Wine & Grapes

(Photo - Roberta Sorge on Unsplash)

Climate change is impacting farming everywhere.

Here in the Livermore Valley, where many are producing Cabernet Sauvignon, the climatic shift may not be so kind. While it may be getting measurably hotter in other American viticultural areas, including Napa, here in Livermore, the East-West valley orientation naturally draws in cool ocean air.

As winemaker Collin Cranor of Nottingham Cellars is fond of saying, “Livermore is cooler than you think.”

Sixth-generation winemaker Steven Kent Mirassou takes it one step further, claiming,

“Climate change is causing more cool air to come in through the Livermore Valley earlier each day, abbreviating the growing day and necessitating more growing days in the season to get to optimal ripeness for varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Because Cabernet Franc ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, we may find ourselves at some point in time unable to adequately ripen Cabernet Sauvignon before the winter rains come in, but at the same time, having perfect conditions to ripen Cabernet Franc.”

That’s one of the driving forces behind his current focus on Cabernet Franc. So convinced is he of its potential to be Livermore’s vinous shining armor, that he’s launched a new brand called L’Autre Côte (the other coast). He sources from two vineyards: the Ghielmetti Vineyard, which Mirassou had a hand in developing, and is now owned and farmed by the Corbett family; and the Sachau Vineyard, planted and farmed by the Wente Family.

“The Livermore Valley has had a long and illustrious history of producing world class quality Bordeaux varieties,” said Mirassou. “The consistency and prevalence of wind from the San Francisco Bay through our growing area each day is one of the fundamental viticultural conditions that allow us to grow world-class fruit.”

Very little Franc is planted here, though, with only 3.5 acres of Cabernet Franc at Ghielmetti and just 6 acres at Sachau. More will need to be planted to vault this grape to prominence, however. Mirassou thinks the old Raboli site would be ideal and hopes more can be installed at Ghielmetti.

Wine lovers are invited to join in a virtual roundtable on March 25, at 10 a.m., called “Cabernet Franc: An Esthetic Exploration.” Panelists will be Steven Kent Mirassou of L’Autre Côte, John Skupny of Lang & Reed Napa Valley, and Matthieu Baudry of Domaine Bernard Baudry. They will share stories, winemaking secrets, and their overwhelming passion for all things CAF. Topics include the history, farming, winemaking, and hedonic deliciousness of the world’s most alluring, bracing, elegant, and sexy grape in the world.

To register, visit