This may sound silly since I have tasted hundreds of wines in my life, but until recently, I had not had the pleasure of tasting many wines from the Livermore Valley in California! This area is ideal for grape growing with warm sunny days, cool nights, and a breeze from the bay. The warm sunny days help develop the fruit forward characteristics in the wines, while the cooler nights help the vines keep their acidity, allowing wineries to hang the fruit longer without developing too much sugar.
I had the wonderful opportunity recently to join Livermore Valley Winemakers for lunch at Villanelle, NYC. Here we tasted a selection of their wines from white to rosé and plenty of reds! The first sip was a glass of Lola, by Stephen Kent Winery. Stephen Kent produces this wine from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes. The Semillon adds viscosity while the Sauvignon Blanc adds cleanness and elegance. Lola is a limited quantity wine, and they only produce 400 cases per year. This wine sips beautifully as an aperitif, however, it easily pairs well with spring and summer dishes too.
After the Lola, we tasted Longevity Pinot Blanc, which has won Best White Wine in Livermore the last two years. Phil Long, winemaker and his wife thought of the name after being inspired by “live long and love”, something everyone desires. This is a small family-owned winery and the Pinot Blanc was crisp and refreshing. It has nice fruit forward notes with a lot of structure and attractive acidity. I really enjoyed this wine with Villanelle’s Macerated Brussels Sprouts, because of the salty cheddar, combined with the fresh sprouts and crunchy cashews really complimented the wine and vice versa. Alongside the Longevity we also enjoyed the Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay which is an interesting wine that spends some time on its lees, which produces a nice creaminess in the wine; very California in style. They don’t use new barrels for this wine however, to keep it soft. They want the oak influence, but still, want the wine to shine and I think they have absolutely captured that! This wine is striking with minerality notes from the gravel soils, followed by apple, pear, and citrus notes and flavors.
It’s always such a pleasure when the winemakers come to NYC and showcase their wines. I love learning about how they got into wine, as well as their inspiration and goals. Winemaking is such an art and sometimes art inspires them, like Darcie Kent Winery, who showcases art on the labels. They have a gallery on site, and these beautiful works of art look absolutely stunning as bottle labels. The wine, however, is just as beautiful! I tasted the Darcie Kent Rosé which is a beautiful blush color and made from Malbec grapes. It’s a clean wine with bright floral aromas, fresh strawberry, and even has a charitable side, in which they donate some of the proceeds for this wine to their favorite charities. Darcie Kent winery also makes a Fire Pit Red wine that is nice and balanced with beautiful aromas of cherry, raspberry, spice, and plums. On the palate, it’s smooth and delicious, and honestly… perfect for sitting by a fire pit!
For lunch, I decided on the Amish Chicken with Pomme Puree and Cipollini onions. It was a great pairing with the reds that were featured and I really enjoyed the Wood Family Vineyard Merlot due to its juiciness, fruit-forward notes, and overall deliciousness. Alongside the Merlot was also a 2011 Lineage Bordeaux Blend, which is a wine inspired by Bordeaux except using Livermore grapes, and it’s phenomenal! This wine has big acid, nice tannins, and is made from 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, and the rest Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. It’s a lovely wine with elegance and age-ability that you will absolutely enjoy now or in many years (if you cellar it).
Overall if you haven’t tasted wines from this area yet, I highly recommend you do. The prices are competitive with California and the wines are worth it. If you enjoy wines with a lot of fruit, minerality, and personality then these wines are for you. It’s always hard to pick a favorite but if I had to choose my top three would be the Longevity Pinot Blanc, Darcie Kent Rosé, and Woods Merlot!