Despite a family legacy that includes nearly 170 years of winemaking, a young Steven Kent Mirassou’s career dreams leaned more toward penning great books than creating Bordeaux blends. After getting his master’s degree in literature at New York University, however, he eventually returned to the family business and has been producing award-winning wines ever since. The winemaker and cofounder of the Steven Kent Winery in Livermore, Mirassou married his loves of literature and wine with the 2021 release of his book, Lineage: Life and Love and Six Generations in California Wine.
Q: Is it true that you come from America’s oldest wine-making family?
A: We say we’re the oldest, and we think it’s accurate. My great- great-grandfather started making wine in San Jose in 1854, and we have been making wine as a family ever since.
“There’s a connection to these previous [wine-making] generations in how we approach the day, the season. It’s something that binds me to all of the generations before me and ahead of me.”
—Steven Kent Mirassou
Q: How does that legacy impact your perspective on the industry?
A: My great-great-grandfather was doing roughly the same thing that I’m doing now at the same time of year. There’s a connection to these previous generations in how we approach the day, the season. It’s something that binds me to all of the generations before me and ahead of me. My son, Aidan, is [our] assistant winemaker, and hopefully our grandkids will be involved in the business [as well].
Q: What makes the Livermore Valley distinct from Napa and Sonoma?
A: The first international gold medal ever given to a California wine was to a Livermore Valley wine. This [area] is viticulturally perfect for the growing of cabernet franc, which is our primary focus, and cabernet sauvignon. It’s a smaller, more nascent version of where Napa and Sonoma are right now, [but] there is zero difference in terms of potential for quality.
Q: You are the former president of the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association. What is your vision for the Livermore Valley?
A: Livermore is a world-class growing area. We’re pushing to grow grapes that will work in the current climate as well as the changing climate. ... Cabernet franc is a crucial piece that gives the Livermore Valley the opportunity to own the varietal in the minds of consumers, the wine press, and other wineries. ... [Local business and wine groups] want to make sure this area has an agricultural base forever.
Q: What can you share about working on your book?
A: I’ve spent 20 years writing this book. Words and wine are birds of a feather. … [Both] tell stories and communicate aesthetic principles.