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Staff Favorites - Bryan Brick
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2012 Au Bon Climat/K&L Wine Merchants "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 12-5-2013
Back in February when we approached Bob Lindquist at Qupé about making a wine for us we also spoke to Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, after all they share the same facility on the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard. We thought that there would be few winemakers in the world of Pinot Noir that we’d like to work with more and few that have made as consistently good Pinot as Jim has over the last 30+ years. To our surprise Jim was interested and told us to keep in touch. Come May I was sitting down at a table having lunch with Jim and his General Manager Jim Adelman putting together this fantastic blend. We tasted 14 components that afternoon from both Le Bon Climat and Bien Nacido Vineyards. What we ended up with in our bottling was 100% Bien Nacido Vineyard fruit from 2 blocks: Block 11 and Block 2. More specifically the wine is a blend of 50% Swan Clone from Block 11 planted in 1997, 20% Mount Eden Clone from Block 2 planted in 1996, 20% a mixture of all Clones on Block 11 planted between 1997-1998 and 10% 115 Clone from Block 11 planted in 1998 40% of which was whole cluster fermented. The bright red cherry, cassis, pastille, fresh lavender and subtle mint aromatics came together wonderfully that day with a juicy core of green spiced, blue fruits on the palate from the whole cluster portion of the wine. The earthen spice and black tea notes from the mid palate on were brought by the Mount Eden clone which also added lovely weight and a bit of scope. I think that all three of us left the table that day happy with what we agreed on and now that it is in bottle I couldn’t be more excited about it. Bottled in early August this can use a vigorous decanting until around New Years and after that I believe it will open up and become something that will continue to get better over the next 6-7 years at least. Thanks Jim and Jim for making this dream become a reality.
2010 Au Bon Climat "Historic Vineyards Collection Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 12-5-2013
By now it is certainly no secret how much we like the wines from Au Bon Climat. We’ve been inundating you with classy, structured, energetic wines from them for some time now including a wine that we made earlier this year with them. This wine, one in a series of wines that Jim Clendenen makes to highlight the older, “historic” vineyards in Santa Barbara County is from the same vineyard the ABC/K&L wine is from but couldn’t be more different. The fruit for this wine is all Clone 115 from Block 2 with 60% of the fruit going through Whole Cluster fermentation and is aged in 80% new Francois Freres barrels for 20 months. Ruddy and meaty on the nose this Pinot is very dark and almost brooding with aromas of beef jerky, beets, cola, raspberry and violet, yet has an overall prettiness that can’t be missed. Weighty and broad on entry this rich, full weight Pinot shows off the darker, more bombastic side of the Bien Nacido Vineyard. A continuation of the savory-ness on the nose is also found on the palate with exotic flavors of plum, sandalwood, amaro, licorice and bitter orange peel. My suggestion is to either stash this one away for a while in your cellar or aggressively decant it to really see the wines full complexity and personality.
2012 Ravines Finger Lakes Dry Riesling
Review Date: 12-4-2013
It is no secret that I love Riesling, always have, always will. But Riesling is a mystery to most wine drinkers. Too many of you have been burned by sickly sweet, no acid, unbalanced disgusting Rieslings and for that I am truly sorry. It is a shame that one wine has can ruin someone’s opinion forever, especially when it comes to one of the most noble, and varied, of all grape varietals. So with that in mind I’m hoping people will give this Ravines Dry Riesling a legitimate try. Ravines has easily been one of the best Finger Lakes wineries we’ve seen distributed this far west, consistently over delivering on quality and value. The Cabernet Franc they make is top notch not only for the area but on a national level and obviously the Rieslings can hold their own with anyone out there on a worldly level. This Dry Riesling is truly dry clocking in at 0.03% residual sugar. Fresh and lively on the nose with lifting aromatics of nectarine, quince and white sage this wine instantly made me crave traditional German food. Open and inviting with forward flavors of orange flesh, peach, apricot and mango this Riesling has tons of fruit but also brisk acidity to keep everything tied together. Broad and complex this is not a linear, one trick pony kind of Riesling but has a great meshing of stone, sweet pea and herbal undertones throughout the finish. A tremendous wine for an even more tremendous price, plus you get the added bonus of actually being able to buy something off of the 2013 Wine Spectator Top 100 list, this wine checked in at #33!
2009 Domaine Carneros Brut
Review Date: 11-26-2013
There are few things better than sparkling wine in this world, especially when it is affordable enough, and delicious enough, to drink on a daily basis. The 2009 Domaine Carneros Brut is exactly both of those things. As the Domestic house for Taittinger, Domaine Carneros has long been churning out copious amounts of some of the best bubbles California has to offer. Made with the same precision, care and quality in mind as Taittinger proper, this wine always impresses with its rounder, richer style akin to its French counterpart. From the nose of lemon curd, custard and sautéed mushroom to the fine carbonation and flavors of brioche, key lime, crushed rock and apple skin this is all about quality while being accessible enough to have with a myriad of foods (crab season anyone?) and inexpensive enough to bring to a holiday dinner party!
2010 Matchbook Dunnigan Hills Tempranillo
Review Date: 11-13-2013
Why the heck are we sending you an e-mail on a domestic Tempranillo from vineyards that are close to Highway 5? Because it may just be one of the sneakiest values of the year from California, even Robert Parker says so. A blend of 83% Tempranillo, 10% Tannat and 7% Graciano this is not to be confused with Spanish Rioja or Ribera del Duero (where the Tempranillo cutting for this vineyard came from, coincidentially) but a truly Californian take on what we can do with the noble Tempranillo grape. Aged in oak barrels, not on chips or staves, for 26 months in a mixture of American, French and Hungarian 15% of which was new this wine has a lovely sweet tinged and opulent nose full of friendly pencil lead, dried wild berries, coffee grounds and fresh blackberries. Ripe and lush on the palate with a deep set core of black fruits, sagebrush, cola and bakers cocoa this just wildly over delivers for the paltry $13 price tag. Bright and sassy on the finish much like great Rioja, but totally different, this shocked me with its varietal honesty and superb balance. A must try wine for lovers of the varietal or great bargains.
2011 L'Aventure "Optimus Estate" Paso Robles Red
Review Date: 11-13-2013
I first tasted the L’Aventure wines over a decade ago when I was just a hard working rookie in this business. I didn’t know much about wine at that point to be frankly honest but I was eager to learn and was willing to taste everything I could. I remember loving the L’Aventure wines but not really understanding why they were so great. Years have gone by and I certainly know a bit more that I used to but I now get why these wines are so darned good. First is location, great vineyards start with great location and this is about as good as it gets in Paso. Second is that Stephen thinks outside of the box. He left his home and family wineries in Bordeaux, mostly due to the constraining laws of the AOC to settle in a relatively unknown place at the time to make wines based in Cab and Syrah blends. It takes a special kind of man with an even more special vision to pull something like this off. Mind you this was well before the bottom dropped out of Syrah and people were forced to blend the sadly maligned varietal into Cab on a regular basis as a safety valve. All the background aside, and trust me there is more, the wines have always been of an uncompromising quality and an unmistakable house style. Big is always the word I use to describe these wines, they are full bore, heavily textured wines with generally higher alcohol levels. However there is always precision and balance in everything Stephan makes. This Optimus is as good as or better than any I’ve had with powerful aromatics of boysenberry preserves, braised pork belly, cassis liqueur and dried lavender. On the palate the wine is immense and dense in its scope with layers of spicy oak, bloody meat, torched sugar and a wealth of black fruits. Drinkable now with a hour or two of decanting or stow this away for 4-10 years, either way you’ll have a powerful but deft wine on your table.
2010 Chateau St. Jean Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 10-30-2013
Heading into the Holidays we all need some “ammunition wines.” What I mean by that is it is good to have a case or two kicking around that can be ready to go for any number of occasions - like the end of a rough day, an emergency bottle to take to parties, gifts, or wines for when people come over to your house and you don’t want them to drink all the bottles in your cellar. The 2010 Chateau St. Jean Cab is a perfect bottle to fill this slot. Lush, ripe and bold with plenty of varietal character and even some fine pencil lead notes this ripe Cab is sure to please just about everyone, especially when you consider it is only $21.99. A workhorse wine if there ever was one.
2010 Varner "Three Blocks-Spring Ridge Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
Review Date: 10-18-2013
If you receive our e-mails and/or newsletter and you haven’t yet heard of the wines from the Varner Brothers you probably really have not been paying attention. We’ve championed their numerous brands (Varner, Spring Ridge, Neely and Foxglove) for years and have made many a friend with their wines along the way. I stand by my assessment that they may be the best Chardonnay producer in California over the last decade, heck, even Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has gotten on the bandwagon giving the Varner Bros. wines consistently high scores over that same amount of time. That being said we really love what they are doing with Pinot Noir as well. All the Neely/Varner Pinots are 100% Estate fruit and while the Neely Pinots focus on single blocks, the Varner Pinot is a blend of 40% Upper Picnic Block, 30% Hidden Block and 30% Picnic Block. This blend really has come together exceptionally well at such a young age in the 2010 Varner “Three Blocks” Pinot Noir. The wine has impeccable balance and is complete in almost every way with more evolvement and development than the single block Neely wines. Fresh aspects of raspberry, clove and tobacco fill the nose while the wine comes in lush and broad on the palate. Certainly the ripest of the bunch, somehow the sum of the parts here which are treated exactly the same in all the wines under the Varner/Neely umbrella, adds up to a bit more sweetness of fruit and slickness of texture. Salted plum, cassis, tar, tobacco and lavender come at you in a round, unraveling style. This is rock solid Pinot Noir!
2010 Neely "Upper Picnic Block- Spring Ridge Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
Review Date: 10-18-2013
If you receive our e-mails and/or newsletter and you haven’t yet heard of the wines from the Varner Brothers you probably really have not been paying attention. We’ve championed their numerous brands (Varner, Spring Ridge, Neely and Foxglove) for years and have made many a friend with their wines along the way. I stand by my assessment that they may be the best Chardonnay producer in California over the last decade, heck, even Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has gotten on the bandwagon giving the Varner Bros. wines consistently high scores over that same amount of time. That being said we really love what they are doing with Pinot Noir as well. All the Neely/Varner Pinots are 100% Estate fruit and while the Neely Pinots focus on single blocks, the Varner Pinot is a blend of three Estate blocks. The 2010 Neely Upper Picnic Block Pinot Noir is probably the most balanced and complex of the three Neely Pinots. Everything here seems to mesh perfectly with everything else in the wine. Plum, rosewater, cassis and a touch of sweet pipe tobacco fill the nose as a touch of red fruited lift comes from the bottom of the glass. Open and fleshy this wine comes at you in waves with great ripeness of fruit, layers of sweet, vanilla-y oak and a full array of spicy/earthy tones. Think wild berries, porcini mushrooms, leather, black cherry and licorice.
2010 Neely "Picnic Block- Spring Ridge Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
Review Date: 10-18-2013
If you receive our e-mails and/or newsletter and you haven’t yet heard of the wines from the Varner Brothers you probably really have not been paying attention. We’ve championed their numerous brands (Varner, Spring Ridge, Neely and Foxglove) for years and have made many a friend with their wines along the way. I stand by my assessment that they may be the best Chardonnay producer in California over the last decade, heck, even Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has gotten on the bandwagon giving the Varner Bros. wines consistently high scores over that same amount of time. That being said we really love what they are doing with Pinot Noir as well. All the Neely/Varner Pinots are 100% Estate fruit and while the Neely Pinots focus on single blocks, the Varner Pinot is a blend of three Estate blocks. The 2010 Neely Picnic Block Pinot Noir is possibly the most ageworthy of the three Neely wines. With much more foresty aromatics of fern, sous bois, redwood and wet earth this comes off leaner and a bit more terroir driven. Still carrying the trademark texture of the 2010 vintage from the Varners this adds brooding notes of black fruits, spice cake, cracked pepper and chewy back end tannins. There is much more scope and breadth here with flavors of Earl Gray tea, sage, boysenberry and ash but the wine needs a decant if you’d like to drink it right away or a cozy spot in your cellar for the next 3-5 years.
2010 Neely "Hidden Block-Spring Ridge Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
Review Date: 10-18-2013
If you receive our e-mails and/or newsletter and you haven’t yet heard of the wines from the Varner Brothers you probably really have not been paying attention. We’ve championed their numerous brands (Varner, Spring Ridge, Neely and Foxglove) for years and have made many a friend with their wines along the way. I stand by my assessment that they may be the best Chardonnay producer in California over the last decade, heck, even Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has gotten on the bandwagon giving the Varner wines consistently high scores over that same amount of time. That being said we really love what they are doing with Pinot Noir as well. All the Neely/Varner Pinots are 100% Estate fruit and while the Neely Pinots focus on single blocks, the Varner Pinot is a blend of three Estate blocks. The 2010 Neely Hidden Block may be the most generous of the three Neely wines currently. A lovely confectionary tinged nose full of cocoa powder and chocolate covered cherries leads to some flavors of ash and smoked meats in the entry of this wine. Fleshy and rich the blue and red fruits so wonderfully on display are having a serious tug-of-war across the palate. Texturally rich on the mid-palate and back loaded with vibrant acidity this is delicious wine with flavors of boysenberry, red currant, all spice, cardamom and stony earth.
2010 Qupé "Bien Nacido Reserve-Block Eleven" Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 10-18-2013
It’s kind of funny if you really read the wine critics reviews that are listed here. All say very complementary things about the 2010 Qupe Bien Nacido-Block 11 Chardonnay but all four of the reviews describe the wine somewhat differently. This isn’t wildly odd in this biz, after all wine is certainly “in the eye of the beholder,” but it may be a bit confusing to our customers. I believe that the reason all four of these reviews differ so much, and mine as well, is that this wine is supremely balanced. In fact it is this balance that dominates the wine from nose to finish. Because of this I think you can really focus on what you enjoy in Chardonnay as a whole. If you like them bigger you’ll probably zone in on the brioche, toasted pecan aspects of the nose and the rich weighty texture, slightly tropical fruit and the toasty roasted corn-like new oak component. If you like leaner Chards then you’ll probably focus on its citrusy, honeysuckle aromatics along with the wines unmistakable energy on the palate with lemon curd, apricot, sous bois and a long acid driven finish. Either way there is something that I think every Chardonnay fan is really going to enjoy about this wine.
2009 Miner Family "Wild Yeast" Napa Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 10-15-2013
People love their Chardonnay! After all the talk of bringing the style of Chard back down to earth from a balance perspective the truth is the vast majority of folks are still looking for one of those big, oaky, buttery numbers. If you fall into this majority then you should be getting ready to fill your cart with the 2009 Miner Family "Wild Yeast" Napa Valley Chardonnay. Here is a wine that we happily sell every year for around $40 presented to you for an insne price. I can think of no other Chardonnay we have in the store that delivers this much spicy/sweet oak interplay, lush stone fruit and a tons of buttery, lees-y richness for the same cost. But this is also no one trick pony, the levels of complexity here are quite refreshing for a wine of this style with layers of baking spice, cashew, lime blossom, tropical fruits and a lifting note of lemon oil in the finish. We couldn’t be happier with this wine for the style that it so wonderfully represents and at the super secret price we don’t think it is going to be around long.
2012 Ancient Peaks/K&L Wine Merchants Paso Robles Zinfandel
Review Date: 10-8-2013
We here at K&L couldn’t be more excited to bring you the third wine in what hopefully will turn out to be a long, fruitful, project with wineries from around the US working with us directly to make exclusive bottling for you, our customers. Long an idea in the heads of the Domestic team here at K&L we’ve kicked around the idea of approaching wineries or winemakers we love and asking them to work with us to create exclusive wines to our specifications. Furthermore we wanted to not only promote these outstanding wines but the wineries behind them rather than putting the wines in our anonymous house labels like Kalinda. We hope that you think that these wines offer a tremendous value and a slightly different expression of wineries that you are already familiar with. Ancient Peaks burst on the scene a number of years ago with one of the highest rated, inexpensive, Zinfandels to ever come out of California by Wine Spectator’s standards. I was intrigued by the winery wondering if they were just a tank farm somewhere down in Paso, or a legitimate producer that we needed to watch out for. In visiting them the following year I realized that they couldn’t be more in the latter camp. Their sizable estate vineyard has to be seen to be believed, with it impeccable vineyard management, incredible diversity of soil types and singular microclimate that betray the notion of Paso Robles’s intense heat. Since that visit I have touted their wares and this year I took a crew of K&L folks there that were unaware of the quality behind these undervalued wines. As we were launching the new “Co-Branded” project with Qupé and Au Bon Climat I really wanted to have Ancient Peak involved as well and Zinfandel was the wine that I though best expressed the quality of the winery. Made from one block of Zinfandel, Block 32, this is a blend of 75% old oak, 20% new oak and the 5% to round out the wine is Syrah. I loved the bright clarity in the aromatics of the old oak Zin and while it was lighter in body it had all the Zin flavors I was looking for, briary fruit, white pepper, wild berry and a touch of baking spice. The new oak Zin component added pitch and much more spice in a confectionary way adding ripeness of fruit and more of a bass tone to complement the sassy old oak fruitiness. The Syrah worked perfectly to add mid palate weight and concentration and add a bit more “beef” in both flavor and texture, not to mention adding a touch of pretty floral complexity. I am so impressed with how this wine is already completely integrated in bottle and is ready to drink right away. The staff here couldn’t be more happy with the outcome and I hope you will be too.
Sherman & Hooker's Shebang! "Sixth Cuvée- Old Vine Cuvée" Red Blend
Review Date: 9-19-2013
Morgan Twain-Peterson may be the most talented young winemaker in United States. How could he not be growing up in vineyards besides his well known father, winemaker Joel Peterson (Ravenswood). Morgan has done exceptionally well in the eyes of the press, and us here at K&L, with his label Bedrock. His wines are thoughtfully crafted small production bottlings from old vines located in “Heritage” vineyards throughout California. Hard to come by, these Bedrock wines already have a loyal and rabid following. But where I think Morgan really shines is in his entry level bottling: the Sherman & Hooker’s Shebang! For the first time this non-vintage blend has an “Old Vine Cuveé” designation with 92% of the fruit coming from vineyards that were planted before 1922. A blend of 60% Zinfandel with the remainder of the wine being a blend of Carignan, Alicante Bouchet, Syrah and assorted other “mixed black” varietals aged in 15% new French oak this is extremely versatile and pairs just as nicely with a rib-eye as it would with a pork loin or as tasty with a good homemade burger as it would be with a nice red sauce. Possibly a bit fuller, darker fruited and spicier than in years past this may be the best Shebang yet with more stuffing/weight, wild berry fruit, briary spice and savory earth all in a bottle that is well less than $15 including tax! There still isn’t a better value for an inexpensive red wine in the store currently in my mind.
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