Every 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.
Three 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.
Leon 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.
We 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 melÃ¡nge 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: â€œthoughtfully based around palate and plate.” His website includes wine pairings for every wine he has vinted.
As 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 & CafÃ© 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.