At Leo Steen, I strive to make interesting wines with both a sense of place and a purpose. For me, the “purpose” of my wines has become a quintessential element in my winemaking philosophy. Years ago, before I embarked upon my journey as a winemaker, I was a sommelier guiding people through an exploration of the timeless relationship between wine and food. I loved thinking about how food and wine worked together, and offering people choices beyond the obvious. The satisfaction of introducing people to new varietals from exciting undiscovered vineyards, and showing how these wines enhanced great food, was and continues to be, thrilling for me.
When I founded Leo Steen Wines in 2004, those experiences stayed with me. I wanted to look beyond the standards—Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon—and instead offer people unique and interesting varietals. I also wanted people to able to enjoy my wines by the glass. This meant offering them at a price that was both accessible and fair, without ever sacrificing quality.
In many ways, it is only fitting that centerpiece of my winemaking efforts is a bone-dry Chenin Blanc. Steen is my family’s middle name, and it is also the South African word for Chenin Blanc. I have long been fascinated by this sleek and elegant varietal, with its effortless ability to complement the vibrant flavors of modern cuisine. After years of searching for just the right Chenin Blanc to work with, I’ve found what I’m looking for in two very different vineyards. Planted in 1981, in sandy loam soils on an old river bottom site, the dry-farmed Chenin Blanc vines of Saini Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley produce a Chenin Blanc notable for its chamomile and citrus character. Planted in 1982, Jurassic Vineyard in Santa Ynez Valley is a high-elevation site at 1,100 feet. Named for the abundant fossils in Jurassic’s sand and limestone soils, the vineyard delivers and exotic stone fruit and mineral-driven Chenin Blanc with a lovely texture. My search for intriguing red grapes led me to the steep slopes of Scala Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain. Planted on a northeast-facing slope at an elevation of 940 feet, this challenging mountain site produces a complex expression of Syrah that is both savory and sophisticated.
All of my wines are made by my own hand in small lots using gentle, traditional winemaking techniques. In the spectrum of California winemaking, they are crafted at lower alcohols, with very modest amounts of new oak, or none at all. While my wines offer lovely fruit, I strive to express the purity of these flavors as part of a balanced and harmonious whole. Finally, to ensure that every barrel of wine receives the attention it deserves (an idea symbolized by my Sommelier Prints), I make less than 1,000 cases each vintage.
I hope you enjoy my Leo Steen wines, and I thank you for your interest.