California's Livermore valley was once the state's largest single wine region. What? You don't remember that time? Well it's hardly your fault that you weren't around in the 1880's. But back then it was a happening place, with wineries springing up everywhere. Some of those wineries (or at least their vineyards) are still around, but most have been demolished to make way for high-tech manufacturing companies, office parks, and the now infamous Lawrence Livermore Labs.
Amidst all that buildup, and the suburban sprawl that has grown up around it, however, over the last couple of decades winemakers have been rediscovering their heritage, and Livermore Valley now plays host to nearly thirty wineries, and has become the secret weapon of several other wineries around the state (who secretly source grapes from the region in amounts that don't require them to disclose it on the label).
Darcie Kent is one of the best of Livermore's small labels. Small is almost too large a word for this production which rarely exceeds 150 cases. Owned by Darcie and David Kent, this is a personal wine produced off their estate in the Crane Ridge foothills on the eastern edge of Livermore Valley. Despite the small time nature of the label, Kent is actually a big time name in the Livermore wine industry. David Kent is chief executive of The Wine Group which is the third-largest wine producer (of mostly low-price-point boxed wine) in California and which is the owner of Concannon Vineyards (also in Livermore Valley).
The foothills where the Kent's make their home are marked by well draining gravelly soils. Because of their elevation and surrounding geography, they receive cool night air like much of the San Francisco Bay region, which moderates the usually high daytime temperatures of the valley, and makes for pretty decent growing conditions.
I don't know much about the winemaking for this wine, other than the fact that it is aged in new French oak for some time.
Medium ruby colored in the glass, this wine has a nose that quickly evolves and opens with some air -- starting with aromas of toasted oak, almonds, and vanilla, and gradually filling out to scents of redcurrants, plums and cherries. The taste undergoes a similar evolution (I recommend giving the wine a couple of hours of air before drinking) but ultimately delivers a rich palate of cherry and plum flavors with a little exotic spice, and a very interesting finish that the label accurately describes as chocolate-mint. The overall balance of the wine is not quite as poised as it could be, and at first I detected a bit of alcoholic heat in the back end of the wine, which mars the overall experience. This seems to dissipate over time.
Merlot is a generally unobtrusive varietal which means that it can be paired with a lot of things. In particular I think it is a good match for Mediterranean food of various kinds. Try it with Lebanese lentil and rice pilaf with blackened onions and warm flatbread.
Overall Score: 8.5
How Much?: $24
I get mine through Porthos.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.
Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 4, 2015 Vinography Images: A Shaggy Guardian Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 26, 2015 Vinography Images: Above the Coast 2015 Seven Percent Solution Tasting: May 6, San Francisco Imagining a Better Future for the Soils of Champagne A Brief Video Lesson in Champagne Disgorgement Vinography Images: The World of the Leaf Book Signing on May 9th, at Raymond Vineyards in Napa Doorman: Changing My Wine Delivery Life
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune