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Staff Favorites - Bryan Brick
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2012 Waterbrook Columbia Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 4-22-2014
I’m not going to lie. I’m instantly skeptical of anything that we can retail for under $10 from the US. I’m not saying that I don’t want to champion inexpensive wines, god knows we all need them, but with the cost of land, goods, equipment, labor, etc…it is just really difficult to make good wine at this price. That’s why when we actually do find one we get really, really excited for it. The 2012 Waterbrook Columbia Valley Chardonnay is a perfect example of an exciting value wine. The first thing that struck me about this wine is that everything felt natural. No acidification, no oak chips, no Frankenstein wine here. What is here is a lovely, surprisingly rich Chardonnay with the exotic spice of Hungarian oak and the creamy texture of partial Malolactic Fermentation. Add in round, delicious baked apple and apricot fruit and a touch of tropicality from 2% Viognier and this is a Chard that you can pick up by the case and drink by the bottle whenever the need strikes!
2010 Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 4-4-2014
Freemark Abbey has been back on our radar for some time now and we are all fired up about their Cabernets. After a few years of less than stellar releases in the mid 90s/early 00s where they just seemed to be producing too much wine, they straightened up and have gotten back on the road to stardom. The 2010 Cabernet instantly reminded us of their classic wines of the 70s and 80s when Freemark Abbey were making slightly rustic, old-school wines with plenty of charm and varietal correctness. The nose is wonderfully reminiscent of Cabs of yesteryear with aromas of warm clay, black currant, olive and graphite, all the while remaining on the more savory side of the spectrum. Plush and inviting with rock solid black fruits this feels incredibly honest and real in a sea of Cabs that are just getting out of hand. Sure it has nice toasty oak, but it is fully integrated in the wine. Yes there are some great, structural tannins here but nothing that is going to make your teeth scream. The classic old leather, bay leaf, currant, black olive, cocoa powder flavors are like your favorite chair calling you in after a long work day. Get back to a true classic!
2012 Neyers "Sage Canyon" Rhone Blend
Review Date: 3-25-2014
"This is killer." That is what I wrote as my final tasting note for this wine when I first tasted it back in late February. And after tasting it again with the staff recently I think I nailed it on the head. A blend of Carignane, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre from some of the truly "heritage" sites from around California, this is a stunning Rhone blend that will easily rival the best from Gigondas or the New World. With its boisterous, expansive nose of fried sage, black pepper, roast pork and crushed lavender, I can't help but think that this is what all the "modern" producers in the Southern Rhone are shooting for but rarely achieve. Fully black fruited and full of juicy richness this is a treat to drink with its unabashed ripeness and the complex spice coming from fermenting 100% of this wine by whole cluster. No new oak was used in making this wine and I don’t think it needs it; the raw materials are already intriguing and charming enough on their own. I just can’t see any Rhone blend fans not loving this!
2001 Arcadian "Sleepy Hollow Vineyard" Monterey Pinot Noir
Review Date: 3-10-2014
Blind Tasting is a regular practice for the staff here at K&L. We do it all the time to keep our palates and minds fresh about the process of tasting wine. As a buyer I’m always looking for things that I think will be challenging for our staff to taste blind whether it be varietal makeup, place or vintage there is a lot of ways that you can lay down a surprise in front of our staff. So when I tasted a library release of Arcadian’s 2001 Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir I knew I had to throw it in a decanter and see what our guesses were. Tasting the wine myself I found it to be incredibly intriguing, after all this wine was made from one of the best vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands before it became an official AVA. Also I’ve never thought the overriding style of the appellation would lead towards graceful maturity but that is exactly how I perceived this wine. With just the beginning stages of secondary aromas developing I was shocked at the complex aromas of dried beef, bloody rib eye, Cleary sage and flowering lavender. Also impressive was just how energetic this wine still was on the palate with dry, iron-y tones of clay/blood turning to more pitchy tones of salted plum, dried blackberry white pepper and fresh fennel. While our staff nailed it as new world Pinot Noir, only one person correctly guessed the vintage and not a single person guessed the region! A truly intriguing wine for fans of older Pinot.
2011 Limerick Lane Russian River Valley Syrah/Grenache
Review Date: 2-26-2014
Limerick Lane was always one of the great mysteries of the Russian River Valley. I think however that mystery has finally been solved. Let me explain. For years this winery had zero consistency. Some years the wines would just floor you with their rare mix of finesse and complexity, the next they’d be undrinkable. It always seemed that the raw materials were exceptional; they were just not being molded in the right way. Then the Bilbro Brothers, previously working at their family’s winery Marietta, bought the winery in 2011 and everything changed. The wines, even the early ones that they didn’t make from front to back were of the level that I’d expect. The 2011 vintage is the first that they made in its entirety and the wines are absolutely stunning. The 2011 Grenache/Syrah is at first look a bruiser of a wine, but if one looks closely I think there is more than meets the eye here. Packed with bold aromatics of pepper bacon, chaparral, wild blackberries and fresh asphalt this is not shy on the instant the cork is pulled. On the palate it lightens up a bit with the fresh red fruited nature of the Grenache adding a counter weight to the hefty Syrah spice and meatiness. Add some pleasing structural tannins and a slick, polished nature and this is about as good as modern Rhone Blends get in California.
2011 Limerick Lane Russian River Valley Zinfandel
Review Date: 2-26-2014
Limerick Lane was always one of the great mysteries of the Russian River Valley. I think however that mystery has finally been solved. Let me explain. For years this winery had zero consistency. Some years the wines would just floor you with their rare mix of finesse and complexity, the next they’d be undrinkable. It always seemed that the raw materials were exceptional; they were just not being molded in the right way. Then the Bilbro Brothers, previously working at their family’s winery Marietta, bought the winery in 2011 and everything changed. The wines, even the early ones that they didn’t make from front to back were of the level that I’d expect. The 2011 vintage is the first that they made in its entirety and the wines are absolutely stunning. As one of my favorite wines at this year’s ZAP tasting the 2011 Russian River Zinfandel is a must-try for any Zin fan. This is that perfect tightrope of a Zin that pulls off having both ripe, luscious fruitiness and deep penetrating spiciness. Brambly and bold the nose here portrays the rustic vines of the vineyard which date back to 1910. Full of flavors of peppery spice, dried beef, sweet sun drenched wild berries and some underlying black tea flavors this is a compact Zin that wants to unravel with air or time in the cellar. Give this a decant and sit back and enjoy the ride.
2011 Hendry "Block 7 & 22" Napa Valley Zinfandel
Review Date: 2-26-2014
Hendry long has flown under the radar in the world of Zinfandel except with maybe the most ardent fans of the varietal. They don't do a lot self promotion and they don’t have a big flashy building on Highway 29 or the Silverado Trail in Napa. All they do is quietly make amazing wines, their Zinfandels long my favorites from their bench land vineyards. This Block 7&22 Zin is one of the best I've seen in the past few years with alluring aromas of warm soil, blackberry, pastilles and subtle pepper notes. This is the rarest kind of Zin in my book, one of refinement and poise rather than hammering weight and extraction. Lithe and friendly from the moment it hits the palate this is full of black currant, bittersweet chocolate and a pleasing undercurrent of savory herbs and iron rich soil. Long and lasting with great finishing acidity this Zin is going to be much more appropriate on your dinner table than as a cocktail wine, even with its balanced 15.5% ABV. This makes me want roast pork with crispy skin really bad!
2012 Kalinda "Cuvée Reserve" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 2-25-2014
For the last two years we’ve been lucky enough to be able to work with one of the best, relatively new producers, in the Willamette Valley to produce our Kalinda Cuvée Reserve Pinot Noir. This producer, Trisaetum, has been in the spotlight many times over the last few years for the amazing work they do with both Pinot Noir and Riesling. Coming from a blend of 8 barrels we really believe that this is even better than last year’s bottle. Part of that is the 2012 vintage is just superb with solid yields of amazing fruit not completely unlike the recent 2008 vintage. The final blend, which we fine tuned a bit this year with the help of James Frey the owner and winemaker at Trisaetum, is a blend of their two estate vineyards, one in the Ribbon Ridge AVA (37.5%) and the other out on the foothills of the Coast Range (62.5%) from clones 777, 667, 114, Pommard and Wadensvil and aged in mostly neutral French oak. Bright and vibrant on the nose this is reminiscent of fresh strawberries, passion fruit, cranberry and the typical Oregonian earthen qualities. Full of energy and just coming into its own this Pinot has shocking depth and concentration given its light color and medium weight. Full of red plum, currant, sage, lilac and rhubarb this has plenty to contemplate but is drinkable enough that it doesn’t need to be a mental exercise to be enjoyed. We love what Trisaetum is doing in the valley right now and we hope that you’ll love them as much as we do after drinking a bottle or two of this stunner.
2010 Sequana Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 375ml
Review Date: 2-25-2014
You have to love half bottles. I believe that they are a completely underappreciated tool in the world of wine. They are the perfect size if you are drinking alone and don’t want to feel like you were hit by a sledgehammer the night before. They allow people to try wines without much of a financial commitment, most of the time. Plus they are amazing at restaurants, I’m much more willing to order half bottles than glasses of wine from almost every establishment I can think of that offers both. The 2010 Sequana Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir is a perfect example of how enjoyable a half bottle can be. Certainly on the more masculine side of Pinot this has a powerful nose of plum, cassis and bacon with an undercurrent of wet, forest-like earth. Pitchy and full of sappy red fruits this is for the bigger is better side of the Pinot scale but still maintains good finishing acidity and lift throughout the wine. Flavors of raw roast beef, roasted beets, black cherry and a return of a smoky bacon note should be pleasing if you need a little bottle to keep you company for the night.
2011 Clos Pegase "Mitsuko's Vineyard" Carneros Chardonnay
Review Date: 1-23-2014
The Mitsuko’s Vineyard Chardonnay from Clos Pegase may be one of the first Chardonnays I remember drinking, certainly one of the first I remember enjoying. This was back in the late 90’s/early aughts but the wine really hasn’t changed that much over all these years. The wine is still predicated on the one thing that it can’t escape: acidity. The coolness of Carneros seems to always keep this wine from going overboard and gives the apple flesh and graham cracker flavors lift and “pop.” That being said this is not one of those lean Chards, quite the contrary. There is always texture and richness here with a sort of expanse feel. The wine has incredibly integrated oak and a hefty amount of leesy richness but the flavors never feel anything but fresh. Tangerine, brioche, baked pears, honeysuckle and blood orange combine for one fully flavored, yet supremely balanced Chard.
2011 Seven Hills Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 1-22-2014
Has there been a more consistent Cabernet Sauvignon at the $20 price point than the Seven Hills Columbia Valley bottling? Pretty much every year for the last decade this bottling has been top notch, rivaling bottles that are twice its cost. In 2011 a cold growing season, maybe the coldest on record in Eastern Washington, many wineries decided to not produce their top wines. This is exactly what Seven Hills did, funneling all of their best fruit into the lower tier bottlings. This Columbia Valley Cabernet comes from fruit throughout the massive appellation focusing on fruit from Wahluke Slope, Yakima Valley, Red Mountain and Walla Walla Valley, mostly from great declassified lots. This blend of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Carmenere, 4% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec, and it over-delivers greatly for $20. It's showing just how fantastic Cabernet can still be in this price point. Exciting and vital on the nose, this has alluring aromatics of crushed violet, old leather, Bing cherry, bay leaf and black olive. On entry the wine is lithe and accepting, it sort of waves you in with its cocoa powder, black raspberry, Oolong tea and crème brulee flavors. Softly tannic this is a wine that you can drink instantly but will also continue to develop over the next 3-7 years. I would be hard pressed to find a better Cab for $20 from Washington or anywhere else for that matter.
2011 Evening Land "Spanish Springs" Edna Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 1-21-2014
The wines of Evening Land have been on our radar for some time, working with a few wines over the last few years. We’ve always been impressed, as have many critics, with the purity, varietal correctness and energy of the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the winery. Plus they have access to some of the best sites in Oregon and California. One of these sites is the Spanish Springs vineyard in Edna Valley which sits at 900 feet elevation 2 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Sadly this will be the last wine Evening Land makes from this site. Pretty and delicate the nose is full of wild flowers, blueberry pie, sassafras and a lacing of shale like earth. A bit tight currently I found that the wine really blossoms with about an hour or so of decanting. The wine stretches out on the palate after this amount of time and shows lovely layers of mushroom, pork jus, more blueberry fruit, sage and a touch of lavender. Always on the prettier, reserved side of Pinot Noir we loved this wine with simple roast chicken. We believes this wildly over delivers for $20, we hope you feel the same.
2010 Marietta "Angeli Cuvee" Alexander Valley Red Blend
Review Date: 1-15-2014
Marietta has long been on our radar as one of the best producers of a non-vintage field blend for pennies on the dollar. Their “Old Vine Red” has graced our shelves continuously for the past 7-8 years, if not longer, and is always one of the best Domestic values in the store. Sadly however we’ve not found a permanent home for too many of their other wines for reasons that I can not honestly explain. That is until now. Their Angeli Cuvee, which is their top wine, is named after the owners of the ranch that became the current estate that the Bilbro family purchased in 1991. This blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane and Syrah is a tremendous wine showing the balance and poise that a blend like this rarely has. Maybe that is because of the overall coolness of the 2010 Vintage or maybe it is because it is just put together with a bit more attention and care, bottom line is this is smoking wine. Big and boisterous from the onset this is packed with aromas of black cherry, tar, sweet licorice ropes and cracked peppercorns. Ripe and full on the entry this shows pleasing texture and heft without turning jammy or coating and has plenty of countering spice and brightness of fruit. Flavors of boysenberry, allspice, mocha and unsweetened chocolate bounce around the palate and would work wonderfully with some braised short ribs or hearty meat packed chili.
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.
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!
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