Almost each night, I have the pleasure of selecting a wine for the evening. It’s mostly based on the meal. Last night, dinner was Filipino-Style Marinated Grilled Steak, and I was in the mood for a red. I decided on the 2008 Steven Kent Fratello, a juicy blend of Barbera, Petit Verdot, and Merlot. The Steven Kent Winery is in Livermore. As I was enjoying the wine, I began to wonder why I don’t have more wine from the Livermore Valley. It’s the closest wine region to where I live (20 minutes away), yet I rarely go there, and we have a minuscule amount of Livermore Valley wine. Then I recalled what I considered an insightful blog post, from Steve Heimoff, who is the West Coast Editor for the Wine Enthusiast magazine, author, and one of my favorite wine bloggers, entitled “Trying to rescue a failing appellation”. The post, and the majority of the accompanying comments set forth their opinions about why they find the Livermore Valley lacking. Heimoff posits two reasons; “suburbanization“, and the lack of “enough qualified, or quality-oriented, vintners working there“.
I don’t think it’s the terroir – at least one vineyard of note comes to mind, the Ghielmetti Vineyard, which produces much sought after grapes. And I think the region is lovely place to visit. There’s even an ample history of significant historical events. For example, according to the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association website, “Livermore Valley wineries were the first to bottle varietal labeled Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Petite Sirah“. I think the raw materials are there. Setting suburbanization aside, that leaves the wine making.
I thought about my own recent experience with wine tasting in Livermore several months ago, which I considered worse than “disappointing”. My first stop was at a winery that has won scores of medals in various wine competitions. I found the wines to be awful – across the board. The next stop wasn’t much better. I enjoyed the wines at our third stop, Steven Kent. The fourth, and fifth wineries were OK. And, it wasn’t my first time being disappointed by Livermore Valley wines either, I’ve been on a few other occasions, with the same result; for every winery where I enjoy most of the wines, there seem to be 2 or 3 others I don’t particularly care for. In my opinion, my visits are the Livermore Valley wines in a microcosm. The collective quality of the wines is simply not there. Until that changes, I’d rather spend more time on the road for better wine.
- East Bay Wineries: A Two-Wheeled Tasting Adventure (huffingtonpost.com)