Archive for the ‘Livermore’ Category

L.V.C. – 130

Friday, July 29th, 2005


Shame on me for not posting this one last week as part of my other Livermore adventures. It was the last stop of the day, and the palate was getting a tad weary. But L.V.C. is a winery worth looking for and one I am definitely looking forward to going back to soon.

Lvc_bldgL.V.C. stands for Livermore Valley Cellars. The funny part is that to find it, one has to drive through an enclave of burgeoning track homes. It is somewhat odd to be driving through construction of brand new single-family homes and then quite suddenly stumble upon cluster of older shacks, barely standing, with kids running around, setting up a lemonade stand, a dog or two, and some seemingly-abandoned trash.

Lvc_tasting_room1But step inside the tasting room and prepare to be surprised. As a limited production winery, the offerings are limited but engaging. Mostly producing Zinfandel, L.V.C. has an interesting offering of French varietals and blends that… well, let’s just say are quite intriguing. It is obvious they have their tongue firmly planted in cheek and for that I am grateful. Again, I regret my tired palate in these notes. It certainly does not due justice to the quality of the wines and the fact that I want to go back when there is a Petite Sirah being poured:

2001 Livermore – "Not a varietal, but a concept." A white Bordeaux blend of 60% Semillon and 40% Sauvignon. $14.50

2003 Chardonnay, Sblendorio Vineyard – Clean, clear apple toned, so akin to a French Cider or beer as to be misleading, but for me, in a good way. Not too hot, very little (if any) malo. Just crisp fruit and engaging flavors. $14.00

2004 Syrahnade, Syrah Rosé – 88% Syrah, 12% Chardonnay. Lovely, clean offering despite the odd blend. I am becoming more of a fan of the rosé but to have the Syrah grape and Chardonnay grape come together like this could seem scary — it isn’t! $12.00

1999 Alicante Bouschet, Lodi, "Profundo" – Immediate chocolate qualities but flavors that seemed harsh and tinny. Sold out.

2000 Arcanum – A Bordeaux blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon from Thatcher Bay and 48% Merlot from One Oak Vineyard. $23.50

2002 Syrah – Medium color, nice fruity nose. Not huge or chewy or too inky. Very balanced fruit that is easy to drink — and easy to drink a lot of. Cherry and dark plum, some faint whisper of roasted meat and a finish that shows a touch of floral qualities. Sold out.

2002 Livermore Zinfandel – Medium color. This is like a Zinfandel on training wheels, but not in a bad way. For those folks who find Zinfandel too overwhelming a wine due to overt spice or fruit, this would be a great starter. It has all the classic zinfandel flavors and tastes, but simply in a more subtle, almost repressed style. $13.95

2002 Sblendorio Zinfandel – Medium ruby color and a medium-bodied zinfandel. Berry tones that were not overt but simple and easy to drink. Hints of spice on the end. $16.00

2003 Left Behind Zinfandel – "The next Big Ass Zin." Syrah-like nose with bacon and soy sauce. 1/4% residual sugar. 60% DeMayo Zinfandel, 12% Kestrel Ridge, 12% Sblendorio, 12% Syrah, and 4% Chardonnay. Faint, sweet entry from that hint of residual sugar, but blossoms with roasted meat and barbecue sauce. Integrated dark fruit and brown sugar. $17.00

L.V.C. ~ 1508 Wetmore Road ~ Livermore ~ CA ~ 94550 ~ 925-454-9463

Tamás – 125

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005

Tamas_signTamás Estates shares its location (and signage) with Steven Kent. When you enter the driveway of the wineries’ location, Steven Kent’s large, Spanish adobe is the first building you see. But as you drive around to the back, is the smaller, more horizontal Tamás building.

Tamas_bldgOn the day of my visit, Steven Kent’s facility was closed for a private wine event, but the Tamás folks were accommodating to all the visiting guests. It made it slightly confusing about who was pouring what, but over-all the service was exceptional (despite the heat) and everyone seemed happy.

Tamas_tasting_roomMy friend, Walt, indicated that Tamás used to be owned by Iván Tamás and Steve Mirassou. Several years ago they were acquired and are now part of the "Wente portfolio" of wines. Despite its corporate enclave, overall I was impressed with the wines:

NV Brut Sparkling Wine – Made from both Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc grapes. Some yeasty aromas up front with a clean, citrus tone. Toasty mouth entry that diminishes to produce a touch of lemon peel. $18.95

2003 Pinot Grigio – Almost perfectly clear with a bare shimmer of color. Sweet aromas of young flowers and bright citrus. The citrus continues in the mouth feel and is coupled with fresh apple. Heightened, clean acidity in the mid-palate makes this a very refreshing offering. $11.95

2003 Chardonnay – Intense ripe citrus shows up front; grapefruit, lemon peel, and a touch of lime. Crisp, easy entry is balanced and shows a touch of oak on the finish. $10.95

2002 Barbera – 100% Barbera. Jammy bouquet of bramblefruit, some dark cherry, and a tease of vanilla. Character and depth show immediately on the first taste. Bright acidity and structure easily impress. $16.95

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon – 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark, fruity cherry and oak predominate the nose. Considering the quality of the previous tastes, the harsh entry of this wine was a sad surprise. It didn’t go anywhere after that. $11.95

2002 Zinfandel – Rich aromas of complex spices and dark fruit including black plum and some black pepper. Surprisingly sweet entry that makes me wonder if there was any residual sugar in the wine. Decent entry that gets a tad hot in the mid-palate. The heat will probably subside with a bit of aging. $14.95

2003 "Prima" Riserva Limitata – A blend of 76% Barbera, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Syrah. I don’t get it. Unimpressive blend of undetectable flavors. $24.95

Tamás Estates ~ 5443 Tesla Road ~ Livermore ~ CA ~ 94550 ~ 925-456-2380

Steven Kent – 124

Monday, July 25th, 2005

Sk_signSteven Kent winery shares its entrance with Tamás (which will be blogged next). Steven Kent’s facility is in the front and the far more grandiose of the two. On the day of my visit, there was a private wine-club party in the Kent facility, but Tamás was generously pouring Kent’s wine in their tasting room (which made it a tad crowded).

Sk_bldgWhile I was simultaneously tasting Kent wines and Tamás wines, one of the young Kent workers noticed I was taking copious notes and when I indicated I was a wine writer, invited me over to the private event to taste the new releases.

Sk_tasting_roomDelighted at the prospect, I was able to take a few interior shots where their wine tasting room normally sits, however due to the crowds, I was unable to get the "Kent story" to relate here and their website is somewhat lacking in any background information.

Sk_winemakerThere was a nice gentlemen pouring some of the select wine, but I was unable to get his name or affiliation with the property. Ultimately, all I can tell you about is the wine that I tasted and that the folks I met were extremely friendly and helpful.

2003 Merrillie Chardonnay, DeMayo Vineyard – 100% malo in 100% French oak. Butterscotch and lemon predominate the nose, balanced entry that shows considerable minerality. A wine-club offering only.

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore – Intense tones of Bing cherry, dark chocolate, and a whisp of eucalyptus in this dark, ruby red wine. Rich, smooth entry which blossoms to continue the dark fruit and a spicy finish. $45.00

2002 Radius, Home Ranch, Merrillie Vineyards – 60% Syrah, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Barbera. Sweet aromas of smoky bacon and thick soy sauce. Rich spices including nutmeg, cardamom, and cedar. Rich, well-integrated flavors that sweetens on the end. $32.00 for wine club members.

Steven Kent ~ 5443 Tesla Road ~ Livermore ~ CA ~ 925-456-2380

Cedar Mountain Winery – 123

Saturday, July 23rd, 2005

Cm_signIt was while admiring the superlative port at Bent Creek, that Carole recommended I head to Cedar Mountain Winery, another winery known for their port. They are located on what is generally considered to be the main road in Livermore for wineries for while a few are off on side roads, the main stretch through the rural part of town is peppered with wineries such as this one.

Cm_bldgCedar Mountain Winery was established by Linda and Earl Ault in 1990. While the tasting room and adjacent office space is relatively small, the entrance leads to an area that is surrounded by larger buildings which include a bottling area, press, and barn.

Cm_tasting_roomThe inside of the tasting room is intimate but functional. Around the room are mountain-climbing devices and numerous pictures of the Aults on expeditions and I overheard one of the pouring staff indicate that Cedar Mountain was named for their love of climbing.

Cm_filterOne of the extremely interesting things I saw for the first time were pouring spouts with built-in filters. I’m still questioning this and will investigate it further; should a wine be filtered better before it gets put in the bottle? Or if a wine needs filtering on this scale, should it be decanted? I truly don’t know but was bemused that these filtered spouts seem to be de rigueur for this tasting room.

2004 Sauvignon Blanc, Del Arroyo Vineyard, Livermore – Rich aromas of lemon peel and floral tones. Rich, tangy entry with a finish that shows some integrated lime. $11.95

2001 Estate Chardonnay, Blanches Vineyard, Livermore – At a 100% malo, I was surprised that this chardonnay was 15.5% alcohol. It certainly did not taste nearly as hot as that number would imply. I found it a classic offering of tropical fruit and kiwi on the nose and balanced oak and butter in the mouth feel. Creamy finish is a standard that I’m sure Chardonnay loves would enjoy. $18.00

1999 Zinfandel, Amador County – Fabulously rich nose of blueberry and raspberry showing depth of age with hints of dusty herbs, cinnamon, and cardamom. Easy bright entry continues the herbal quality with a bit more sage coming forward and a dusty floral finish. $18.00

1998 Merlot, One Oak Vineyard & Thatcher Bay Vineyard, Livermore Valley
– Flinty, metallic aroma with hints of green bell pepper in the core. Medium bodied with some medium-bodied fruit, mostly unexciting. $21.50

2002 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Blanches Vineyard, Livermore Valley – Green bell pepper and dusty cocoa. Medium body bright entry shows herbs and dried twigs in the mid-palate. Long finish shows hints of floral and even fruit. $22.00

1998 Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Blanches Vineyard, Livermore Valley – Dark, bricky red. Dark fruit in the nose with some cinnamon. Dark plum and berry with herbal mid-palate with a chewy finish. $50.00

1999 Duet; 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot, Livermore Valley – Green bell pepper predominates but then displays strong aroma of cedar and slight medicinal qualities. Harsh entry with licorice core and strident finish. $15.40

1999 Late Bottled Vintage Port, Amadaor County – Portuguese grape blend that spent four years in the barrel. I am imagining these also came from Tim at St. Amant, but the pouring host was unsure. I was a bit surprised how sweet this wine was, moreso than i normally appreciate. Mostly a concentrated blackberry liqueur with layers of herbs. $25.00

1998 Cabernet Royale, Blanches Vineyard, Livermore Valley – Slightly cloudy with a orange edge. Surprisingly oxidized for a newly-opened bottle, possibly corked. $25.00/500 ml

1998 Port Royale – A blend of the previous two stickies. Bricky orange color with aromas of dusty floral. Sweet core of blackberry. $35.00/500ml

2003 Chardonnay del Sol, Chardonnay Port, Blanches Vineyard, Livermore Valley – Made with a base core of alembic there were more alembic aromas than fruit from the core wine. $18.75/375ml

Cedar Mountain Winery ~ 7000 Tesla Road ~ Livermore ~ CA ~ 925-373-6636

Bent Creek – 122

Friday, July 22nd, 2005

Bent_creek_signAt the end of the long road where White Crane is located is another hidden little gem, Bent Creek Winery.  I had barely noticed the sign and was thankful that the folks at White Crane recommended them. After travellilng down the long, straight paved road, Bent Creek is a dirt-road drive through a rural home set amongst surrounding vineyards. I have to admit to being a tad curious about the seemingly odd logo which is seen on the sign. I thought it a bit crude — until I saw the website; it seems the property lies in the middle of an erratic bent creek.  They took the exact alignment of the creek and successfully transcribed it as part of their logo.

Bent_creek_bldg_1Upon arrival, one sees an adobe-style Spanish home next to which is a smaller building from which blares lively Mariachi music. I was surprised at the volume, thinking that because I could hear it so clearly as far away as my car, that it must be deafening inside the tasting room. It was only when I opened the door to enter, that I realized they had speakers in place on the outside of the building, literally inviting guests inside.

Bent_creek_tasting_room_1The tasting room is intimate and well-aportioned. The folks behind the counter were extremely engaging and informative. Linda (on the left) was pouring for me, but a charming lady joined in the afternoon banter. It was a pleasure to learn that she was actually one of the four proprietors.

Carole_and__1Carol Howell (on the right) explained that she and her husband, along with another couple, all work(ed?) for the school district when, as partners, they started planting vineyards on the side. Their first wine was produced in 2000 but the tasting room’s construction was not completed until 2002. Now making almost 2,000 cases, the four work together making and blending the wine and processing the grapes, while some (if not all?) still work in the school district. This is a winery whose product across the board impressed me immensely. There is great potential and I will be watching them closely and drinking more Bent Creek in the future.

2004 Mendocino County Sauvignon Blanc – Crisp green apple bouquet with a hint of grapefruit. Tangy entry expands the green apple and finish with a lovely sharpness. $15.00

2003 Livermore Valley Chardonnay – Very clean and expressive fruit of red apple and a hint of apricot. Distinct entry showing integrated fruit and some cream. $16.00

2001 Amador County Zinfandel – 2% Petite Sirah. Port-like nose showing elegant cinnamon and cardamom spice. Easy medium-bodied mouthfeel showing dark raspberry and boysonberry. Smooth with nary a touch hotness. $15.00

2002 Livermore Valley Syrah – An estate-grown wine that is intensely dark with black cherry and soy sauce aromas. Spicy mouth feel with black plum, that is rich and complex, showing depth and a tease of smoky bacon. Exceptional. $19.00

2002 Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Made from three tons of grapes from two vineyards; White Crane and Thatcher Bay. Lovely black currant bouquet with a hint of eucalyptus. Very smooth, easy entry with velvety tannins that shows a long, cherry finish. $24.00

2003 Livermore Valley Petite Sirah – This was their first harvest of this wine. Inky, port-like aromas of candied plum and dusty cocoa. Very full-bodied with black fruit in the front and a slightly dry finish showing a bit of uneveness, but great potential. I will definitely go back for this (and a Syrah!) after these vines have produced another vintage or two. $25.00

2002 Amador County Vintage Port – Along with the Syrah, this was the surprise of the visit. Carol indicated it was a port made entirely from proper Port grapes;

Touriga, Tinta Cao, Alvarelhao, Souzao, and Tinta Roriz. Feeling a bit of deja vu, where else have I had a California port made with the proper grapes? Of course! St. Amant in Lodi! I told Carol about this astonishing Port producer that I adored who makes this amazing port…  To my joy and surprise, Carol let me know that it was Tim Spencer himself who was supplying Bent Creek their grapes AND teaching them the fine art of Port making. There’s a reason I liked it, showing intense rich aroma in its dark, ruby tone. There are cherries and some sweet herbs. The complexity is even and developed. $23.00

Bent Creek Winery ~ 5455 Greenville Road ~ Livermore ~ CA ~ 94550 ~ 925-455-6320