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Staff Favorites - Bryan Brick
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2012 Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
Review Date: 12-16-2014
Can you really teach an old dog new tricks? I don’t really know but I think that some old dogs are smart enough to pick some new things up as they go along. That is exactly what Chateau St. Jean did with this brand, spanking new Sonoma Coast bottling. (By the way please don’t confuse this with the Sonoma County bottling that is everywhere and is completely different.) To say that I was taken by surprise by this new wine would be an understatement. I was blown away by the amount of power and richness it had, all the while keeping true, cool weather Sonoma Coast acidity throughout. With a nose laced with apricots, crème brulee and persimmons, while having an underlying citrus backbone, this was completely appealing and felt really natural. On the palate comes waves of vanilla, baked apples, some crushed stone and a lovely white floral highlight. For the under $20 arena of Chardonnay it certainly does not get much better than this. I’d scoop this up before the powers that be at CSJ realize just how good this wine really is!
2007 York Creek "Lake Block" Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 12-15-2014
After the rousing success of past vintages and the first couple of Single Block offerings, the 2005 “Sunny Hill” and 2004 “Track,” both of which sold out in a matter of weeks if not days, we have another great wine in the pipeline. The 2007 “Lake Block” is the youngest wine we’ve worked with to date from York Creek. But don’t let that youth fool you, this is one amazing wine. Powerful and completely reminiscent of some of the great wines from Spring Mountain, this is a superstar Cabernet. Full of the minty, sage, chaparral, black currant and licorice aromas so often found on the upper echelon Cabernets from the region. This is unmistakably “mountain” Cab. With its adolescent, grainy tannins and a tight core of black fruit, spice box and pipe tobacco flavors on the mid-palate, this is certainly a wine that can age for another 10-15 years without issue. Just look at some of the other wines we’ve already sold from YC if you need a track record. However with a perfect rare steak or other hearty/braised meat dishes this is about as close to a wide open Steph Curry 3 pointer as you can get in the wine world. Automatic!
1995 York Creek Spring Mountain District Meritage
Review Date: 12-15-2014
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 we just keep reloading because the wines are that good and you keep asking us for more. We’ve found an extra special treat to roll out this time: The 1995 Meritage. That’s right... we are wildly excited to sell this wine, which was made when Clinton was president, people went to see Waterworld just because of Costner, and somehow Hootie and the Blowfish sold like seven million copies of a record. Luckily this wine has aged much better than at least those last couple things. Still vibrant and with a lovely bouquet of dried rose petals, new leather and red currants, this is a wine that is a testament to just how well California wines can age over long periods of time. With a solid entry of sweet black tea, fresh tobacco, cocoa powder, spearmint and dried blackberries, this is one complex and likeable wine that is just about perfect for folks that are fans of more mature wines. Fully meshed and with little to no desiccation of fruit, this is just great old wine for a silly price. Think Toy Story rather than Jumanji and Radiohead’s The Bends over anything from Silverchair.
2012 Michael & David "6th Sense" Lodi Syrah
Review Date: 12-9-2014
Incredibly surprising or surprisingly incredible, either way I think those two statements describe the new releases from the Michael & David winery. Always known for their amusing labels and marketing I think the most recent batch of wines will make people take notice for just how much quality is in the bottle for such little cash. The style of wine is still full throttle, fruit driven and bold, as the wines always have been but there is much better balance in the wines overall and most importantly I found there to be no discernible residual sugar in the wines. These are a must try for fans of exuberant Domestic Wines for reasonable prices. The 2012 6th Sense Syrah was really eye opening for me. I’ve tried this wine for years and it’s always been a bit clumsy in regards to its ripeness levels, not so much this year! Now don’t get me wrong this is not Northern Rhone Syrah but it is a wildly pleasurable fruit driven Syrah for a measly $12.99 and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Aromas of chocolate ganache, wet black top and white pepper are very alluring leading to a exuberant palate of raspberry coulis, sweet licorice, pipe tobacco and wild berry cobbler with fine tannins and a stealthy long finish of toasted coconut and black pepper. A complete steal for fans of “big” wines.
2012 Michael & David "Freakshow" Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 12-9-2014
Incredibly surprising or surprisingly incredible, either way I think those two statements describe the new releases from the Michael & David winery. Always known for their amusing labels and marketing I think the most recent batch of wines will make people take notice for just how much quality is in the bottle for such little cash. The style of wine is still full throttle, fruit driven and bold, as the wines always have been but there is much better balance in the wines overall and most importantly I found there to be no discernible residual sugar in the wines. These are a must try for fans of exuberant Domestic Wines for reasonable prices. I’m a big fan of party rock. Think Rick Springfield’s Working Class Dog album or any of the great Power Pop Albums of the late 70’s early 80’s like The Beat’s Self Titled album. These are certainly not the most critically acclaimed albums but when you hear them, especially at a party they really make everyone feel good, loosen up and start moving around the room. I sort of felt this way about the Freakshow Cab. Not the most critically amazing wine but damn if it doesn’t taste great and won’t please everyone in the room. Under $20 this is like a record that has 3 hits on it that you’ll never get tired of and is in the dollar bin, pure magic. Deep, with silky black fruits and a nice waft of tobacco this is palate coating and intense wine that really brings some fun to the Cabernet game. Blackberry, spice cake, toffee and café con leche flavors are all apparent here and are meshed nicely. It’s going to be hard to beat this cab for this price.
2013 Au Bon Climat/K&L Wine Merchants "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 12-2-2014
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.
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 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.
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.
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