Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Steven Kent’s "Lineage" scores 95 Points & Three Puffs from Connoisseurs' Guide

The Steven Kent Winery's debut release of Lineage - its ultimate Bordeaux - style red, continues to wow the critics. This time, the accolades are coming from Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine, one of the most reputable industry and consumer sources. In its August issue, CG gave the 2007 Lineage a whopping 95 Points and three coveted "Puffs." It called Lineage "deep and wonderfully expressive," saying "it ranks as the single best Livermore Valley wine in memory."

These comments echo earlier raves from two other respected publications, Wine Spectator Magazine and Wine Enthusiast Magazine. W.E. tabbed Lineage at an "Exceptional" 94 Points. And Spectator gave it an "Outstanding" 91 Points, calling Lineage "one of the best wines ever from Livermore Valley."

These impressive scores help to further cement Steven Kent Winery's reputation as one of California's "rising stars" for collectable Cabernet and "Bordeaux" varietals. Steven Kent Mirassou is especially proud of this inaugural Lineage effort:  "our goal from Day One has been to showcase what the Livermore Valley region is capable of - Lineage is both a testament to the area's history and a strong statement of the future potential for world-class wines here."

The 2007 Lineage artfully combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Merlot from the Ghielmetti Vineyard and the winery's own estate blocks. Only 110 cases were produced; it retails for $125 a bottle. The 2007 release is fully subscribed at the winery but is available at select fine dining establishments. Collectors interested in the upcoming 2008 Lineage should immediately contact the winery, as only a few subscriber opportunities remain.

For more information:  Steven Kent Winery

International Tempranillo Day – September 1

TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society) announces the first International Tempranillo Day, September 1, 2011: A celebration of the Tempranillo grape with all its regional synonyms.  Tempranillo, indigenous to Spain and used in the great Rioja and Ribera del Duero wines, is planted in 500,000 acres of the world’s vineyards, making it the fourth most planted wine grape, and that would be enough to celebrate.

Until recently, this noble grape’s entire acreage was almost all grown in Spain. Perhaps others were confused by the 60 or more regional synonyms for Tempranillo, which in itself may be a record worth celebrating.

But things have changed: knowledge of this noble grape is rapidly spreading, creating excitement and a spirit of cooperation among adventurous vintners bringing this Old World variety to New World soils. Tempranillo today is grown in many more countries including the United States, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, France, Portugal, Turkey, Canada, China, Thailand, and more. And that’s why there is now International Tempranillo Day.

There are some great events coming up this week for the First Annual International Tempranillo Day on September 1.  The festivities actually begin Wednesday night, August 31, with the following:
  • Lodi Progressive Dinner - Check out the menu - you don't want to miss this celebration with 7 different Tempranillos from the Lodi area, paired with 7 different small plates at local restaurants. Start at Cellar Door in Lodi, CA, and then walk to School St. Bistro, Rosewood, and Crush Kitchen to enjoy more food and wine. 5:15 pm, August 31.
  • Septempranillo in Paso Robles - A panel discussion and sit-down tasting of Tempranillo, with tapas, at Thomas Hill Organics Market Bistro and Wine Bar in Paso Robles, CA - 5:30-7:15 pm, September 1.  Click the link - this menu looks pretty tasty, too!  
  • TempFest in Winters, CA - A citywide celebration running from September 1 through Labor Day weekend, with events at local wineries, shops and restaurants.
  • Vertical Tasting at Abacela in Roseburg, OR - A vertical style tasting of library Tempranillos, including Abacela’s 1997 Estate Tempranillo, which is thought to be the first commercial bottling of 100% varietal Tempranillo produced in America in the modern era, starting at 1:00 pm on September 1.
  • Special Tasting of Tempranillo at Jarvis, Napa, CA - In the cave at Jarvis, by appointment only (1-800-255-5280 ext. 150), September 1. 
  • Wine Tasting at Joe Monkey-Chimps Hangout Wine & Martini Bar, Roseburg, OR - C'mon down and try some fabulous Tempranillo wine!  500 SE Cass St., Roseburg, OR - (541) 679-5444, from 6-8 pm on September 1.
For more information visit:  www.internationaltempranilloday.com

Blessing of the Grapes in Livermore Valley Heralds 30th Harvest Wine Celebration

Today in Livermore Valley wine country, local clergy blessed the first grapes plucked from vines in the East Bay wine region that is home to nearly 50 wineries. The centuries-old ceremony practiced by many religions honored the vineyards, the grapes and the people who make the annual harvest a reality.

"This year’s spring was the coolest on record and the grapevines have been given a long growing season," said 5th generation winemaker Karl Wente of Wente Vineyards. "Some summertime rain presented a challenge and kept our farming team on their toes. This year’s crop is not a big as the last two years, however there is ample growth and the cool season should produce some great grapes."

The ceremony took place among the vines at the Valley's newest winery, Las Positas Vineyards on Wetmore Road. Many Livermore Valley winemakers and winery owners were present to celebrate the beginning of another fruitful harvest.

"My opinion is that we are looking at a very good harvest so far, but, if we don’t see a warming trend soon, we will be at risk of late season rains and the fruit will not be ready to pick," said winemaker Chris Graves of Ruby Hill Winery. "I think we are two to three weeks behind schedule, as far as average picking dates go. In general, I see many similarities to last year. I'm very excited about the quality of the vintage at this point--hopefully it stays that way!"

"We did not get the frost that Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, Monterey and Napa received, so I see harvest finishing around Thanksgiving or so. Could be a great vintage if the weather cooperates here on out," added Concannon Vineyard Estate Manager Jim Ryan who also serves as president of the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.

The blessing was the perfect prelude to the 30th Annual Livermore Valley Harvest Wine Celebration that will take place over Labor Day weekend.  Known for its signature shuttle buses and festive atmosphere, the event is a tradition in the Bay Area. On Sunday, September 4 and Monday, September 5 between noon and 5 p.m., area wineries will offer Livermore Valley’s best wine, food, art and music to ticket holders. Bus transportation between wineries will be available on Sunday only, and wineries will offer special activities to festival guests on Monday.

Tickets for the Harvest Wine Celebration this weekend are available online at www.LVwine.org and at Bay Area Safeway stores.

For more information about the weekend festival, please visit www.LVwine.org.

Livermore Valley Wineries celebrate 30th annual Harvest Wine Celebration

The 2011 Livermore Valley Harvest Wine Celebration marks the 30th year that people have gathered to celebrate the harvest of grapes in one of the oldest wine regions in California. Known for its signature bus service and festive atmosphere, the event is a Labor Day Weekend tradition in the East Bay. On Sunday, September 4 and Monday, September 5 between noon and 5 p.m., area wineries will offer Livermore Valley’s best wine, food, art and music to ticket holders. Bus transportation between wineries will be available on Sunday only, and wineries will offer special activities to festival guests on Monday.

Produced by the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association (LVWA), the Harvest Wine Celebration highlights the local winery experience. Thirty-two participating wineries will be pouring at their tasting room locations across Livermore Valley, surrounded by lush vines, local artists, musicians and food vendors. Eleven more wineries will be pouring and hosting festivities at either Concannon Vineyard or Wente Vineyards on Tesla Road. Food at all winery locations will be locally prepared and moderately priced (under $8). Admission includes a commemorative Livermore Valley wine glass, tastings of at least two wine varietals from each participating winery, official event program and exclusive discounts on wine purchases.

On Sunday, September 4, celebration guests are invited to ride complimentary shuttle buses between winery locations. The buses will travel on three different routes, each serving six to eleven wineries. Free parking will be available at Robertson Park in Livermore, where guests can board buses and transfer between routes during the day. Bus stops may be as far as 300 feet from winery locations, so guests riding buses must be prepared to walk up driveways.

Monday, September 5 will feature a more intimate affair, as many wineries offer unique experiences to Harvest Wine Celebration guests. Examples of Monday-only special events include:
  • Big White House & John Evan Cellars: Aroma Bar and Sensory Education—discover the aromas of different wine varietals.
  • Cedar Mountain Winery: Judy’s Bees live beehive—view the queen bee and her workers. Local honey from Cedar Mountain Winery hives.
  • Chouinard Vineyards: Home winemaking and beer making equipment and demonstrations by Brewmaster of San Leandro.
  • Mitchell Katz Winery: Barrel tasting for a nominal fee
  • Concannon Vineyard: Historian Gary Drummond will share wine country history, secrets and regional facts.
Nova Starling, local artist and creator of the colorful painting featured on 2011 Harvest Wine Celebration posters, will display more of her artwork and greet festival guests at Concannon Vineyard on both days.

Tickets are available online at www.LVwine.org and www.EventBrite.com and at all participating Livermore Valley wineries, the Wine Steward in Pleasanton, First Street Wine Company in Livermore and Bay Area Safeway stores. Ticket “will call” arrangements vary by purchase method. Please visit www.LVwine.org for details.

The flexible ticket structure and pricing for 2011 includes:
  • Two-day (Sunday/Monday) ticket: $55 in advance, $65 at the event
  • Sunday-only ticket: $45 in advance, $50 at the event
  • Monday-only ticket: $40 in advance, $45 at the event
  • Designated Driver ticket: $10 (valid both days)
The Harvest Wine Celebration is a fundraiser for the LVWA. During the event, participating wineries are open only to ticket holders with event wristbands. No outside food is allowed and the event is not intended for children. For more information, please visit www.LVwine.org or call 925-447-WINE.

Wineries hosting Harvest Wine Celebration festivities at their tasting room locations:
Wineries pouring at Concannon Vineyard:

Wineries pouring at Wente Vineyards on Tesla Road:

For more information:  Harvest Wine Celebration

Friday, August 19, 2011

New website on Women Winemakers

A new website, http://womenwinemakers.com, has been launched, presenting a comprehensive directory of women winemakers and research data which answers, for the first time, the question of how many California wineries have women winemakers. The site is the creation of Dr. Lucia Albino Gilbert, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University, and her husband, John Gilbert, Ph.D., also a professor there. “Our searchable web-based resource introduces users to California’s talented women winemakers and their accomplishments,” said Dr. Lucia Gilbert, the lead investigator on this project. “We also provide the most comprehensive and accurate information currently available on women winemakers in California, the wineries where they craft their wine, and the evolution of their careers.”

The non-profit undertaking is educational in its focus and dynamic, in that it will be continually updated. “I am delighted about the launch of the Women Winemakers Website,” said Zelma Long, one of America’s best-known winemakers and partner for the Vilafont√© project in South Africa. “It will highlight the contributions of the many women making wine; provide accurate, scholarly information about their participation in the industry; and, I hope, increase their networks and help them focus on their career paths in wine.” Sabrine Rodems, Winemaker, Wrath Wines spoke to the enhanced visibility the website brings: “Being down in Monterey where the wineries are so spread out, it is nice to have a resource where I can go to find other winemakers for advice and support; for the public, it is nice for others writing or reading about wine to see and search all the women out there making wine—it gives us a place to stand out.”

Creating the databaseDeveloping the comprehensive list of women winemakers in California was a challenging task. It was accomplished by using the index of more than 3,200 wineries supplied in the Wines & Vines Directory, visiting the websites of the wineries, talking to personnel in tasting rooms throughout the state, referring to books featuring wineries and winemakers, and talking to faculty members at the universities that have programs in oenology and viticulture. “I believe that it is the most complete list of California women winemakers in existence,” claimed Gilbert.

The study indicates the glass ceiling has not yet been shattered—only 9.8 percent of California wineries have a woman winemaker as its lead or primary winemakerAn academic psychologist, Gilbert has long studied women’s career paths, especially in the context of dual-career families and work and family life. She has also studied women’s careers in male-dominated fields. A key purpose of developing the database was to test the hypothesis that women constitute 15–20 percent of the winemakers, a widely purported percentage, even though no comprehensive list of women winemakers was available to support the assumption. The results of her study indicate that the percentage of women overall is below this range, although women in the more prominent wine regions of Napa and Sonoma appear to be making greater progress in this regard. “Using our research, we coded whether a winery’s main winemaker was a female, male, or a female-male co-winemaking team. We were able to obtain sufficient information to code the sex of the winemaker for 97 percent of the more than 3,200 wineries, omitting co-winemaking teams. A winery’s wine region was also coded,” explained Gilbert.

“The theoretical underpinnings of the study were derived from gender theory,” she continued. “We hypothesized that the visibility and cult status of a few highly acclaimed women winemakers have resulted in the perception that there are far more wineries with women winemakers than there actually are.” The study results, published on the website, found that 9.8 percent of California wineries have a woman winemaker, differing significantly from the lower end of the widely held estimate. The percentage of wineries with women winemakers for the various regions ranged from 4.7 percent to 12.4 percent, with Sonoma/Marin and Napa having the highest percentages of 12.4 and 12.2 percent, respectively.

Women Winemakers Website assists women in their winemaking careersIn the 1970s, few female students were enrolled in California university programs for winemaking. By the 1990s, that number had increased to approximately half, and continues at that level today. “Although women are making inroads in careers as winemakers, our research shows there is still a need to encourage women to enter the field and to provide the mentoring and support needed to facilitate career success,” said Gilbert. She is currently developing a taxonomy, for the website, of the career pathways of 75 women winemakers across the state and is also planning to write a book that describes the various pathways, with specific illustrations of individual women.

“Lucia Gilbert’s ambitious project has turned into an exciting website that offers so much information,” said MaryAnn Graf, California’s first woman winemaker and former co-owner of Vinquiry. Dr. Hildegarde Heymann, Professor/Enologist in the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology, concurred: “It is a great idea to have the information accessible,” she said. “Through the site, I plan to reconnect with many women with whom I have lost contact.” Graf sees the site as being useful to both men and women. “The chance to have an up-to-date list of women winemakers, their philosophies, where they worked, and how to contact them is priceless,” she said. “Women wine professionals of the future will be able to read a history and be encouraged by these winemakers’ paths. We all follow different paths.”

For more information:  www.womenwinemakers.com

Monday, August 8, 2011

Grand Opening of the new Las Positas Vineyards and Winery in Livermore Valley

Las Positas Vineyards and the Maier Family invite wine lovers to join with them at the Grand Opening of their new winery and tasting room in Livermore on Sunday August 14, 2011.  The address of the winery is 1828 Wetmore Road, located near the junction of Wetmore and Arroyo Roads.  Festivities will begin at 12 Noon and continue until 5PM include:
  • Live Music provided by the Jesse Hendricks Trio
  • Appetizers will be offered
  • Special Grand Opening Discounts on Current Releases
The Maiers were raised in the bay area and were high school sweethearts. Lothar went on to be the CEO of Linear Technology, a Fortune 500 company, and Lisa was an accomplished CPA. Las Positas Vineyards began when Lothar and Lisa Maier purchased a 20 acre vineyard on Kalthoff Common in the southern end of Livermore Valley in 2006 andplanted small blocks of Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, Barbera, Tempranillo, Petite Verdot, Malbec and several clones of Cabernet Sauvignon. 

This investment demanded a name that will depict the quality of the wine it will produce. Research brought up the name Rancho Las Positas, the original 40,000 acre property founded by Robert Livermore when he moved to this valley. The name depicted the marriage of the old world craftsmanship of winemaking and the new world pioneer spirit chronicled in the history of Livermore Valley.

Las Positas opened their first tasting room at 682 Pinnacle Road just off Greenville Road north of Lawrence Livermore Labs as they prepared to build a new winery estate on Kalthoff Common.  But then the opportunity arose to purchase the winery facility on Wetmore Road.  Along with the new wine production facility and tasting room, the property also has approximately 20 acres of vineyards planted inCabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Nebbiolo.  The new Wetmore Road vineyard compliments the originalKalthoff vineyard. This same land was the same land that Charles Wetmore grew wine that won the 1889 Grand Prize at the Paris Exposition, the first California winery to win such an award, almost 100 years before the Judgment of Paris featured in the movie “Bottleshock”.

This year, Las Positas Vineyards wines have been honored with three medals of distinction for quality at prestigious annual events including a GOLD Medal from the California State Fair for the 2008 Barbera. 

The Grand Opening is also an opportunity to meet the new Las Positas winemaker, Charlie Kidd.  Charlie grew up in Chico and graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.  After four years with wineries in San Luis Obispo County, he moved to Texas where he worked for two other wineries in the last five years.  He is certainly happy to be able to return to California and join the Las Positas team.

Las Positas Vineyards is a vineyard and winery dedicated to the marriage of Old World craftsmanship and New World pioneer spirit in the production of world class wine from our estate in California’s Livermore Valley.  We offer small lots of handcrafted wines that epitomize our commitment to the earth and her fruit.  We promise our consumers and business partners to be true to the ideal of “good wine starts with good vines and soil.”

For more information:  Las Positas Vineyards

Monday, August 1, 2011

Very successful Petite Sirah Weekend in Livermore Valley

The first annual Petite Sirah Weekend, July 30-31, proved to be a great success in Livermore Valley.   All of Livermore Valley came together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first bottling of Petite Sirah as a single varietal by Concannon Vineyard.  Each winery offered Petite Sirah discounts all weekend.

The day started off with the sold-out Niles Canyon Railway “Petite Sirah on the Rails: A Historic Train Journey Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Petite Sirah” excursion along Niles Canyon.  Over 125 passengers enjoyed a leisurely journey along beautiful Niles Canyon.  Boarding in Niles, the restored historic train traveled along the same route as the original transcontinental railroad while passengers enjoyed Petite Sirah wines from some of the best wineries in Livermore Valley.  Passengers enjoyed listening to John Concannon, fourth generation winemaker from Concannon Vineyards, as he told about the 2007 Captain Joe’s Petite Sirah.  Mark Clarin of McGrail Vineyards and Winery covered what was involved in the production of the McGrail 2009 Petite Sirah, while Collin Cranor, the young winemaker from Nottingham Cellars explained what he does to make their award-winning wine.  In addition the passengers enjoyed Charles R Winery 2008 Petite Sirah and finished up the travel with the Bent Creek Vineyards 2007 Petite Sirah Port.  Each wine was specifically paired with a delicious appetizer.

A Proclamation by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors declared the weekend of July 30-31 as the Official Weekend of Petite Sirah on the Rails in Livermore Valley, honoring the Father of America's First Petite Sirah, Jim Concannon for his contributions to California and the industry and celebrating the true heritage grape of Livermore throughout the Valley.  The Proclamation was signed by Supervisor Scott Haggerty and Supervisor Nadia Lockyer.

Later in the evening at McGrail Vineyards over 175 Petite Sirah lovers gathered for the sold-out dinner “A Celebration of Livermore’s Shining Star: Petite Sirah”.  The evening started with 15 wineries provided an array of Petite Sirah from Bent Creek, Concannon, Charles R, Eagle Ridge, Fenestra, Garre, Little Valley, McGrail, Mitchell Katz, Nottingham Cellars, Occasio, Page Mill, Ruby Hill, Thomas Coyne and Wente.  While the guests were enjoying the Petite Sirah, they listened to music, visited with friends and checked out the exciting items in the silent auction.   Jim Concannon delighted the diners with his story of Petite Sirah and later grower Julio Covarrubias provided the view from the vineyard.  Guests had a great time through the evening learning more about the great Petite Sirah, the wine of Livermore Valley, and left for home with a bounty of wine baskets, magnums and other items from the Silent Auction.

Guest enjoyed both events and are looking forward to next year.