Between the Vines is a biweekly column on wine and winemaking in the Livermore Valley region. This column was contributed by Steven Kent Mirassou, the owner of La Rochelle Winery.

Winery name: La Rochelle Winery

Owner: Steven Kent LLC

About us: Our mission at La Rochelle is a simple one: to make California's best, most interesting, most collectible pinot noir.

My family introduced the pinot noir grape to California in the 1850s. Today, we partner with the state's most renowned pinot noir vineyards. We craft pinot noir grown on these famed estates that let the individual vineyard's terroir, its special sense of place, shine through.

My great-great-great-grandfather left the French port of La Rochelle 160 years ago on a voyage of possibilities. Our journey at La Rochelle Winery is an equally exciting one -- to discover the best pinot noir vineyards and translate those exceptional estates into limited releases worthy of our heritage.

Our winemaker, Tom Stutz, believes in the prime importance of a given vineyard site -- its location, climate, soil, aspect, drainage, air movement, fog, row direction, training methods and, most importantly, the grower's desire to create quality fruit. Tom's role is to find the expressive core of each site's fruit and bring that expression into a recognizable form year after year.


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Our wines: La Rochelle makes vineyard-designated pinot noirs and Chardonnays. Each of our small-lot wines is handcrafted to reveal the truth and beauty of the site, the farmer, and the winemaker. Our least expensive wine is our pinot gris ($24), and the most expensive is our donum pinot noir ($75).

La Rochelle's Pinot Noir Program wine club offers six different vineyard-designated wines per year available -- upon release -- exclusively to members. With a lineup of spectacular wines from a variety of regions, lovers of pinot noir have the opportunity to taste and own a wide variety of world-class pinots.

On Jan. 12, we will release a new wine in the Pinot Noir Program, our 2009 pinot noir, White Sage Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands. Please visit the La Rochelle website to become part of the club and join us for the members-only celebration in our barrel room.

Hours and tasting fee: We have two tasting experiences available: the barrel room offers tasting of a flight of La Rochelle wines from noon to 4:30 p.m. daily for $10. The Reserve Room is open Thursday through Sunday from noon to 4:30 p.m. and offers samplings of our most limited collectors' wines paired with fine cheeses for $20 per person.

Where is the winery? We are located at 5443 Tesla Road, Livermore Valley, CA 94550, www.lrwine.com, 925-243-6442.

Wine Country Events

  • Winemaker Pairing -- 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 23 at The Steven Kent Winery, 5443 Tesla Road, Livermore, CA 94550; http://www.stevenkent.com. The cost is $75. The winemaker pairing event featuring the cuisine of Chef Jimmy Connors and wines from Steven Kent's Collector's Circle Wine Club. Reservations are required, seating is limited and participants must be at least 21. Call 925-243-6442 to reserve your space.