Getting to the Bottom…

February 3, 2013

You’d think that when you nuture a wine from the grape to the bottle, tasting it from its youth, tracking each change, the effect of the new barrel on fruit, the growth of tannin, and the blossoming of balance and complexity..that each one would be as singular and unforgettable as one of your children.

Things don’t always work that way. Especially when you are tasting that wine blind with a bunch of really big wines.

I was pouring the 09 Lineage over the course of a few days last week  in Southern California, and I had the rare opportunity to have the wine newly opened three days in a row…and to taste the wine as it opened up over a multi-hour tasting. Then at the end of the week, I tasted the wine again, along with The Premier Cabernet 2009 in a flight of 8 very high-end wines from Napa.

The wine I thought was Lineage, was in fact The Premier; and the Premier ended up being a different wine, altogether.

The point is, I guess, that each time I taste wine…my own wine most assuredly, it is a new experience. No matter how well I think I know the wine, it has something special in reserve to show me, some new layer that I haven’t yet fathomed. This is one of the greatest things about wine: the truly great ones are bottomless…there is no getting everything, no understanding all that it has to offer; each tiime you taste it, there is a new level of complexity and a new level of potential beauty there.

Here’s hoping that the mystery never ends.

Take My Wine…Please

June 21, 2012

Joe Roberts of fame recently posted a video manifesto of sorts about how wine bloggers should behave when asking for samples from wineries.  It was commonsensical and appropriate: Observe the golden rule.

More important, from my perspective, was Joe’s statement, and I’m paraphrasing: as a community, wine bloggers are gaining more and more influence; if an individual blogger understands that she is part of a larger movement that behaves professionally, the community’s (read: the individual blogger’s) ability to gain access through samples, invitations to events, etc. will be enhanced. Couldn’t agree more.

But what this post really is…is an invitation to serious bloggers, videographers, and writers to request samples from me. I want you to taste my wines…and write/talk about them too, of course. Now, I know some will immediately remark on how self-serving this is…and I happily, enthusiastically, and with alacrity…admit it!

There are thousands of brands out there. The vast majority of which serve the very important purpose of making everyday wine that is affordable and drinkable.

My mission is different. I make wine from the Livermore Valley, an appellation that is blessed with the viticultural chops to make world-class wine. My flagship wine is called Lineage. Lineage is my family’s past; my future, and my only vinous weapon against Time’s implacable obligation to erase.  If Lineage becomes one of the handful of iconic wines every serious wine lover must have, then I have done my job. I’m devoting a career to trying to make it happen.

What’s important to remember is that the level Lineage attains isn’t up to me. It’s up to you. Ultimately, the quality of a wine will win out…but the wine first needs the context that only the press and restaurateurs and wine shops can give it.

So, there you go. I’m willing to lay myself out on the line, willing to take the responses as they come.

My preference is to sit down with you at my Winery to provide the context for Lineage and the other wines you taste. If you can’t make it to the Livermore Valley but are serious, and have been communicating about wine, I’ll share with you.

Just comment with your blog url and address, and I’ll get wine to you (while sample supplies last).

Lineage and Faulkner

April 14, 2012

I just finished re-reading Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and was struck again by the beauty of the language, the uncanniness of characters and the fluidity and the multi-directionality of Time’s arrow.

And we’d sit in the dry leaves that whispered a little with the slow respiration of our waiting and with the slow breathing of the earth and the windless October, the rank smell of the lantern fouling the brittle air, listening to the dogs and to the echo of Louis’ voice dying away. He never raised it, yet on a still night we have heard it from our front porch. When he called the dogs in he sounded just like the horn he carried slung on his shoulder and never used, but clearer, mellower, as though his voice were a part of darkness and silence, coiling out of it, coiling into it again. 

Steven at Faulkner's Rowan Oak residence

That is beautiful stuff…

Deeply woven into the gorgeous prose of this book is the one central leitmotiv: dissolution. Whether it is under the weight of history, prosaic greed, a longing for a chivalric code  that doesn’t exist anymore, all of the major characters (except, notably, one) are borne off on the tides of time into nothingness.

The lone exception is Dilsey. The true matriarch of the family, and the witness to the generations of madness that culminate over the roughly twenty years chronicled in the novel in Quentin’s suicide, Caddy’s promiscuity, Benjy’s institutionalization, and Jason’s financial ruin. It is Dilsey we see caring for the “idiot” Benjy (most memorably in the church sermon scene toward the end of the book); making sure that Caddy’s illegitimate daughter, Quentin, is not harmed by Jason, and taking over the role of “mother” for the white and black families described in the book.

In an appendix that Faulkner wrote 16 years after the original publication of the novel, he explains what

Faulkner Statue - Oxford, MS

happened to the major characters, a sort of Where Are They Now reckoning. The explications are of varying lengths, pages for the Compson children, paragraphs for Dilsey’s kin. For Dilsey herself, there is only her name followed by a period then a new paragraph consisting of They endured. 

There are many readers who believe that They endured is Dilsey’s epitaph, that this denotation describes her adamantine nature; that she is, indeed, a force of nature. I think the reality is different. I think that her epitaph is the period itself. For the Compson family and this bit of Mississippi history, Dilsey is not only adamantine, but also inevitable. She is a part of the Compson experience, the family history. But there is also the sense that she transcends the purely personal evocation to become a symbol of the steadfastness that outlasts the emotionality of the family  saga, the region’s history, and the region itself . Only she, among the time-lost, lost-to-time Compsons rises above the temporal; she is a fixed pin in the flow of time; a maternal symbol, Mother Earth herself. Dilsey is ineluctably connected to her place and time. Her presence is so necessary that the place and time would cease to exist without her.

Faulkner - a fan of Burgundy

Because I have the blessing and curse to reduce practically every encounter to how it informs my chosen passion, it in the character of Dilsey that I see Lineage, my flagship blend. The great brands…the Bordeaux First Growths, Grange from Australia, Harlan Estate and Ridge Montebello from California have achieved – through their longevity and quality – a certain inevitability that transcends individual vintages, maybe even transcends “wine” itself. They belong to the great flow of Time now. This is my goal for Lineage…that it both overcomes and belittles my desires for it…that it becomes meaning itself.

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.

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.