Last updated on February 3, 2024
A wine family legacy typically continues from generation to generation. Still, what happens when you come from a well-known wine family and want to pursue a new direction forward? Take the Mirassou family, who established their winery in the Santa Clara Valley in the 1800s. Sixth-generation Steven Mirassou comes from a long-standing family in the industry, but he chooses to weave his own path. The route took him to Livermore to become a prestigious Livermore Valley Winery, where he has concentrated on Cabernet Sauvignon, and Bordeaux blends under his Steven Kent Winery wines.
The Lineage label and many of his others showcase the fine wines produced from this winery and exemplify Steven’s mission of creating Cabernet that rivals some of the best worldwide.
I have followed Steven and his wines for some time now and seen their growth and development over the years. Steven Kent Winery began in 1996 when Steven and his father decided to start a winery focused on Cabernet Sauvignon. Their mission is to “create wine that celebrates the lushness of California while maintaining a more acidic driven and tannic style that speaks of old-world.”
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Why A Livermore Valley Winery?
Livermore is one of the oldest grape-growing regions in California. It was considered the best region in the late 1800s and one of the first to win awards in Europe. With Prohibition, many wineries in Livermore, including Wente, and Concannon made sacramental wine. After Prohibition ended, fast forward to the 1960s and 1970s, clones of grapes from Wente and Concannon became the standard for California. Wente for Chardonnay and Concannon for Clone 7 Cabernet.
Those clones comprise about 70% of the Cabernet Sauvignon grown in California today. Because these clones originated at a Livermore Valley Winery, it made sense to Steve that the best place to grow Cabernet Sauvignon seemed like Livermore.
Besides the history of Cabernet Sauvignon in the valley, Livermore Valley is uniquely positioned because of its east-west orientation. Breezes come in from San Francisco Bay and create a diurnal effect from day to night, resulting in warm days and cool nights.
The region was initially known and still produces some of the best Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Steven and his father figured that these white Bordeaux varieties grow so well in the area why not try the red Bordeaux varieties, especially Cabernet Sauvignon?
Steven Mirassou And His Livermore Valley Winery
As life takes us down many paths, Steve’s career path took him down the teaching road. He had a master’s in literature and hoped to teach college literature and write books. Steven has done the latter with his recent book, Lineage Life & Love & Six Generations in California Wine. But along the way, goals change, and Steven entered his family’s business.
Steven and his father began with one Cabernet Sauvignon. Fast forward to today, and Steven produces four labels of wines, SKW, Lineage, L’Autre Côte, and Mia Nipote. All Steven Kent wines deliver balance, revealing the importance of their site location, variety, and age in French oak with an average of 50 – 60 percent new oak.
At some point, they branched out into many varieties, but Steven decided to reign in, narrowing the scope of his production.
The winery encompasses 6 acres, with three planted in Barbera and Sangiovese. Grapes are sourced from many Livermore Valley vineyards, including the most prestigious Ghielmetti Estate Vineyard.
In the early 2000s, Steve became enamored with Cabernet Franc and the Loire Valley. He regards the variety as alluring yet complex. Its mysterious qualities, from its elegance to its complexity, intrigued Steven. His infatuation evolved so much that Steven created a label for the Cabernet Franc. L’Autre Côte, which means other shore in French, and pays tribute to the right bank of Bordeaux.
Steven would like to see Cabernet Franc become the grape that does not just represent his Livermore Valley Winery but the entire Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.
This label leans in an Italian bent. The most unique and one of my favorites is the Sparkling Barbera, created using méthode champenoise. One finds fresh ripe fruit that accentuates the flavors and aroma of this sparkling wine.
I first met Steven at a tasting in Los Angeles, where I sampled his Lineage wine. I became hooked. The Lineage label began in 2007. The brand pays homage to Bordeaux blends and represents Steven Kent Winery’s flagship wine. The blend combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.
This wine represents “the symbol of one family’s mission to create something of beauty, elegance, and emotion: one iconic wine equal in quality to the finest wines in the world.”
Steven Kent Winery
Under the Steven Kent Winery (SKW) label, one finds Premier is considered a reserve Cabernet created from a single vineyard Cabernet. The wine represents Steven’s finest barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine came into being in 2009. I found Premier a balanced, lush, richer wine with elegance.
Two white wines comprise the SKW brand, Lola, a white Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and Albarino. The grapes for the Albarino come from the Bokisch Vineyard in Lodi. Both are exemplary wines with nice acidity and freshness.
Steven’s son, Aidan, is the 7th generation of the Mirassou family to produce wine and continue the legacy of this oldest winemaking family in North America. Aidan is currently the assistant winemaker and has followed in his father’s footsteps.
“Steven’s devotion to making beautiful wines that emotionally connect with the drinker and to highlighting his obsession with the grape best able to do that!” Today that wine is Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.