Opening a Window on Non-Vintage Blends

La Ventana - Barbera

“La Ventana” – our NV Barbera from the Livermore Valley

Most of the regulations that exist in the wine business (at least those that pertain to the making of wine) were put there to keep guys like me honest. They weren’t created to help you, the wine consumer, determine whether the stuff that I’m making is any good. Codifying “quality” is a slippery slope and is a notion that the government tries to stay away from.

Though the concepts of appellation, vintage, and variety were meant to confer a sense of protection for the consumer and are regulated to a certain degree by the requisite agencies; they have come, instead, to describe quality. Having Napa Valley on one’s label isn’t a guarantor of quality, but it certainly does carry a premium in price for the winery and for the grower of the grapes.

In a similar vein, the vintage date has a deeper meaning than the year the fruit was harvested. In more marginal growing areas such as Bordeaux and Burgundy, the high probability of inclement weather (compared to California) argues for investing the vintage date with a real sense of quality, greater or lesser, depending upon the vicissitudes of Nature. In Champagne and Oporto, a vintage year is “declared” when the producers believe their offerings to be of exceptional quality. In California, in reality, the seasons being much more consistently consistent, the vintage year is generally a marker of dates. The marketing sage would rightly note, however, that reality is what the brands tell you, and the custom in California is for the winery to proclaim each vintage as the best yet.

Champagne and Oporto and Jerez (where Spain’s Sherries are made) have another custom, largely unused in the United States, the production of non-vintage wines. In the US, a minimum of 95% of a wine has to come from a specific year to place that year on the label. Anything less, and the wine bears no sense of season. In fact, it becomes timeless. Timelessness, as the Champenois see it, means creating a consistent style of wine that hues to the organoleptic values of the house. Bollinger’s house style will differ from Moet’s, which is different than Ruinart’s. The “house” style, in a way, represents the winery’s ethos. Independent from the inconsistencies of weather, and unmoored in the river of time, the house wines (in greater degree than their vintaged counterparts) carry more obviously the hand and mind of the winemaker in the production of a wine that tells the world what the house is.

Because of quality connotation associated with vintage dating in California, one rarely see san NV wine of quality in California. Like our comrades in Champagne, though, The Steven Kent Winery produces these blends on a fairly regular basis. In these situations, the consistent quality of the fruit we are growing and using gives us the opportunity to make the Ur-Barbera or Sangiovese, so representative of the site and the qualities that we (as winemakers and winelovers) desire from these varieties, that pinning them to a brief moment of certainty seems parsimonious.

Our newest wine, La Ventanais a blend of two different years of Barbera from our estate vineyards in the Livermore Valley. Like similar blends before it, we believe this wine captures the grape being it’s own lovely self…and tasting delicious in the process.

It’s About How Wine Makes You Feel

There can never be too much deliciousness in the world. And in the world of wine, making a wine that smells and tastes delicious would seemingly be the most obvious goal of any winemaker.

I’d contend, though, that for fine wines, those that are meant to make you think as well as smack your lips, the way those wines FEEL is of paramount concern for the winemaker.

At The Steven Kent Winery we believe in making wines that are beautiful. These wines have a wholeness to them and a balance of fruit, wood, tannin, and acid that are perceived most wholly in a tactile sense. If flavor and aroma is the greatest rock band of all time, structure is the stage, the microphone, the lights, and the sound system. Structure is what allows that band (or that great wine) to be experienced in as full a measure as possible.

The winemaker has many tools at his or her disposal to make a fine feel right. Some are more intrusive and industrial, less intuitive than others. Click on the video to learn more about one technique we’re using.

#ColorofDelicious!

I don’t know of any other kind of wine that is so closely associated with a season as Rosé is with Spring. The minute the clock ticks over to afternoon sunshine, out comes the pink stuff. And that is a decidedly good thing!

Steven’s Rules of Rosé:

  1. The wine must be full of fruit and flavor!IMG_0002
  2. The wine must be screaming with great Acid!
  3. The wine must be low in alcohol!
  4. You must enjoy the wine with all kinds of great food (cured meats, cheeses, BBQ chicken, spicy food…)
  5. Or…if you are not hungry, you must drink the wine by itself!

Following Steven’s rules, means committing to the Pink.

To get low alcohol and high acid the right way, you have to pick early. This generally rules out the bleeding off of juice from an otherwise red wine as it will probably lack the richness we have come to expect from red wine. So, the fruit you are committing to is going to be used only for Rosé; it is not going to be a by-product of a concentrated red fermentation. It also means being careful about how long you let the juice mingle with the skins…the longer the mingle, the darker the color.

Steven Kent Winery’s new release is the 2014 Vin Gris. This white-wine-from-red-grapes (the traditional meaning of Vin Gris) is loaded with strawberry and raspberry notes, comes in at only 11.7% in alcohol, goes with every food under the sun, shaded the most beautiful of pinks, and is the Color of Delicious!

Only 90 cases were made; it won’t be around long!

Steven Kent, Livermore Valley, and World-class Cabernet: 3 Things that Go Together

SK_09PremierCab

May marks the month that we release The Premier Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley. Our best Cabernet is necessarily made in very small quantity and is available first to subscribers of The Premier program. Steven Kent Mirassou talks about the wine below.