Darcie Kent Vineyards, located in California’s Livermore Valley, specializes in a variety of single vineyard wines, ranging from Gruner Veltliner to Petite Sirah. Darcie Kent is a fourth generation vintner and an accomplished artist. Kent pays homage to the various vineyards that produce the grapes for her wines by featuring her artistic interpretation of these vineyards on the bottle labels. As you can see, these labels are quite impressive.
The vineyards from which Kent sources her grapes are located primarily in the Livermore County and Monterrey County AVAs. There is some great information on the winery’s website which speaks to the location and the owners of each vineyard. As a big sports fan, one story that particularly appealed to me involved the Madden Ranch Vineyard. It’s owned by–you guessed it–John Madden, of Oakland Raiders and EA Sports video game fame. The grapes grown for the Crown Block Merlot hail from the Crane Ridge estate vineyard, which is owned by David and Darcie Kent.
The Livermore Valley is not a region that I am overly familiar with. The Livermore Valley Wine Winegrowers Association, which touts on their website that “we’re closer than you think”, points out that the Livermore Valley is only 35 miles southeast of San Francisco. Concannon Vineyard is the largest winery in the area.
Given my unfamiliarity with the region and it’s wines, I was extra excited to give Darcie Kent’s wines a try.
Darcie Kent Vineyards “Crown Block” Merlot, 2008
13.9% alcohol. Livermore Valley AVA. Crane Ridge Vineyard (Estate Vineyard). Less than 250 cases produced.
The Crown Block Merlot is Darcie Kent’s flagship wine, and rightfully so. It was my favorite wine of the lineup. Dimensions of fruit, earth, and oak congeal beautifully. It features cherry, brambly blackberry, damp earth, tar, and nutmeg aromas and flavors, with light smoke that lingers in the background. The wine’s balance and concentration really shine through in the mouth. It’s medium-bodied with a complimentative oak presence. The Crown Block Merlot offers a diverse array of flavors and aromas that should appeal to many, many palates.
Rating: Highly Recommended
Darcie Kent Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Madden Ranch, 2008
13.9% alcohol. Livermore Valley AVA. Madden Ranch Vineyard. 10,000 cases produced.
I noticed some strong similarities between Darcie Kent’s Cabernet Sauvignon and the Crown Block Merlot. Like the Merlot, the Cab had a distinct earthy quality to it. After examining each bottle, I realized that the alcohol content is exactly the same, at 13.9%. This Cab has a wide range of aromas and flavors, with rich blackberry, cassis, Asian spices, floral notes, black licorice, glycerin, light cedar, and pickle barrel. Generous acidity greets the palate, as well a moderate to strong oak. The “Madden Cab” drinks well for the price point and is the most readily available of the wines reviewed, with 10,000 cases produced.
Darcie Kent Vineyards Pinot Noir, Rava BlackJack Vineyard, 2010
15.0% alcohol. Monterey County AVA. Rava BlackJack Vineyard
I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting a whole lot out of Darcie Kent’s Pinot when I read that the alcohol content was 15%, a level more typically approached by robust Zinfandels. Damned previously conceived notions! I was pleasantly surprised with the lively aromatics and flavors that this wine has to offer. This Pinot is very much a fruit-driven wine, led by cherry and raspberry, that is complimented nicely by pine resin and a pleasant smokiness. It displays a light to medium weight, with moderate heat on the back palate. A nice, fruity Pinot that’s well-priced at $24.00.
Darcie Kent Vineyards Chardonnay, DeMayo Vineyard, 2010
14.5% alcohol. Livermore Valley AVA. DeMayo Vineyard. 2200 cases produced.
Impressions/Notes: The DeMayo Vineyard Chardonnay leads off with coconut cream pie, lime, and pineapple. Light bacon fat and buttery aromas emerge from the background. In the mouth, this Chardonnay seemed particularly dry. Unlike the nose, the flavors seemed a bit muted, with a tart lemony taste making the most impact. This wine was probably my least favorite of the lineup, although it should be noted that it has received some very positive press.