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Staff Favorites - Bryan Brick
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2011 Obsidian Ridge "Obsidian Ridge Vineyard" Red Hills Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 11-18-2014
Do any of you remember the story about the little train that could? Maybe you read it to your kids/grandkids or maybe you remember having it read to you when you were young like I do. The way I recall this story, not having heard it in a couple of decades, is there was this little, forgotten, overlooked train that had great pluck and determination. He kept with it always knowing that he could pull with the best of them. One day he got his chance and wouldn’t you know it he saved the day! In my mind that’s a perfect metaphor for the 2011 Obsidian Ridge "Obsidian Ridge Vineyard" Red Hills Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.99). We’ve always kept this wine around in corners of the store that sometimes just get passed by too quickly. The staff has always loved the wine but maybe it slips their minds when someone asks them for a recommendation. This year’s wine is just too good to forget. Simply put it may be their best effort yet and it certainly is one of the best Cabernets we’ve seen from the much, yet sometimes unfairly, maligned 2011 vintage at it respective price point. There is just so much wine in this bottle; the scope and largesse here is pretty spectacular with bold, rich flavors of tar, ink, blackberry, ash, fried sage and lavender. Add a ton of spicy, exotic oak notes in the nose and a rock solid tannic structure and this is a wine that will be mistaken often for a wine twice its cost. Come on; give the little train a chance.
2013 Au Bon Climat/K&L Wine Merchants "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 11-12-2014
Last year’s Co-Branded Pinot Noir from Au Bon Climat was such a hit we couldn’t help but to make it again! Once again we think Jim Clendenen and his wildly talented crew at Au Bon Climat has out done themselves with the quality of the components that they allowed us to make this wine from. Just like last year this wine is 100% fruit from the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard, with both components coming from Block 2, which was planted in 1994. Made from 50% Clone 113 and 50% Clone 115, of which 50% was whole-cluster fermented, this was actually the first blend we put together once we ran through all of the components we had available to us. That’s right; we nailed this blend on the first go around! We certainly tried to improve it but it always lingered on our palates as the best of the bunch. Instantly drinkable this is packed with boisterous red fruits on the nose of Bing cherry and muddled raspberry with a hint of sassafras, tarragon and finely ground white pepper. Mouthfilling and with no roughness, which is impressive in its youth, this is one easily gulpable wine but it’s so much more serious than what you’d first expect. With velvety fine tannins and a persistent mouthwatering acidity this wine has plenty of structure to get better over the next 4-8 years. However if you drink it now you’ll be able to experience plenty of delicious flavors like red plum, dragonfruit, cola, violets and Rainier cherries. Long and lasting on the palate with a likeable plush texture we think this Pinot has a little something to please everyone. Go ahead prove us wrong.
2013 Bethel Heights/K&L Wine Merchants Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir
Review Date: 11-12-2014
On our recent trip to Oregon this summer we certainly found plenty of great wines and met with a multitude of amazingly talented people. Many of the wines we found on that trip have already come in and sold out mostly due to our sheer excitement about the quality of wines we found. One of the most exciting opportunities from that trip was to work closely with our friends at Bethel Heights to put together a Pinot Noir exclusive to K&L as part of our burgeoning Co-Branded project. This 2013 Bethel Heights/K&L Wine Merchants Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir ($24.99) is a blend of the young vibrant fruit of the bordering Bjornson Vineyard, a vineyard planted in 1996, and the more nuanced, ethereal fruit from the old Wädenswil block at Bethel Heights Estate, planted in 1977. Ben Casteel (winemaker for BH), the K&L staff and I came up with and tasted numerous blends before we enthusiastically chose the one in the bottle here. We thought it was a perfect middle ground between the sappy, rich black fruits of Bjornson and the more earthen, sage and subtle red fruits from the Estate. We loved how the nose really spoke of classic Oregon Pinot focusing on earthen, sous bois and floral tones rather than chunky fruit. The wine is seamless in texture at this point with a feminine frame and well integrated acid/tannin interplay. A bit of aeration, either by untwisting the convenient Stelvin closure or popping this into a decanter, will really help to heighten the lovely tones of loganberry, evergreen, black currant, white sage, new leather and lavender found here. Thanks to the entire Casteel Family for helping make this wonderful wine that we couldn’t be prouder to have our name on!
2013 Ancient Peaks/K&L Wine Merchants Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 10-6-2014
What we agreed upon for the final blend was as follows: 40% Cabernet Sauvignon from Block 15 (the structural and aromatic backbone of the wine), 40% Cabernet Sauvignon from Block 49 “A” (the mouthfeel of the wine and oak richness), 10% Malbec from Block 45 (added mid-palate weight and density), 8% Merlot from Block 3 (finishing complexity and length) and 2% Cabernet Franc from Block 9 (toasty oak and sweet spices). This blend was easily the best on the table creating a complete and complex wine that we thought showed both the style of Ancient Peaks and the collective palate of K&L. Plum, cassis and a touch of mildly toasty oak came together instantly for a surprisingly integrated and pretty nose. Ripe, with plenty of plush fruit and a medium-full weighted palate the wine showed plenty of blue/red fruit interplay along with tobacco, gravel and pencil lead. The finish is bright and juicy with a lovely layer of oak toast adding a nice confectionery spice to long and energetic finish.
2012 Ponzi "Tavola" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 10-2-2014
Let’s just make this as simple as possible. The 2012 Ponzi "Tavola" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is one of the best bottles of Pinot Noir we have under $25. From the first moment I tasted the wine back in May at the Ponzi’s beautiful new winery and tasting bar I knew this was a wine that we would sell by the case--in fact I wrote just that in my notes that day. A perfect storm of a high yielding, forward fruited vintage and two generations of experience have made this one of the best entry level wines of 2012 in Oregon. Darkly fruited and showing considerable spice, this has a nose of a Pinot that could be twice its price. Juicy and fresh on the entry this has a wealth of loganberry, plum, violet, sandalwood and spice cake all wrapped into a simplistic yet wildly enjoyable wine. Long and savory on the finish this is one stellar wine that will take great care of you over the next few years if you can somehow not drink it all right away.
2004 York Creek "Track" Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 9-17-2014
After the last few years I think just about everyone has heard us pontificating about just how good, and how insanely inexpensive, the York Creek wines are. Luckily for us and our thirsty customers Fritz Maytag kept deep cellars over the years and still has plenty of wine for us to sell. After the rousing success of past vintages and the first Single Block offering, the 2005 Sunny Hill which we sold out in a matter of days, we thought we’d back up the truck again and offer you the 2004 “Track”. Another Single Block wine, again from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, the Track is a wine that is incredibly charming 10 years after vintage. Wildly aromatic and showing off the lovely forest driven, mushroom, sage and black currants that are synonymous with Spring Mountain this is every bit as expressive as any of the previous York Creek wines we’ve sold. A bit more feminine in its approach however this combines dusty blue and black fruits with layers of bay leaf, olive tapenade, wild mountain berries and a long finish that alternates back and forth between savory and fruity. I truly thought this wine was one of the best I tasted from York Creek recently and is an insane value for $29.99. However like the 2005 Sunny Hill before it there are only 60 cases and we don’t expect them to be around for very long. Act quick!
2012 Eyrie Vineyards "Estate Grown" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 9-8-2014
It always shocks me that people don’t know more about Eyrie Vineyards. The history is rich: they were the first to plant Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley and the first to plant Pinot Gris in the New World; their prices are comparatively reasonable; and the quality of the wines is second to none. A perfect example of why Eyrie should be known more than they are is this 2012 Eyrie Vineyards "Estate Grown" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($32.99). This stunning wine rivals any Pinot from anywhere in the world at the price point. Truly exceptional. Heck, I even wrote the word “Superstar” in my notes the first time I tasted it. Deeply perfumed on the nose, the wine expresses itself openly with layers of blood orange, rose water, crushed lavender, and white cherry. Long, open and sort of lanky, this is a pretty, Old World-influenced Pinot with no manipulation, just a pure expression of the great estate vineyards. Light to medium weight but bursting with flavor and complexity, this is packed with sassy flavors of loganberry, wild blackberry, clay, sous bois, tangy red cherry and a subtle herbal quality. Simply put, I don’t know of any better Pinot Noir on the shelves right now in this price range.
2005 York Creek "Estate" Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 8-20-2014
After the last few years I think just about everyone has heard us pontificating about just how good, and how insanely inexpensive, the York Creek wines are. Luckily for us and our thirsty customers Fritz Maytag kept deep cellars over the years and still has plenty of wine for us to sell. After the rousing success of the 1999 Meritage, which we sold almost 900 cases of, we bring two new wines to you from the fantastic 2005 vintage in Napa Valley. The 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon was possibly my favorite wine in the most recent batch of wines tasted from this winery; I certainly thought it was the most crowd pleasing. With a nose packed full of red fruits, a pleasing minty/mountainous tone and a touch of Amaro-like herbal spice this is one complex and alluring nose. Supple, plush and broad on the palate, this Cab has worn its almost 10 years of age extremely well with little signs of oxidization or drying out in flavor. Perfectly ripe black currant, sweet-tinged pipe tobacco, sous bois and layers of super-fine tannin and a touch of vanilla from the oak are all wonderfully apparent in this long and completely drinkable wine. We don’t have nearly as much of this as we did the 1999 so I’d jump on this quick before it is never heard from again.
2013 Talley/K&L Wine Merchants Edna Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 8-20-2014
Back in the late winter/early spring of this year I was really trying to identify a Chardonnay producer that we might be able to do a co-branded wine with. In looking at what we had and what was popular with our customers, I thought Talley would be a great fit for the project. We spoke and we both agreed that we really were excited to work with each other on this level. So at the end of June I drove down to Arroyo Grande to blend the wine with winemaker Eric Johnson out of barrel. There were 13 barrels for us to choose from, all of which were from one of Talley’s estate vineyards, Oliver’s Vineyard, and I got to select five of those barrels for this blend. What I found that day is that if I could have taken all 13 barrels, I would have. The quality of all the barrels was just superb and really showed off the vineyard and all of the subtleties that Chardonnay can have, but rarely does, in California. The final blend was actually the first we put together and while we futzed with it a bit, we agreed that this blend was always the best blend of the bunch. The nose showed a really delicate interplay of white floral notes, baked apple, sandy soil and a richer core of peach flesh and a hit of tropical fruits. With good entering cut and resonating energy and intensity throughout, this richly weighted Chardonnay never felt bogged down in anything excessive like oak or manipulated buttery richness. Instead it traded on its richly textured mid-palate and wealth of stone fruit and cleansing earth aspects as well as a lifting citrus oil note. I honestly couldn’t be happier with the way this wine came out. Thanks, Talley, for making us such an awesome wine!
2013 Bedrock Wine Company "Ode to Lulu" Rosé
Review Date: 7-17-2014
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 that just keeps growing year after year. This year we were lucky enough to secure a solid amount of one of Morgan’s least talked-about wines in the Bedrock series, his lovely Mouvedre-dominated Rosé. This year Morgan headed to Mendocino County to find fruit from “soils that had a bit more edge in them.” Still based in old vine fruit from his estate Bedrock and Pagani Ranch, this year’s rose is bolstered by Grenache planted in the 1880s in McDowell Valley and Carignane planted in the 1950s from Ukiah. With its lovely salmon color and intriguing aromatics of fresh mint, red currant, granite and lavender this is pure rosé that is certainly in the realm of great southern French rosés yet it has more depth and structure than most. Earthy to its core with a wealth of bay leaf, anise seed and caraway over a stony core this is bone dry and screaming for food. As the wine opens, and comes up to cellar temperature, the fruit hidden away at the beginning comes out showing tart plum, white cherry and red apple skin. This is about as structural as any Bandol I’ve seen in years and just as good for a lot less money. Don’t miss out!
Sherman & Hooker's Shebang! "Seventh Cuvée" Red Blend
Review Date: 7-10-2014
Morgan Twain-Peterson may be the most talented young winemaker in United States. How could he not be, growing up in vineyards beside 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! This particular cuveé is 46% Zinfandel, 40% Grenache, 5% Alicante, 5% Petite Sirah, 4% Sangiovese and 100% delicious! A bit darker-seated than last cuveé, this has a powerful nose of black pepper, ripe black cherries and a bit of wet asphalt with a very easygoing and friendly nature. Fruity but not jammy, structured but instantly drinkable this is a steal of a wine. Briary wild berry, a return of the black pepper found on the nose, raspberry and some old leather and tobacco notes combine on the palate to really over-deliver on the $12 price tag. Year after year I keep saying it, and I’ll say it again here, there still isn’t a better value for an inexpensive red wine in the store when the Shebang is in the house.
2013 Bodkin "The Victor's Spoils - Sandy Bend Vineyard" Lake County Sauvignon Blanc
Review Date: 7-9-2014
Plain and simple I was shocked when I tasted the 2013 Bodkin "The Victor's Spoils -Sandy Bend Vineyard" Lake County Sauvignon Blanc. Why? Because in all my years in this business I can’t remember ever tasting a Domestic Sauvignon Blanc that was this close to the wines of the Loire. From the intense minerality and slight oiliness on the nose to the laser-like acidity and leafy, slate-y, grapefruit, quince and lemon rind on the palate this is a dead ringer for Sancerre or Pouilly Fume for a fraction of the cost. Hell, even some of our most Francophillic employees were raving about this wine after trying it. Seriously if you love Loire Sauvignon Blanc this is a must try, I think you’ll be as floored as I was.
2012 Charles Smith "Chateau Smith" Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 7-3-2014
The era of deals in the realm of Cabernet Sauvignon is closing rapidly, if not all but dried up these days. I seldom see wineries or vendors looking to move Cabernet for pennies on the dollar even in difficult vintages, more less rock-solid ones. So it comes to me as some surprise that a wine like the 2012 Charles Smith "Chateau Smith" Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon can still come in under $15. From the larger-than-life personality, Charles Smith (K Vintners, Charles & Charles), who is known as much for what comes out of his mouth as what goes into his bottles, this Cabernet is just a rocking deal. From the moment the big inky, chunky nose that is packed with tar, cassis, chocolate covered cherries and a touch of gravel hits your nose you’ll know that this wine is punching way over its weight class. With its plush, round, crowd-pleasing mid-palate full of blackberry, olive, mocha and black tea this is packed with flavor and is something that you just have to twist the cap off and pour without thinking too much about whether or not it is going to be appropriate, chances are high it will be the right wine for most jobs. Add some slick, polished oak in the finish and an overall feel that couldn’t be farther away from big box manipulation and this is one of the last great deals in Cabernet land.
2011 Seven Hills "Seven Hills Vineyard" Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 7-1-2014
Seven Hills has long been one of favorite Washington producers here at K&L and one of my personal faves for about as long as I’ve been in this business. This first generation Washington winery has made great wines, seemingly continuously, since its founding in 1988 in all price points and from all varietals. However I think that this winery really shines with its Cabernet Sauvignon. There is a depth, richness and texture to their wines that rivals some of the best America has to offer, yet they do it for a fraction of the cost that we’ve come to expect from Napa or even comparative Sonoma Cabs. The Seven Hills Vineyard bottling is from the “Old Blocks” on this prestige site in Walla Walla Valley and while these old blocks may not be 100 years old they are certainly mature vines of the highest quality that you’ll find in Washington. Deep, inky and powerful this wine initially comes off as a bit of a brute, however as it develops in the mouth you realize just how complex and nuanced it really is. Layers of oak toast, dried black currants, road tar and black olive are tightly woven together with a long, persistent finish. This is a wine that needs a bit of air if you want to drink it right away so make sure you have a decanter handy, but if you have the time, patience and space I can’t think of a wine right now, for this sort of value, that would be better lived in your cellar for the next 5-10 years.
2012 Evening Land Arroyo Grande Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 6-24-2014
DEAL ALERT! Seriously if you are a lover of all things Chardonnay you will not want to miss this opportunity. A few weeks back I was presented with the 2012 Evening Land Arroyo Grande Valley Chardonnay and I thought the wine was outstanding. Made by the very popular winemaker Sashi Moorman (Miura, Stolpman, Sandhi, Stolpman) with all the fruit coming from the Talley Vineyards made the wine worth the price of admission, but what was that exactly? When I was told that we could sell this for $15.99 my only question was: “How many cases do you have and can I take them all?” With great richness and tremendous balance there is simply nothing in the world of Chardonnay that we have in stock currently that can rival its quality for the price point. Full of lively notes of golden apples, lime blossom, lemon curd and framed by a lovely streak of vanillin oak with a long woodsy finish that somehow never feels bulky this is a great wine that has a little something for everyone. Don’t miss this deal; it may be the best we’ll get on Chard all year.
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