Barrel Tasting with Lionheart Wines

Leon GloverEvery time I go to a wine event that includes multiple wineries, I will usually find one winery that is new to me and stands out from the rest. I stumbled across many great wineries at the Wine 2.0 Spring Fling at Crushpad last April. But two wines from a particular new winery have stuck with me over the last two months. Leon C. Glover III’s Lionheart Wines had two very good Syrahs that night…and the scary thing is that they were from his very first and second vintages!

2005 found Leon in an interesting spot in his life. As a former and very successful Programmer/Project Manager, Associate Venture Partner focused on technical due diligence, self-taught chef and a recent recipient of an MBA, he was looking at his options in a tech industry environment that was beginning to look like the late 90’s again with the Web 2.0 movement in full hype. Then, a funny thing happened. His wife, Jen stepped in and offered him a rather nice gift…of the kind that keep giving. She said that he should get his vacillating behind down to Crushpad, San Francisco’s custom wine crush facility and pick out a barrel of wine that he’d like to adopt.

LionThree years later, a whole of lot stained hands, a rather healthy dose of perfectionism and a completely new career has found Leon successfully leading a rapidly rising new winery and quickly making a name for himself in another very challenging and competitive industry. This time, however, success means having something great to go with dinner!

Last Saturday Leon graciously extended me an offer to taste his new wines that are still in barrel. Considering the fact that I was still contemplating his unusually complex Syrahs from WineTwo, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to taste his new babies and then follow their maturation from the barrel to the bottle and then through to cellar aging. I hopped on BART and headed over to Crushpad to arrive perfectly on time at 11 am.

Wine ThiefLeon quickly greeted me and we headed off in search of stemware, spit cup and wine thief. Proving that all successful thieves are elusive, we had a bit of a challenge finding the tool that allows one to easily siphon a small amount of wine from a barrel or steel tank. Search completed we headed into the vast warehouse that houses Crushpad.

Angel's ShareWe first tasted The Angel’s Share 2007 white Rhone blend. A tremendous start to the day, its complexity and interesting flavor dichotomy of both crisp bright fruit and underlying creaminess in its finish was a great prelude to the other wines that we would be tasting.

Indeed, that dichotomy of two seemingly disparate qualities in a fine wine, purity of bright fruit wonderfully balanced with a sensual and savory mouthfeel became the theme in all of Leon’s wines that he pipetted into my glass. The ’07 single vineyard Roussane had its own developing complexities, from its Santa Barbara County terroir. The ’07 Sonoma Coast Pinot started off muted and closed from its young age, but then blossomed with some body heat and swirling into a melánge of varietally correct flavors including bright red cherry, cranberry and finishing with a touch of oak and cola.

I was most excited by the wines I tried that had yet to be blended into their final form. The 2007 Dry Creek Valley Syrah had phenomenal blue fruit, leather and tobacco aromas and flavors that were almost confounding with their ability to have great depth and yet retain that delicate balance that appear to mark all of Leon’s Lionheart wines. I shouldn’t have been surprised…Leon aspires to craft wines that will shine best when paired with food, hence his tagline: “thoughtfully based around palate and plate.” His website includes wine pairings for every wine he has vinted.

Santa Barbara SyrahAs a nice wine exercise, I actually tasted three forms of the Dry Creek Syrah, one each from neutral oak, new Hermitage oak and stainless steel. It was an interesting experience that showed how a winemaker can really pull the best qualities from the fruit that makes up the final blended wine. I was also also fortunate to taste his still slumbering 2007 Cab and Sangiovese, both also showing great promise and are slated for release in early Fall.

Reluctantly, after two hours it was time to head back home and to a friend’s BBQ. I thanked Leon for his generosity, his forthrightness in conversation and wine-related discussion and his great wine and headed back to BART.

If you too would like a chance to taste these great new wines, don’t fret…WineLog.net and Artisan Wine Lounge & Café in Walnut Creek, CA will be hosting an upcoming tasting event in July with Lionheart Wines in the starring role. Look for future announcements with further details on WineLog.net and the Events pages on Artisan’s and Lionheart’s websites! But, if you just can’t wait until then, we have links in each of the reviews below to buy these wines directly from Lionheart, such as Leon’s ’06 Santa Barbara Syrah.

All of the wines that I have reviewed from this up-and-coming winery are below. I have tagged any wines that I tasted from barrel as such, all others are tasted from the bottle. If you would like to list all of the wines from Lionheart in your own WineLog, follow this link.

Lionheart Wines Santa Barbara County Syrah 2006

Lionheart Wines Russian River Valley Saralee’s Vineyard The Angel’s Share 2007

Lionheart Wines Santa Barbara County McGinley Vineyard Roussane 2007

Lionheart Wines Eaglepoint Ranch Vineyard Mendocino Syrah 2005

Lionheart Wines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2007

Vinopanion: Ward Kadel - @drXeNo

View posts by Vinopanion: Ward Kadel - @drXeNo
Ward Kadel - @drXeNo is the founder of Vinopanion wine blog, former West Coast Ambassador & Staff Blogger for WineLog.net and former Le Wine Buff for Bordeaux.com (CIVB). He will try any and all wines and tends to write about the parts of his life that include wine...like virtually all of it! He and his wife grew up in Napa and Sonoma and they still live in the Napa Valley. Check out the wines he's recommended with his WKBadges. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Like #Vinopanion on Facebook. Contact him: "Ward at WineLog.net". Ward happily accepts samples but does not guarantee a review, positive or negative.

3 Comments

  1. […] I first discovered Leon’s Lionheart Wines when tasting two of his Syrahs at Wine 2.0 this past Spring. Later, Leon graciously extended an offer to barrel taste his upcoming releases last month, which I excitedly accepted. All of the wines have tremendous character and wonderful mouthfeel. I’m very excited to now taste these wines after having been bottled! […]

  2. […] As I announced previously, Lionheart’s winemaker Leon Glover brought out 5 wines for us to try, all pre-release until his Mane Event Summer Release party later that Saturday at Crushpad. I got there a little before the start of the event and said hello to Leon and Artisan proprietor Lena and caught up with them for a bit before tasting some of the wines there that night. I hadn’t tasted most of the wines since the barrel tasting, and I was excited to try them now from the bottle. I was so busy getting caught up that I forgot to try any of the wines before we got busy! Once that mistake was rectified, I was free to mingle and check out our crowd, with had great diversity in age, style and wine knowledge. Also making the event were Marshall & Brittany, founders of WineQ.com. After raving about Lionheart for so long, I was glad that they could finally check out the wines for themselves. […]

  3. […] Last Tuesday my friend and day job manager, Walter and I had the privilege of a private harvest tour of a bustling Crushpad, courtesy of Leon Glover, owner and winemaker for the upstart Lionheart Wines. Leon and I have maintained a continued correspondence since my first tour and our subsequent joint tasting at Artisan this past summer. He was gracious enough to extend an invitation for a harvest tour back in September, but I was swamped with other activities and it wasn’t until this latest surge in fruit that I was able to partake of his kind offer. […]

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