Lively Livermore

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I recently had the opportunity to sample through a few wines from Steven Kent Winery of California’s Livermore Valley, located east of San Francisco and north of San Jose. Though Livermore had as much acreage under vine in the 1960s as Napa Valley, it has remained under the radar as a wine region, while watching the latter reach worldwide prominence and acclaim.

Because of similarity of climate and soil to Bordeaux, the French region’s indigenous grapes are mainly grown here; Livermore’s original Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc plantings were even cuttings taken from the famed Château d’Yquem.

Founded in the mid-90s and led by 6th generation winemaker Steven Kent Mirassou, the winery’s mission is to make world class Cabernet and BDX blends in the Livermore AVA. They’ve been consistently bringing a variety of wines into the PLCB system for a few years now, including several Chairman’s Selections.

Steven Kent Sauvignon Blanc Livermore Valley 2014 ($13.99)
This Chairman’s pick is a repeat in the program; it was offered last vintage at the same price. Melon aromas leap out of the bottle on open, with fruit really leading the way over the traditional grassy Sauv Blanc notes. With air, however, these flavors do emerge. In sum, this a smooth, well-made Cali SB that is a no-brainer for the upcoming warmer months at $14, either good with food or on its own. (Is $24, btw, through the winery.)

Steven Kent Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($47.99)
Tightly-wound, this shows evidence of herbs, cedar and high-toned dark berries. 2011 was a difficult vintage, so the extraction is down here, but this is a bright, elegant expression of Cab that will pair well with a wide variety of foods. The price, however, might leave big Cali Cab lovers frustrated. (2009 vintage available in PA)

Steven Kent Petit Verdot Ghielmetti Vineyard 2011 ($50)
Roaring to go right out of the glass with bold fruit flavor, this wine, on the other hand, should no doubt appeal to lovers of that big California flavor. Make no mistake, however, this is also well-balanced, with touches of savory notes and lingering tannin and acidity. Hearty, rich and satisfying, it is a luxurious, velvety wine that is drinking wonderfully now. (Available through the winery only)

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