It was a sold out, semi-formal party that filled the barrel room of The Palm Event center with fans, friends and family in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Lineage, the flagship wine brand first released in 2009 by fifth generation vintner, Steven Mirassou.
Dressed in formal and semi-formal attire, guests enjoyed 2013 La Rochelle Blanc de Noir and passed hors d’oeuvres by Beets Catering, as they posed for photos and exchanged anecdotes of how they came to be part of this important chapter in the history of winemaking in the Livermore Valley. Some remembered joining the Steven Kent Winery club when the Mirassous were still sharing a table with the late Ivan Tamas, back in the late 1990s. Most joined as the flagship cabernets from SKW brought new attention to the potential of the AVA in the early 2000s.
But it was Steven Mirassou’s creation of Lineage, the iconic Bordeaux-style blend that he intended to be on par with the greatest wines in the world, that set a new standard for Livermore winemaking with its first vintage in 2007.
No single winemaking effort has sparked so much buzz, both inside and outside the region, inspiring other winemakers in the valley to step up their game, thereby raising forever the quality benchmark.
The evening really kicked into high gear when the entire Lineage team, including Steven Mirassou, brand manager Nancy Castro, Steven’s father Steve and his step-mother Lynn, his son Aidan, and assistant winemaker Beth Refsnider greeted guests in a receiving line. At each place setting awaited five vintages of Lineage, selected by Mirassou.
Attention turned to a video chronicling the inspiration behind the wine.
“It’s a quest,” Aidan said. “My first harvest was 2014. It is daunting to take the mantle from my Dad. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe.”
Blending starts in February and ends in July. Refsnider described it as humbling and inspiring, marveling at how tweaking tiny percentages of any given component made such a huge impact on the outcome. Perfection is elusive.
“I have more vintages behind me than in front of me,” Mirassou said. “It doesn’t make sense to make wines that are ‘just ok.’ We have an opportunity to create something great. Something life-changing, something worthy of age, attention and love.”
With that guests toasted him and each other, as they dug into four courses, beginning with the 2011 Lineage paired with a salmon and spinach salad, the 2007 paired with a wild mushroom risotto topped with crispy prosciutto, and the 2013 alongside the main course of braised short ribs atop buttermilk mashed Yukons, ginger-glazed carrots and a demi-glace made with the 2016 Lineage, which also made an appearance. The cheese course, which included Lineage-infused figs, dark chocolate fudge and bittersweet truffle, did the 2014 Lineage proud.
When VP of Operations for SKW/Lineage, Jennifer Fazio, asked the crowd for their favorite pairing, the 2007 and risotto won by a landslide.
“Overall, Beets did an amazing job with the pairings. We could not be happier with how the evening turned out,” she said.
But it was the remarks by Steven’s father, Steve Mirassou, who Steven jokingly gave 30 seconds to speak, that provided the underpinnings to the story.
“I’m supposed to tie myself into the Lineage story,” he said. “But it’s really Steven’s baby. How do I fit in?”
In 1966, he approached his father and an uncle about getting into the consumer side of the wine business. Up until then, the Mirassous had been growers in Monterey, where they had planted vineyards in the early 20th century. They produced only bulk wine. Steve Mirassou wanted something more.
He and his cousins decided to make 25 cases of wine, the minimum to enter the nascent Monterey Wine Competition. They’d need a tasting room: they’d also need to do marketing. Realizing they didn’t know anything about this part of the business, they hired Robert Mondavi to consult with them.
“Bob didn’t think much of our wines, so he brought a bunch of bottles of 1959 first growth Bordeaux’s to dinner one night for us to try,” Steve said. “This was way beyond my budget. I had never tasted anything like it. My life was forever changed.”
He recalled how Steven, after living on the East coast for 10 years for college, came back to California looking for a job in 1992. He had no interest in wine.
“Somehow, he got involved in the wine business, and never left,” Steve said.
They started Steven Kent Winery in 1996, and the rest is history in the making.