Livermore San Francisco Wine CompetitionOnce again a Livermore wine takes the lead! Congratulations to the guys named “Steve” at 3 Steves Winery in Livermore Wine Country for winning best red wine at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Competition for their 2011 Cienega Zinfandel! Wow, that’s the second Best of Show in the last three years for a Livermore wine. Two years ago, it was McGrail Vineyards and Winery sweeping it for their Livermore Valley Cabernet.

Steve Burman of 3 Steves says they found out about the honor in a rather unusual way:

“Amazing how we found out. Collin (Cranor) from Nottingham Cellars shows up yesterday while Zig and I are pouring in our winery tasting room. Brings in a bottle of champagne and plops it on the bar. Says it’s time to celebrate our award and tells us what we won. What a great guy. Humble and killer good wines. Doesn’t even tell us he won three golds and a silver medal himself for the four wines he entered! Big potential for our region I think. Proud to be a part of this community.”

LIvermore Wine Wins Best Red WineIncidentally, the 3 Steves also scored Chronicle Silvers for their 2012 Livermore Valley Chardonnay and their 2011 Cabernet Franc, which also made it to the finals at the upcoming Cabernet Challenge, and the Steves will be appearing on a terroir panel this Saturday, at The Old Mint, in San Francisco. Steven Mirassou will also represent Steven Kent Portfolio on the same panel. Seminars begin at noon. See below for more info.

2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition results for Livermore wineries:

The Steven Kent Winery 2010 Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $48.00 Gold

The Steven Kent Winery 2010 Livermore Valley Home Ranch Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon $65.00 Silver

Thomas Coyne, the venerable label that recently moved from their longtime digs on Vallecitos Road to a new home on Research Drive, was four for four at the Competition, scoring a Double Gold for their 2009 Petite Sirah from El Dorado, and Silver medals for the 2011 Quest Rhone Blend, 2009 Grenache and 2010 Quest Reserve. Congratulations to Tom and Emilie.

Concannon won Best of Class for their excellent 2012 Assemblage Blanc, a tongue teasing tango of Semillon and Chardonnay, while Occasio Winery won Best of Class for their elegant Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in the $40 – $49.99 category, while Murietta’s Well captured Best of Class for their 2011 Los Tesoros Petit Verdot. Nice to see Livermore capturing Best of Class for two varietals that do exceedingly well here.

Bent Creek Wines put on a solid show with a Gold for their 2011 Livermore Valley Syrah, and Silvers for their 2011 Zin, Petite Sirah, Cab and Cab Franc, all from the Livermore Valley. They also picked up a Bronze for their chard and Port.

New wine brand, Caddis, won Double Gold for their 2011 Livermore Valley Tempranillo, a Gold for their 2010 Livermore Valley Syrah and Bronze for their “Better Together” Livermore blend.

Charles R Vineyards scored Silvers for the 2008 Livermore Valley Syrah, the 2009 Livermore Valley Petite Sirah, and the 2008 Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Concannon Vineyard really stepped up to receive some well-deserved medals with a Best of Class for the outstanding 2012 Livermore Valley Reserve Assemblage Blanc, which is probably my favorite white wine of 2013. Then, it was Double Gold for the 2010 Reserve Petite Sirah, followed by Silvers for the 2011 Conservancy Cab Sauv, the 2010 Reserve Captain Joe’s Petite Sirah, the 2010 Reserve Nina’s Cuvee Petite Sirah, the 2009 Reserve Polo Field Petite Sirah, the 2010 Mother Vine Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2011 Conservancy Chardonnay, and Bronze for the 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2011 Reserve Stampmaker’s Red. All wines were from the Livermore Valley. Well done, Julian Halasz!

It was all Silver and Bronze for Larry Dino’s all Livermore Valley wines at Cuda Ridge this year. Honored with Silver were the 2011 Petit Verdot, the 2010 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2011 Livermore Valley Cabernet, and Bronze for the 2011 Cabernet Franc and 2011 Merlot.

Darcie Kent Vineyards came out of the gate with a Gold for the 2011 Monterey appellation Riva Blackjack vineyard Gruner Veltliner and Silvers for the 2012 Demayo Vineyard Chardonnay, the 2011 Pinot Noir from Monterey, and the 2010 Livermore Valley Crown Block Red Wine.

Fenestra Winery will have many more medals to pin to its already crowded walls, with Golds going to both the 2008 Livermore Valley Thatcher Bay Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2010 Livermore Valley Estate Grenache. It was a flood of Silver for these wines: 2010 Ghielmetti Vineyard Petite Sirah, 2009 Livermore Valley Estate Syrah, 2010 Lodi Silvaspoons Vineyard Tourvannillo, 2010 Livermore Valley Estate “Infrared” blend, the 2008 Livermore Valley Thatcher Bay Vineyard Merlo, the 2011 Lodi Silvaspoons Vineyard Malbec, 2011 Lodi Graciano, and 2009 Livermore Valley Estate Mourvedre. And many Bronzes, too.

Harris Tesla scored Silver for the 2009 Livermore Valley Harris Tesla Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, and Bronze for the 2006, which is really tasting great right now with some bottle age, so they must be after fruitier Cabs at the Chron these days. Seriously, for $24 a bottle, these are some of Livermore’s best values for really well made 100% Cabernets.

Unsurprisingly, La Rochelle Winery scored a Double Gold for their phenomenal 2012 Russian River Valley Saralee’s Vineyard Pinot Meunier. Get some before it’s all gone.

Former winemaker, Charlie Kidd’s efforts paid off big time for Las Positas Vineyards with Gold for the 2011 Livermore Valley Estate Syrah, and Silvers for the 2010 Meritage and 2011 Estate Petite Sirah. We know current winemaker, Brent Amos, will rock it next year with the 2012’s he finished off and the 2013’s he’s about to bottle.

Longevity Wines posted some solid Silvers with the 2010 California Phil-osophy and the 2010 Lodi Petite Sirah, plus a rafter of Bronze winners as well.

McGrail Vineyards & Winery scored Gold for the lovely 2012 Livermore Valley Chardonnay, and Silvers for both the 2009 Livermore Valley Merlot and the 2010 James Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon.

Murrieta’s Well, in addition to the BoC for the 2011 Petit Verdot, brought home Gold for the 2012 Whip, and Silvers for the 2011 Livermore Valley Los Tesoros Touriga Nacional, the 2011 Spur, and the 2012 Los Tesoros Semillon Chardonnay blend. The latter is something more wineries need to explore. The marriage in Livermore of these two white grapes is magic.

No doubt about it, Collin Cranor of Nottingham Cellars is one of Livermore’s hottest young winemakers, and there’s no sign of him letting up anytime soon. He scored a whopping three out of four Golds, with the following brilliant wines getting the Golden nod: 2012 Livermore Valley Fraser Howard Chardonnay, 2010 Livermore Valley Supremacy Bordeaux Blend and 2012 Livermore Valley Marina Ranch Grenache, followed by a Silver for the 2010 Livermore Valley Casa de Vinas & Ghielmetti Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Smart entries!

In addition to Occasio Winery’s Best of Class for their 2011 Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, significant for the fact that the $40.00 pricepoint is the sweetspot for premium Cabs, their Double Gold for the awesome Telos blend speaks volumes, not just for the brilliance of the wine, but for the ability of a well-crafted blend to find common ground among a disparate group of critics. If you haven’t tried it, you owe it to yourself. The 2011 Livermore Valley Del Arroyo Vineyard Petite Sirah also took Gold, and three more Silver medals went to the 2012 Livermore Valley Del Arroyo Vineyard Chardonnay, the 2011 Livermore Valley Telos and the 2011 Livermore Valley Thatcher Bay Vineyard Merlot. Nicely done!

Page Mill Winery won a well-deserved Gold for the 2010 Livermore Valley GPS, a blend of Grenache and Petite Sirah, plus a Silver for the 2012 Livermore Valley Chandler Vineyard Chardonnay, and Bronzes for the 2010 Livermore Valley Estate Vineyard Petite Sirah and the 2013 Livermore Valley Ghielmetti Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

Stony Ridge Winery scored Silvers for both its 2010 Livermore Valley Zinfandel and Petite Sirah.

Wente’s stalwart winemaking team scored Gold for the truly delicious 2012 Arroyo Seco-Monterey Riverbank Riesling, followed by a sleigh filled with Silvers for these efforts: 2011 Livermore Valley Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Livermore Valley Morning Fog Chardonnay (Safeway’s number one selling Chardonnay in Northern California), 2011 Livermore Valley The Nth Degree Merlot, 2012 Livermore Valley The Nth Degree Chardonnay, 2012 Livermore Valley Louis Mel Sauvignon Blanc (a killer SB at $15.00), 2011 Livermore Valley Sandstone Merlot and a Bronze for the 2011 Livermore Valley Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon.

Rhonda Wood posted another great result from one of her signature Zins, this time a Double Gold for her 2011 Livermore Valley “Big Wood” Zinfandel, rounded out by a Bronze for the 2008 Livermore Valley Merlot, as well as for the 2012 Livermore Valley “Para Mas Amigas” Chardonnay.

Congratulations to all the winners! I didn’t list all the Bronze medalists, of which there were quite a few, so please accept congrats even if your name wasn’t listed here. There’s no doubt about it, Livermore is a hot property right now.


If you want to taste a good number of Livermore Cabernets that made it to the Cabernet Challenge finals, along with a slew of other great Cabs from artisan producers, get tickets for this fabulous event in San Francisco this Saturday, from noon til 4pm. Take part in a blind tasting where you can vote for your favorites, attend seminars where you can taste and learn from the best out there, and take home new discoveries. 3 Steves, Auburn James, Enoteca Five, En Garde and Steven Kent are among the Livermore wineries that entered the Challenge and will compete for top honors in the blind tasting.

Other wineries participating include Artiste Winery, Bonneau, Calistoga Cellars, Cameron Hughes, Deerfield Ranch, Ecluse, Estate 1856, Four Sisters, Guglielmo Winery, J.Rickards, Lucas and Lewellen, Pendleton Estate, Penman Springs, Rocca Family, Sol Rouge, Timark and The Winery SF.

Best ticket deals here:


Laura NessLaura Ness, aka “Her VineNess,” is an accomplished wine journalist and wine critic whose passion for wine was ignited by a visit to France, where she had the unmatched pleasure of tasting Sancerre in the medieval town of Sancerre – splendid!— and then a Saumur, after visiting the Chateau de Saumur in Chinon. The concept of terroir came alive in those incandescent moments. She regularly judges wine competitions and serves on the tasting panels of the Pinot, Cabernet and Chardonnay Shootouts. She was instrumental in helping define the unique sub-regions of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in concert with Appellation America. You can usually find her sipping and smiling in Mendocino, Livermore, the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains and Paso Robles. Laura writes extensively for many industry and consumer publications, and has weekly wine columns in several Bay Area newspapers. She blogs, irreverently and sporadically, at

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