All Wine is Local…

March 31, 2012

All wine sales are local. If you’re a small brand, at least.

While I don’t have any hard data, I imagine that well over 95% of our wines are sold because that wine lover has been to our tasting rooms, or had the wine because it was recommended by a friend or a trusted wine reviewer/sommelier/wine shop owner.

There are just too many wines out there (tens of thousands of labels) for Lineage or La Rochelle to be  picked up randomly. So, if someone passionate about bordeaux-varietal blends has Lineage in Chicago, there is a web of very intimate, local connections that got that very rare wine to them. And the idea that there are little well-springs of enthusiasm for and knowledge of the Steven Kent Portfolio wines springing up around the country is really a very cool thing.

Just over a year ago I met a very enthusiastic guy named Eric Bava at the Pinot Days tasting in San Francisco. Eric liked the wines quite a lot and wanted to represent them in Chicago where he, and his business partner, Anthoy Vula, were in the process of starting their own distributorship. After months of bureaucratic rigamarole, our relationship with Vine-o Distributing Company was born.

Last November, I flew out to Chicago to pour at the Pinot Days tasting there, and to work the market with the Vine-o guys for a couple of days. I met some great restaurateurs who were very enthusiastic about the portfolio of wines. Eric and Anthony followed up with them, and now we have a growing group of Steven Kent Portfolio fans in the Windy City.

If you are visiting or have friends there, you can find the wines at:

MK – The Restaurant Tavern on Rush, and the Olympia Fields Country Club. Thanks to these great establishments for adding new connections to the web.

Life is Simple…

March 27, 2012

In the tumult of or our daily lives…wines to sell, weather to worry over…it’s nice to know that sometimes joy is as simple as wriggling in the grass.

La Rochelle 2011 Pinot Noir Rosé

In science news, it has been discovered by researchers that Rosés – those food-affirming, nay, life-affirming

dry pink wines made most beautifully from the Pinot Noir grape – actually cause the season known as “Spring.”

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one researcher underscored his team’s findings by commenting “…the color of the wine…the color of the sunrise on the first day of Spring. You know, it can’t be a coincidence.”

It has long been thought that the rotation of the Earth upon its axis resulted in the changing of the seasons, but with confirmatory zeal the same researcher asked “How could we have been so wrong? It’s just so obvious now.”

Filled up with the flavors and aromas of strawberry and dried flowers and dancing lightly and refreshingly upon the tongue, the La Rochelle 2011 Pinot Noir Rosé is the perfect partner for shellfish and charcuterie; walks on the beach and playing with puppies. Available for a limited time. It can’t be Spring forever.

The Girls

March 21, 2012

I was in New York the last couple of days. This short trip brought me back to one of the most important times of my life, and I wrote about

Capi - the wonder dog

it here. But the trip also took me away from my girls and our daily ball fetch at the local school.

Many have written far better than I about the relationship of self to dog, but I will just add that, like children (of which I have none but four grown), these marvelous beasts take you away from yourself. You slough off the

Tess - My Baja Princess

effects and become the innocent cause again.

I was reading through the wine blogs tonight and found out that Nathan Chroman, one of the pioneering wine writers of the ’70s and ’80s had died at the age of 83. Reading the obituary, an early memory popped into my brain. This remembrance of things past revolved around wine, as most early family memories did. My father, who was the VP of Sales at the family winery worked in Southern California a lot back in the ’70s and ’80s, was close to Nate and a bunch of his non-wine business friends from the LA/Pasadena area.

This time in the wine business bears absolutely no resemblance to today. The challenges were different then. Today, we have thousands of competitors; then, you had to prove that California deserved attention and the “wine press” was more collegial in a lot of ways.

Anyway, I remember, as a child, spending a Thanksgiving with my father, sister, step-mother-to-be and Nate and his family and other close friends in a house in Yosemite. We arrived on a clear Wednesday and awoke to snowfall, the wreathing of woodfire on Thursday. It was a magical trip…deer coming by the door, feeding them carrots, great food, an encampment of children apart from the adults, the washing of dishes.

Nate was in a wheelchair and seemed a daunting figure even though I looked down on him at 10 years of age. His family was wonderful (I may have had a crush on one of his daughters…). I never knew Nate in his capacity as a wine writer, but knew him briefly and innocently as a child.

I’ve heard stories of Nate from my father and others of that time. The details were meaningless to me then and mean even less now. All I can say for sure was, like my father and me, Nate loved wine. He found magic in the stories of production and was so compelled by wine’s bottomlessness that he devoted a lifetime to it.

My condolences go out to his family.

Putting a Pin in Time

March 21, 2012

The image on the masthead of the Steven Kent Portfolio blog is the top of our Lineage bottling.

The shield contains the roman numeral for 6 and stands as a symbol for the 6th generation of the Mirassou family to find his passion making wine in California.

I make Lineage to honor those fathers and grandfathers before me and to inspire those who come after. I want to stick a pin in Time and show that all of the vintages before this first one were a prelude to what Lineage symbolizes and to what Lineage is intended to become.

I believe in the inherent greatness of the Livermore Valley, and my singular goal is to transform the viticultural gifts we have in our Valley into an offering that ultimately takes its place among the handful of the world’s iconic wines.

My children, or theirs or theirs, will stick a pin in me too. They will (I hope!) carry this mission farther, and by passionately striving to make their vintages great will honor the passion of the generations that came before them.

In New York

March 19, 2012

It’s taken years but I finally found a business reason to come back to New York. We used to have a distributor in the City to sell Steven Kent wines, but that relationship dried out years ago, and with so much area to cover closer to home, it made more sense focusing on California.

Thing is…I LOVE New York.

Christopher St. Station - NYU

I was 23 when I went out East a second time to study at NYU. I had been in DC for four years as an undergrad and came back home for a year. I was going to get my PhD, teach literature, and write the great novel. And New York was THE place to do that. So many great writers, so much energy…the streets beating with it.

I lived in a shithole of an apartment, but it was in the Village. I worked as a bellhop on the graveyard shift and went to school at night. The days I spent wandering the City and writing (to no real effect…yet). There was a magic to it all.

I haven’t been in 10 years, but coming through the Lincoln Tunnel into the Times Square area, it all comes back…the rush, the people, the horns and messengers on bikes, the smells of world cuisine and pretzels (that always remind me of Shea Stadium), the building-shadowed streets.

Almost too big to get my arms around, this feeling of deja vu. No, that’s not really it. The sense of wonder at having the years come off like an old skin, and to be bright and beautiful and young again. People who live in New York may say they hate it, but they love it if only for getting through it; those who don’t live there but come there romanticize it out of proportion…except that there is no limit to the romance the city takes and gives.

I got into my hotel around 7 and took the 1 line downtown to the Village and walked around the old neighborhood. A lot of the old places were still there, but there is more uptown to it now. It was 25 years ago that I lived there, before Guiliani, when the City had a gritty charm to it that is gone mostly, buffed up. There was a baby clothes store where my deli was (Enteman’s pound cake and Hagen Daz); the court at 6th Ave and 11th St was still there and the guys conning chess in Washington Square Park. The lights were shining on the Arch and a crowd gathered there underneath. The night is cool and carries a piano on it. Under the Arch a guy has rolled out a grand piano and is sitting on a plastic bucket with a scarf around his neck playing Chopin and Rachmaninoff, and he is wreathed in the spotlights shining down and the notes bat up like birds against the marble and swell and echo and the crowd throws change into another bucket and he finishes and they applaud and he rolls his piano away and all that’s left are the shadows. That’s a New York moment.

The Week that Was…

March 16, 2012

This past week saw a great deal of activity around the Winery. We launched a new version of the Lineage website and a brand new site that overarches all of our brands: Steven Kent Portfolio. Please tell us what you think!

We saw bud break in our Home Ranch Sangiovese and Ghielmetti Estate Petite Sirah and Grenache.

Bud break - Grenache - 2012 - Ghielmetti Estate Vineyard

We recently released one of my personal favorites: La Rochelle 2011 Pinot Noir Rosé. Made from 100% Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands, this bone-dry wine is the perfect accompaniment to great conversation, charcuterie, picnics, etc.

Our Sales Manager, Gregory Peebles, Director of Retail

Greg praying to World's best Negroni

Sales, Tracey Hoff, and I had the pleasure of meeting for a post-mortem drink at Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos. A 2-star Michelin restaurant owned by David Kinch…this place is one of my inspirations. I want to be as great as they are! If you truly love food, this is a must-eat stop (they are using our La Rochelle Pinot Meunier to pair with Chef’s Abalone dish on the tasting menu).

Several new restaurants are now offering our wines including the Epic Roast House in San Francisco, the San Clemente Wine Co., in San Clemente, and the Prince of Wine in Alpine. We are honored to be part of their wine programs.

2010 Cabernet Franc tasting

On the winemaking front, I am “hard” at work making the 2010 Lineage. This past week, I have been tasting through every barrel of Cabernet Franc and Merlot I made this vintage. The goal – in this part of the process – is to choose THE best barrel(s) of each variety for inclusion. The wonderful complications arise when mock blends indicate that the “best” barrel didn’t work as well as the second or third-best. This process is can take a long time. When you are trying to make one of the world’s iconic wines, though, it takes as long as it takes. Click here for a short video on Cabernet Franc.

Livermore Valley, Arise!

March 8, 2012

It would be different if the Livermore Valley appellation didn’t promise such potential.

If our Valley weren’t oriented the way it is — to the cooling mouth of San Francisco Bay — and if it didn’t have such an ideal diurnal temperature range, and a wealth of different soil types and micro-climates; the early history of excellence (the first International gold medal for a California wine was awarded to a Livermore wine, and in the 1880s more acreage was  planted to Bordeaux varieties than Napa), and a core group of vintners intent on pushing the envelope of quality, you could forgive the lack of attention the Valley gets from the critic and high-end wine consumer. But it does…and you can’t. Or you shouldn’t, and neither should any of the producers here in the appellation.

There is too much quality inherent in the land and weather and history here to settle for producing less than terrific wine. For any number of original motivations, the winemakers who are in the Livermore Valley have been called here. But that is not enough; the Livermore Valley makes demands and it is up to us to step up and answer them. And while much has improved on the wine-quality front in recent years, everyone making wine here needs to do a better job if we are to be taken seriously by the larger world.

There isn’t always a precipitous event (like the Paris Tasting) that thrusts a place into the limelight. Much more often than not, it is the steady and quiet accretion of quality that eventually tips over past notions, and — in the words of my father  — 20 years later you’re an overnight success.

Not to put too fine a point on it…that’s your daddy’s paradigm. Information moves too quickly these days and focus is lost easily as new opportunities for wine consumers are offered, seemingly, on a daily basis, and new appellations come to the fore.

If the Livermore Valley is going to ascend to a level it should, the heavy work needs to be done now and needs to be done constantly. This is a call to arms!

It may be cute to be second place, but it sure ain’t pretty.