We were celebrating the arrival of 2015 the best way we could imagine: wine tasting. We started the day at Murrieta’s Well, and then drove around the corner to the Steven Kent Winery. Another wonderful experience ensued!
It has been several years since we visited Steven Kent. Considering the quality of wine and amazing ambiance of the tasting room, there is really no excuse for our extended absence. The grounds were attractive, the parking ample, and the tasting room arrival experience was unparalleled. Why did this winery fall off of our “regulars” list?
We were warmly greeted and directed to one of the numerous tables made from wine barrels. We were a bit awestruck by the surroundings! Between the warm woods, diverse artwork and holiday decorations, the tasting room was a stimulating yet relaxing environment that made us anticipate a wonderful tasting experience.
We were introduced to Lloyd, our tasting guide for the day. To say that Lloyd was a good ambassador for the winery was like saying that the Mona Lisa was an interesting little painting. Lloyd’s quiet, confident manner meshed perfectly with the elegant surroundings and the exceptional wines. Without question, he enhanced our tasting experience.
We began our tasting journey with their “Merrillie“,a 2013 Chardonnay. The Merrillie is named in honor of Steven Kent’s grandmother. Many of the Steven Kent wines bear a name that springs from the wine maker’s imagination, carried through with a label inspired by the name. That could be a fine art print, or merely someone’s snapshot. Just a bit of extra fun on the bottle.
The Merrillie is a “new style” Chardonnay. Not too buttery, with hints of lychee nuts on the nose and a presentation of the fruit that generated unprompted exclamations of “yummy” from several in our party. We credited the adept mix of new French and American oak barrels for the delightful result.
Next up was the “Birch Parade“, a 2012 Syrah. The bottle’s label featured a print of birch trees, although no parade was in evidence. A lovely Syrah, this wine showed very little aroma and featured tobacco, plum and spice notes on the palate. Only 149 cases were produced, so he who hesitates is lost, or at least without any Birch Parade.
We moved on to the “Certo” Red Blend. This wine was the result of a competition among the tasting room staff, who annually gather to create the perfect blend. The results are blind tasted, with the winner bottled under the Certo moniker. The bottle’s pink label indicates that profits are donated to advance breast cancer research. This year’s Certo blend has 50% Sangiovese, 25% Grenach, 15% Syrah and 10% Zinfandel. We appreciated the contribution of the Grenache and enjoyed the spicy nose and cherry and cranberry hints in the finish. We took a bottle of this home with us.
Lloyd next presented their 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon. Although our group doesn’t typically cheer for Cabs, this one blew us away. Great aromas of leather and fruit foreshadowed the dance of flavors across the mid-palate, with a surprisingly spicy finish. We learned that this “Cab” was actually a blend of 88% Cabernet, 5% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc. A true testament to the wine maker’s art. A bottle of this amazing wine came home with us.
This was the end of the tasting menu. To our delight, this was not the end of Lloyd’s presentation, however. He next poured a 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Ghielmetti vineyard. A nice contrast with with previous Cab, we loved the rose hips aromas and a finish that had faint echoes of rosemary.
We then tasted “Dakota” a 100% Grenache wine that sported a wolf on the label. Starting with spice/floral aromas, this smooth and drinkable example of Grenache wonderfulness (yes, I’m pretty sure that’s a word) generated smiles around our table.
Next up was “Lot 158” which got its name from the wine maker’s belief that it tasted a lot like a Lot 158. It is good to be with wine maker. A Bordeaux blend, this has 53% Petite Verdot, 34% Malbec and 13% Merlot. Hints of vanilla and cherry on the nose, this delivered a fruit party on the tongue. Our group decided that if this wine were captured as a candle, Steven Kent would have another strong revenue stream.
A 2011 Petite Verdot was our penultimate tasting. We enjoyed hints of elderberries and blackberries and the long, pleasant finish.
|Lloyd and D|
Our final tasting was their 2013 Port. The tasting room staff picks the grapes for this Port every year, and their names are emblazoned on the back label. This is a great “gateway” Port, for people who haven’t yet learned to appreciate the style. A great cherry/raisin balance without the jammy overtones that push some people away. Ready for a chilly night by the fire!
Reluctantly, we said our thanks and goodbyes to Lloyd, bundled up our purchases and made our way out of Steven Kent. On our way out, we learned about the Steven Kent wine clubs. Yes, clubs plural. The Collector’s Circle club focuses on their Italian- and Rhone-style wines while their BDX Collection club features their Bordeaux-style wines. Further, you can sign up for Allocation Offerings, which means that you are pre-allocated bottles of their most limited releases. We debated a bit whether our wine storage, party calendar and checkbook could handle another wine club and sadly decided we were at capacity. Soon though, Steven Kent, soon!
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?