A week ago, we enjoyed a tasting at Leisure Street Winery, a newcomer to the Livermore wine scene. During that visit, we noticed that a second winery shared the address, with a distinct and separate tasting room. Intrigued, we investigated a bit and learned that McKahn Family Cellars was even newer to the area than Leisure Street Winery! Since McKahn did not pour on most Fridays, we promised ourselves that we would return soon. When it comes to visiting wineries, we tend to keep our promises!
The very next Saturday found us entering the McKahn Family Cellars tasting room. Promise kept! We immediately discovered that the term “family” was not taken light here. Mom, dad and son were all bustling about as we filed in, polishing, arranging and stocking wine bottles. Each McKahn greeted us individually, making us feel a bit like family, too. Denise (mom) set us up with wine glasses and Chuck (son) poured their 2014 Chardonnay to get us started.
While we enjoyed the lemon and pineapple notes of the Chardonnay, we learned that Chuck was the winemaker. Only a few years after earning a Cal Poly Enology degree, he has a fulltime job with a winery in Napa and another fulltime job as winemaker-in-chief for the family business. Add in planning a wedding with his fiancé next year and it is amazing that he has time to sleep.
Next up was their 2014 Zinfandel. Made from Mendocino County grapes, the cooler climate allowed Chuck to create a more gentle and nuanced Zin, with nice layers of fruit and restrained spice. This was a fun change of pace from the typical “slaps your face” Zin that is full of alcohol and pepper. A bottle of this very drinkable Zin made its way to our “bring home” list. Along the way we learned that Chuck’s exposure to winemaking started very early, when Denise worked for Wentes in the 90’s. Decades later, she’s back in the wine business, with her husband and son at her side. Only this time their family name is on the label!
Our last taste was their 2014 Syrah, made from St. Helena grapes. Aged 10 months on 40% new / 60% neutral oak, this was described as “Chuck’s passion.” We loved the blackberry and cherry notes and it’s amazing long-lasting finish. This wine forced us to break our “one bottle per winery” rule, joining the Zin on the “bring home” list.
Tasting complete, we thanked the family, paid for our wine and set off for our next tasting!
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?