Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Going Back to the (Murrieta’s) Well; There was a Crooked Vine; Rob Petrie Didn’t Live in La Rochelle
Hey guys, Kathy and I had a nicely civilized mini-jaunt down to Livermore the other day. She had to work Saturday, so took Friday off: the perfect workday getaway to get the dust off of a couple of Internet tasting-deal coupons, as well as a great Web special purchased a while back.
We started off at Crooked Vine, utilizing a cool livingsocial Internet offer including a grand tasting and two bottles of their wine. And these bottles were not the stereotypical plonk sometimes offered on coupon deal. No “private label” white blends here: This offering hooked us up with two 2007s, featuring their estate Cabernet Sauvignon and estate Petite Sirah. They may have wanted to blow these babies out of inventory to make way for the 2008s currently on offer, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen any Groupon-like clearinghouse participant dip into the trunk to fill the gig bag with almost $70 worth of juice, on an Internet deal costing a fraction of that.
At Crooked Vine, John, a gent we thought we’d recognized from an earlier visit, was our guide. This particular Friday afternoon chez tasting room was pretty chill; it seemed to embolden John to turn on the flourishes and treat us to some swag “under the counter.” Sweet. He had this cool gesture of pouring the wine selection into the glass and tilting it toward your nose for a couple of seconds for you to evaluate, before placing it on to the tasting bar in front of you.
This was one afternoon when the final word on the sign Kath snapped at Crooked Vine, (pic above) resonated for us. I don’t mean to get all Car Talk on y’all, but sometimes, when the timing is right, as it was for us, you’ll encounter a CV joint.
OK, time to redeem some discount Web printouts at a couple of our haunts down the street.
Murrieta’s Well, an old-skool offshoot of the venerable Wente Family wine empire in the Livermore Valley, showcases a side of blending here not seen since Joaquin Murrieta himself noticed an Artesian well bubbling onsite circa 1850.
Germany, meet France. (The nonvintage “Whip,” where Gewurtz meets Chard)
Spain, do you know Italy? (The 2010 Tempranillo blend, featuring Barbera)
Bordeaux, have you ever been to the ghetto? (Cabernet and Petite Sirah)
As the poet said, “No offense; I think you’re all going to get along famously!” (Enter tanks. No, wait; I meant “stainless,” and wooden barrels from the finest forests of … oh, forget it.)
Our final stop this fine afternoon was the Steven Kent/La Rochelle duo-plex: One turn off Tesla Road (no kidding; the Lawrence Livermore Lab is mere blocks away from this region), and one can park the Lisa Marie within a cork’s throw of both tasting rooms owned by Steven Mirassou.
The “Steven Kent” (reminds me of Washington state’s “Mark Ryan” winery: “Ryan” is his middle, not last, name), thing always makes one scramble when one names something after the fam. I always think of a restaurant named after yourself that goes into bankruptcy with your name on the front page of the menu. But, sometimes it’s an eponymous winery that you decide to sell, and the buyers want to keep your name and the goodwill that that name engendered. Suddenly, the check is cashed and you can’t use your own surname on any of your new biz ventures anymore. Halston, please pick up the courtesy phone.
The “Barrel Room” at Steven Kent is a classic, oh-so-civilized facility, pouring selections from SK’s Bordeaux-based varietals and blends, mainly kicking it Livermore-style. This awesome tasting room features also juice from across the way, at, same-proprietor-owned La Rochelle, another sleeve of the SK-monogrammed shirt specializing in Pinot (Noir, plus others) sourced up and down Cali.
Steven Kent and La Rochelle selections are poured at the Barrel Room, a semi-fussy (in a good way) tasting room at which you wait for two seconds to be escorted to a stand-up table (actually, a wine barrel topped with large surface) and are treated to elegant personal tasting service. And none more elegantly provided by Thom.
Dude knew his shi-ite. OK, didn’t hurt that he thought we might like some stuff off the card. Pouring us a varietally bottled Pinot Meunier from the Sonoma Coast? Did not hurt that this 2010 varietal from Four Sisters Vineyard was outrageously smooth, paradoxically kicking in the teeth of other blending grapes fronting as varietals.
Thom is a big part of the reason that we joined yet another wine club, the Pinot-centric La Rochelle, after divesting ourselves of almost all of said clubs.
A very nice tasting trio today. Livermore Labs, indeed.