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Staff Favorites - John Majeski
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2013 Banshee Sonoma County Pinot Noir
Review Date: 1-21-2015
As one felled by images, I’ve often mused about the strange creature on this wine’s label. It is actually a cockatrice, that eerie hybrid bit of mischief, a demonic cross between a serpent and a rooster, armed with a "death-darting eye that could slay men with the poison of their sight." And a Banshee being the spirit of a wailing woman said to lie outside the walls of peasants’ houses, waiting for mortal men to die…..ahem. Well, on to the magical stuff in the bottle! Yet another lovely incarnation, this cool-climate beauty captured all the purity and essence of Sonoma coastal vineyards, with a core of enticing red fruit enlivened by tea, plum and boysenberry notes, all ballasted by clean acidity and gentle tannins. Enough supernatural fruit in here to silence a Banshee and keep her pet cockatrice at bay…..enjoy!
2012 Textbook Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 11-9-2014
Mention the word "textbook" and aside from the "textbook" definition, I flashback a decade or so to my poor niece Emily having to lug the equivalent of twenty pounds of school books in her beast of a backpack during the seventh grade. Fortunately times have changed, and today, with handheld tablets no one needs to be a human pack mule to get a decent education. Of course the best education for a student of wine is an uncorked bottle and a sparkling glass, allowing the winemaking talents of folks like Jonathan and Susan Pey to shine forth. With extensive experience in Bordeaux, Burgundy and the restaurant culture, they bring true sense and sensibility to their passion for wine, and their "newly published" Textbook Cabernet Sauvignon is defined by lovely aromas of ripe, juicy plums, succulent blackberries, licorice and camphor framed by subtly spicy oak, elegant tannins and scrumptious, mouthwatering acidity. An incredible Cabernet value, serve this throughout the holidays and into 2015. No homework required!
2013 Charles Smith "Kung Fu Girl" Columbia Valley Riesling
Review Date: 10-28-2014
True Kungfession: I get a real kick out of this super-smooth, fun and funkadelic wine from our talented neighbor to the north, Charles Smith, who somehow conjures up a domestic Riesling releasing zingy flavors of Fuji apple, Asian pear, ripe apricot and citrus blossom that manages to hit me smack dab right in the center field of my price to quality comfort zone, and easily scores big on the home palate. Blame it on playoff fever mixed with the need to take in plenty of essential stress-quenching liquids during this nailbiter Fall Classic, but this pure and luscious, slightly off dry beauty with the krazy name remains a world-serious wine and a surefire winner. Don't miss it!
2013 Rutherford Ranch Napa Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 10-22-2014
While this attractive charmer may not quite qualify as the "Hunter Pence" of Chardonnays, it does express his buoyant, infectiously-engaging personality and ability to generate hits with its unabashed aromatics and "give-it-your-all" flavors of ripe, luscious peach, glistening apple, creamy pineapple and mouthwatering citrus. It even manages a kiss of oak to balance the vibrant array of orchard fruits. A surefire hit with your base, and one to keep around for all your post-game and holiday celebrations......
2012 Ponzi "Tavola" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 9-28-2014
For anyone interested in reading more about West Coast Pinot Noirs, I'd strongly recommend Pacific Pinot Noir by John Winthrop Haeger, an exhaustively rich tome guaranteed to enhance your pleasure while delighting in a favorite bottle. I discovered, for instance, that Dick Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards started out as an aeronautical engineer and once designed rides for Disneyland before re-venturing into his first love, winemaking, way back in 1969. His vibrantly talented and energetic daughter Luisa has been the winemaker since 1993, and her mastery of the nuances of their various vineyards in Willamette Valley is evident in this balanced, artfully-blended Pinot Noir. Bright fruits scintillate in the glass, revealing generous aromas and flavors of lush plums, black cherries, fresh violets and cola, with supple tannins and a touch of spice on the finish. A wonderful, generously mouthwatering everyday Pinot for sharing with fine friends and family. Drink up!
2012 Joseph Jewell Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 9-21-2014
Nothing exists in isolation. I was just listening to Tom Waits' hilarious cryptic dirge from Mule Variations, "What's He Building In There?" about a strange guy hammering "what the hell?" in his garage when I flashed on not just Jobs and Wozniak but a few of the famed California winemakers—think Burt Williams and Ed Selyem—who started out finicking, blending and canoodling with stuff in their garage. It comes as no surprise that two young "garagistes," Micah Joseph Wirth and Adrian Jewell Manspeaker, also finessed their first Pinot from such economies of scale, by realizing that measured growth, savvy inspiration and the right fruit go a long way in the creation of a well-crafted wine. Their latest cuveé, gathering fruit from three primarily cooler sites in the Russian River Valley, is a deft expression— nothing overstated or overblown— just pure, delicate aromas of black cherry, gentle spice, a kiss of rose petals and oolong tea leaves, sleekly stylish yet savory, touched by sultry tannins and warm earth. Now put down that hammer, turn up the music, sit back and enjoy a glass of great Pinot!
2012 Eyrie Vineyards "Estate Grown" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 9-8-2014
David Lett was barely twenty-five in 1965, fresh out of UC Davis, with a smart detour in Burgundy under his boots and a strong, irrepressible passion to make great wine. So the next year he and his wife Diana transported a few thousand Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and other varietal cuttings up to northern Oregon and christened them on a few acres of pristine, southern-exposed slopes in the Red Hills of Dundee, thirty miles south of Portland. These were the very first Pinot vineyards in the Willamette Valley, and David Lett remained an outspoken, influential and wise presence in the region until his untimely death in 2008, affectionately nicknamed "Papa Pinot" by those who knew, respected and treasured him. I visited Eyrie this spring with several K&L staffers, and was met by David Lett's son Jason, who took over the winery in 2005 and was shepherding it through yet another growing season. Having grown up in the vineyards, he spoke with gentle ease about the sense of bestowed responsibility and challenges—always small production, a distinctive sense of place, uncompromising ethics—that faced the winery as it entered its fifth decade, and of the importance of maintaining the Eyrie style of natural, lithely-textured, aromatically pure, age-worthy wines. A superb example that expressed the magnificent 2012 vintage, the Eyrie "Estate" Pinot was both rounder and riper than in 2011, with more lavish spice, silky red and black cherries and raspberry on the palate, pleasant acidity and a touch of iron earth and bramble on the fine, flavorful finish. A marriage of suave and sensual, and although age-worthy, this promises considerable charm now, as the tannins are well-integrated and impressively smooth. Lett it be!
2012 Eyrie Vineyards "Estate Grown" Dundee Hills Chardonnay
Review Date: 9-8-2014
Please note that our inventory of Eyrie wines is always rather scarce, as they just don't make very much wine, but what they do make, well… this latest Chardonnay reflects what has been described by many as an epic vintage—the warmest summer in years, a long growing season allowing for perfectly balanced ripeness and acidity levels. But as with everything Eyrie, it's in the raw material—the Burgundian clonal varieties scrupulously hand-chosen by David Lett over forty years ago that sets this delicately straw-colored Chardonnay apart, imbuing it with refined elegance and lingering aromatic complexity. Liminal notes of poached pear, quince, lees, apple and spice play upon the palate in a stunning wine that will continue to evolve for at least a decade, probably two.
2013 Michel Delhommeau "Harmonie" Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie
Review Date: 9-3-2014
Rocks. So much truth lies in rocks. And these particular ancient volcanic rocks named for a famous Swedish actress (or haven't you ever heard of Greta...Gabbro?), when married harmoniously to the right vines and gently cultivated sensibilities of a magnificent winemaking couple, will turn out splendid, finely-cut wines like the Harmonie, aptly named for both the lovely, leesy richness and tropical fruits that embrace and embellish the palate. These have always been personal favorites and I look forward to their return year after year after year. Enjoy!
2013 Michel Delhommeau "Symbiose" Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie
Review Date: 9-3-2014
Every time I taste these magnificent Muscadets from Michel Delhommeau I cannot but reflect upon the manifest destiny of the wondrous grape- Melon de Bourgogne, from which they're created. Although it originated in Burgundy, it eventually managed to migrate, swim or magically rediscover its true and lasting home beside the rapturous sea in Muscadet. Imbued with sublime, effortlessly clean, lime pith and minerally-precise flavors, the Symbiose is a slightly weightier, glycerin-textured, richer companion to the excellent Harmonie. Remember, don't be shellfish, and share it with special friends!
2013 Eric Cottat Sancerre
Review Date: 9-3-2014
Once knew a very fine fisherman who generously invited us over for fresh-caught salmon, so fresh in fact that it tasted like it leapt from the cold Pacific waters right onto the hot coals. Looking back, I wish I'd had of bottle or two of this beautifully-delineated, expressively-textured, citrus and mineral-enhanced Sancerre at the time to complement the astronomically-gastronomic flavors of the grilled salmon. What a feast!
2012 Viña Robles "Estate" Paso Robles Sauvignon Blanc
Review Date: 7-23-2014
With its alluvial sandy loam soil, good drainage and excellent exposure, the Jardine Vineyard possesses ideal conditions for growing crisp and flavorful Sauvignon Blanc, and this affordably tasty version reveals why Paso Robles has become the new California hotspot for fine wine cultivation. Tropical fruits from guava to passionfruit, highlighted by lemon and grapefruit "citricality" and a touch of minerality perform a lively dance number upon the palate. A lovely, versatile wine for parties and summer picnics with family and friends. Cheers!
2011 Fossil Point Edna Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 6-23-2014
Because of its proximity to the ocean, Edna Valley has always been an excellent showcase for reliable, deliciously well-made Central Coast Chardonnays, often promising luscious, full-flavored fruit and balanced acidity. Fossil Point has fulfilled this tradition in an expressive wine brimming with flavors of orange rind, dried pineapple, and comice pear, complemented by a delicate creme brulee note and welcome acidity. A good match for slow-roasted chicken, baked fennel casserole or picnic ham.
2010 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône
Review Date: 4-18-2014
In 2010, a lingering cool spring in the Southern Rhône severely reduced crop yields and extended the harvest well into October, allowing the happy grapes to reach sublimely intense levels of both richness and structure -— the result one of the greatest vintages ever in the Rhône Valley. And who reaps the rewards? Enter E. Guigal, perhaps the Rhone's chief exponent of excellence, delivering an amazing spectrum of quality wines year after year. Their entry-level Côtes du Rhône, with redolent aromas and flavors of cherry, black plum, wood smoke and spice possesses astonishing degrees of balance, complexity and mouthwatering texture for a very modest price. Most definitely a "win-win(e)"...Enjoy!
2012 Bastide Miraflors "Vieilles Vignes" Côtes Catalanes
Review Date: 4-17-2014
The Roussillon region in southwest France has been cultivating grapes for thousands of years, so it comes as little surprise that a wine of such intense, immense pleasure as the Bastide Miraflors finds its home there. Select organically-farmed Syrah and rustic old vine Grenache undergo a long maceration to generate a wine of beautiful texture, form and depth. Lively, lusty and inviting red and black fruits toned with lavender and wildflowers make for a delicious bottle of wine, one that will complement everything from Mediterranean fare to roasted poultry to grilled lamb chops. This amazingly priced wine will quickly sail from our shops, guaranteed.
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