Leo Hansen is a young star in the California wine scene. Born and raised in Denmark, his path toward making wine in California started with his experiences in childhood. His father, who was a chef, included Leo in his business and had him working in the kitchen at age 12. He eventually chose a new path and became a sommelier, and his work gave him the opportunity to travel and visit wine regions. It was his time in California that made him decide to take a leap of faith and move from Europe.
Winemakers who are born into a winemaking family often have their plans predetermined. They work with the family vineyards, grow the same grapes that have always come from that place. Leo had a different opportunity as an “outsider.” He could work with any grape and source from different appellations, so the opportunities were abundant. Rather than follow the typical success plan for a California winemaker, he set out with a different idea in mind.
At Leo Steen, it’s important that the grapes maintain their identity of place. Leo values lower alcohol wines, working with native ferments and neutral French oak barrels, and stainless steel drums. The wines simply must show terroir.
“Casa Verde” is an old-vine field blend, made of head-trained vines more than 70 years in age, growing in northern California’s Redwood Valley. Old vineyards are often replanted or the vines pulled out, but the head-trained vines here, revived by longtime farmer Peter Chevalier, just need some dedicated hard work. The vines are now dry farmed and grown with organic farming practices. The soils are sandy, with clay loam, and the varieties that dominate are Grenache and Carignan, with Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, and French Colomard scattered about.
Leo has described the vision behind this wine as reflecting the type of field blend planted long ago by Italian immigrants and shared with family and friends as an everyday table wine. “Casa Verde” has bright notes of strawberry and red cherry, dried herbs and pepper. The palate is medium bodied, fruity, earthy, with modest tannins and lively acidity. This is one to decant, as you’ll notice there’s a deposit in the bottle. Don’t be scared—it’s just part of the wonderful world of unfined/unfiltered wine.
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