”
The current portfolio begins with the 2011 Steven Kent Lola, a gracious white Bordeaux-style blend of Sauvignon and Semillon. The 2009 Steven Kent Premier is a truly historic Cabernet made from 100 percent best-of-vintage Cabernet grapes. There are also limited releases in the Bordeaux Series (wines based on other Bordeaux varieties, including Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc). Only a few barrels are produced each year of several estate Cabernets in the winery’s Single Vineyard Series of Cabernet Sauvignon. Above all is Lineage, Steven Kent’s classic blend of the five basic red Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Merlot.
The Steven Kent Winery is located in the heart of Livermore Valley wine country. The spacious and nicely lit Barrel Room is open daily, and the Reserve Room is open Thursday through Sunday, offering the winery’s most limited-edition collectors’ wines paired with fine cheeses. Guests are able to sample Steven’s superior wines and realize the potential of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Livermore Valley.
What follows is an interview with founder Steven Kent Mirassou.
T&T: What have you learned about the Livermore Valley since you founded the winery in 1996?
SK: The history of the Livermore Valley is a Bordeaux variety history. In the 1880s, there were more acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc planted here than in the Napa Valley. In 1996, we thought that this area was perfectly suited for Bordeaux and it would do well here. What we’ve learned is that it does even better. We have several young vineyards compared to other great vineyard regions, but in terms of the fruit we’re getting now, I couldn’t be any happier.
T&T: Do you think there should be a niche wine for this region? If so, what would that be?
SK: As great an area as this is for Cabernet Sauvignon, I think our niche could be Petit Verdot—another Bordeaux variety. Usually a blending grape, it’s also great as a single varietal. We grow about seven to eight tons per year at our Ghielmetti estate vineyard. I think the wines are incredibly interesting: violet, purple, black fruit, nice tannin, and great structure.
T&T: You also own La Rochelle, dedicated to Pinot Noir. Why did you decide to open two wineries instead of one?
SK: La Rochelle is dedicated to making the world’s best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I acquired La Rochelle from my cousins. With Steven Kent and La Rochelle, we have the opportunity to make two of the greatest red wines. Both wines are of world-class quality. They offer different nuances, different food pairing opportunities, and different senses of structure. From that perspective, it makes sense to dedicate a brand to each variety.
T&T: What’s your next goal for The Steven Kent portfolio?
SK: There is a limited number of vintages that any winemaker gets a chance to oversee. I’ve always believed that when you get fruit from areas that have the potential for growing world-class grapes, it’s a disservice to try to produce anything less. We’re after being iconic, producing the absolutely best wines in the world. That’s the goal.
WHAT TO BUY
’11 Lola White Citrus: lemon curd, lime and Mandarin orange peel, ginger, caraway; $24
’09 Cabernet Sauvignon: cassis, cedar, bittersweet chocolate, graphite, black cherry, dense fruit; $48
’09 The Premier Cabernet Sauvignon: cassis, plum, black cherry, semisweet chocolate, graphite, dried sage; $100
Tasting Room Open Daily 12–4:30
5443 Tesla Rd
Livermore Valley, CA 94550
Wine and cheese tastings, seasonal patio tastings, wine club events and discounts, winemaker dinners
PHOTO CREDIT: John A. Benson Photography