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Staff Favorites - Bryan Brick
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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 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.
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" Old Vine 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!
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" 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.
2011 Pierce Ranch San Antonio Valley Arinto
Review Date: 5-29-2014
Pierce Ranch is maybe the most interesting vineyard nobody has ever heard of. In the far southern reaches of Monterey County, near Lake San Antonio and the Mission of San Antonio de Padua, the Pierce family planted mostly Spanish and Portuguese varietals over 30 acres at about 1000 feet elevation. After visiting the vineyards back in March with some co-workers from K&L we came back truly impressed with the quality of the vineyards and even more so by the shocking value of the wines. One of the most unusual varietals planted there is Arinto. Arinto, most commonly found in the Portuguese regions of Vinho Verde, Alentejo and Bairrada, takes heat and humidty well and retains its naturally high acidity. In this case it leads to a sassy wine full of earth aromas and a touch of salinity. Medium weighted and floral in nature this has plenty of citrus fruits and acidity to keep your lips smacking. Add some cleansing minerality in the finish and this is a wonderful substitute to Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino or Vinho Verde.
2009 Pierce Ranch "Cosecheiro" San Antonio Valley Red Blend
Review Date: 5-29-2014
Pierce Ranch is maybe the most interesting vineyard nobody has ever heard of. In the far southern reaches of Monterey County, near Lake San Antonio and the Mission of San Antonio de Padua, the Pierce family planted mostly Spanish and Portuguese varietals over 30 acres at about 1000 feet elevation. After visiting the vineyards back in March with some co-workers from K&L we came back truly impressed with the quality of the vineyards and even more so by the shocking value of the wines. A true showcase for the multitude of “Iberian” varietals the Pierce’s have planted on their property the 2009 "Cosecheiro" is a stunning blend of 53% Touriga, 40% Tempranillo, 5% Tinta Cao and 2% Graciano. Honestly this has been one of my favorite wines to sell over the last year to our customers. The blend is so different and combines all the best things from the red table wines from the Douro/Duero valleys big, chunky fruit, wonderfully floral aromatics, structural intensity and current drinkability. Think violets, wild berry, bittersweet chocolate, black pepper and exotic baking spices and that’s sort of what you’re getting into. At $18.99 I find this to be one of the best values around with the added bonus of being one of the most “different” wines out there.
2012 Clendenen "Stallion Vineyard" Santa Ynez Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Review Date: 5-19-2014
Last year the one wine that really took off from the Clendenen Family lineup was the “Mesa Verde Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc. Needless to say, this year we were very excited to try the wine but when we did we actually found that we liked another of Jim’s SBs more. The “Stallion Vineyard” is located in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley, which is one of the most unheralded areas to grow SB. This wine has an impressive depth of minerality and citrus tones that instantly reminded me of the best wines to come out of Quincy in the Loire Valley. Focused, clean and feminine this wine has pinpoint flavors of chalk, grapefruit, lemon pith and a slight turn to grassiness in the finish. I don’t know if we have a more Loire-like SB from the U.S. in the store currently.
2007 Clendenen "Le Pip" Santa Maria Valley Nebbiolo
Review Date: 5-19-2014
Nebbiolo is a fickle beast. Tannic. Aggressive in its youth. Expensive by nature. Yet so overwhelmingly beautiful. It is hard to grasp Nebbiolo sometimes and I think that is because there are so few examples that can be drinkable early and won’t kill your wine budget for the month. I’m always complaining that K&L never has any good, affordable Nebbiolo to sell. Certainly not an easy task but one that I’ve taken to heart. So I present to you the 2007 Clendenen “Le Pip” Nebbiolo. Requisite bottle time? Check. Affordability? How’s $23.99 sound? Drinkable tonight with any number of heartier Italian fares? 100% yes. If you are in the market for a Nebbiolo look no further. Violet, rose petal, black tea and a lovely bark/sandalwood quality combine on the nose. Pure varietal here. Add the tangy, fresh, energetic black fruit at its core and the subtle floral notes at its edges dovetail an Amaro/liquored herbal edge to the finish and you have the best sub $25 dollar Nebbiolo I’ve ever seen from California and one that easily rivals the Nebbiolo d’Alba and Langhe based wines from Italy.
2009 Ici/La-Bas "Les Reveles-Elke Vineyard" Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 5-19-2014
I’ve had a thing for the Ici/La-Bas wines for years. I was always trying to hunt them down in years past to no avail. They seemed to always be in reach but yet just out of my grasp. I just had to have Anderson Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from one of my favorite winemakers. Finally they are here and I couldn’t be more excited with what is in the bottle. If you are a fan of wines that show off a place rather than the persona of a winemaker look no further. I can think of very few wines from the Anderson Valley that taste, so, well, Anderson Vally-ish. Rosemary, anisette, beet root and piney bark combine on the savory, earth driven nose. Tangy from the moment this enters the mouth and developing a wealth of exotic spices as it unfurls its layers one after another on the mid-palate. Plum, sassafras, green/foresty underbrush, white cherry and a solid framing of oaken spice make this not only entirely drinkable but a wine that also is horribly underappreciated and unknown. Be the first on your block…
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 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!
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.
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