If you were to poll 100 people as to where they might expect to find killer Cabs I seriously doubt very many would ever mention the Livermore AVA. When most people think about high-end wines from California (especially Cabernet sauvignon) usually places like the Napa Valley or Sonoma come to mind.
Yet there are two wineries in Livermore that make absolutely fantabulous Cabs with Livermore grapes and if you haven’t tried these you are REALLY missing out!
The McGrail Vineyards and Winery, founded by Jim and Ginger McGrail, was planted in 1999 with the intent of producing the finest Cabernet grapes in the Livermore Valley. After four years of selling their fruit to others such as Steven Kent Winery, they decided to make their own wine. In April 2008 they celebrated the Grand Opening of their new tasting room where they pour Cabernets all grown at the estate.
McGrail’s wines are a bit pricier than the average bottle of Livermore grape ($36) but once you taste them you’ll agree that they are easily comparable to many high-end Napa Valley Cabernets.
If you are going to visit the Livermore Valley Wine Country, Mc Grail is definitely a “must visit.” For more information check out their web site at: http://www.mcgrailvineyards.com/home.html
Steven Kent Winery
After visiting McGrail I then headed down to Steven Kent where I also tasted his “McGrail Vineyards” Cabernet .
The Steven Kent Winery started in 1996, like McGrail their goal is to make Cabernet in the Livermore Valley that rivals Cabernet made anywhere in the world. The wine maker is Steven Kent Mirassou and you may recognize that name “Mirassou” as Steven is the sixth generation of winemakers within the Mirassou Family. The Mirassou family are descendants of French brothers Louis and Pierre Pellier, who brought the first Pinot Noir grapes to California in the 1850s and planted them in Santa Clara County. Later the Mirassou family sold its brand name to E& J. Gallo Winery of Modesto in 2002.
The Steven Kent Winery produces small lots of premium quality wines. Currently in the tasting room they have two superb Cabs - a McGrail Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($35) and Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($45). Between the two I prefer the McGrail Vineyard. The Steven Kent Cabernets are both bright cherry red with hints of black currants, a little pepper and it definitely has a youthful oak character. The Cab has firm acidity and the tannins are well balanced with the fruit. The Livermore Valley Cabernet has a pronounced eucalyptus character that isn’t quite my cup of tea.
They also are pouring a very intense unfiltered Merrillie Chardonnay from the Livermore Valley ($30), a very fine Barbara ($36) and a unique Cabernet Port ($20). Check out the web site at: http://www.stevenkent.com/