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Staff Favorites - Bryan Brick
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2010 Au Bon Climat "Isabelle" Pinot Noir
Review Date: 12-5-2013
By now it is certainly no secret how much we like the wines from Au Bon Climat. We’ve been inundating you with classy, structured, energetic wines from them for some time now including a wine that we made earlier this year with them. This wine, commemorating the birth of Jim Clendenen’s daughter Isabelle was first made in 1994 and is a cellar selection of the best barrels from the myriad of “single vineyards” that ABC works with. I’d love to tell you what that blend is but the winery is very stingy with that info! Feminine and full of earth laden red fruited richness the nose here is lovely with tones of rhubarb, mesquite, muddled cherry and some distinct oaky, mocha notes. Full and complex on the palate yet holding no excess in any regard this wine is stripped down to only its necessary parts turning more lithe and blue fruited as it lingers. Cassis, Asian plum, boysenberry and a pleasing subtle coffee bean note combine for a lovely, yet intense, drinking experience. Add the shockingly long savory, meat driven finish and this complex, complete Pinot is something to behold. Great now, better with age-I can see this going another 10-15 years without much of an issue.
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!
2010 Matchbook Dunnigan Hills Tempranillo
Review Date: 11-13-2013
Why the heck are we sending you an e-mail on a domestic Tempranillo from vineyards that are close to Highway 5? Because it may just be one of the sneakiest values of the year from California, even Robert Parker says so. A blend of 83% Tempranillo, 10% Tannat and 7% Graciano this is not to be confused with Spanish Rioja or Ribera del Duero (where the Tempranillo cutting for this vineyard came from, coincidentially) but a truly Californian take on what we can do with the noble Tempranillo grape. Aged in oak barrels, not on chips or staves, for 26 months in a mixture of American, French and Hungarian 15% of which was new this wine has a lovely sweet tinged and opulent nose full of friendly pencil lead, dried wild berries, coffee grounds and fresh blackberries. Ripe and lush on the palate with a deep set core of black fruits, sagebrush, cola and bakers cocoa this just wildly over delivers for the paltry $13 price tag. Bright and sassy on the finish much like great Rioja, but totally different, this shocked me with its varietal honesty and superb balance. A must try wine for lovers of the varietal or great bargains.
2011 L'Aventure "Optimus Estate" Paso Robles Red
Review Date: 11-13-2013
I first tasted the L’Aventure wines over a decade ago when I was just a hard working rookie in this business. I didn’t know much about wine at that point to be frankly honest but I was eager to learn and was willing to taste everything I could. I remember loving the L’Aventure wines but not really understanding why they were so great. Years have gone by and I certainly know a bit more that I used to but I now get why these wines are so darned good. First is location, great vineyards start with great location and this is about as good as it gets in Paso. Second is that Stephen thinks outside of the box. He left his home and family wineries in Bordeaux, mostly due to the constraining laws of the AOC to settle in a relatively unknown place at the time to make wines based in Cab and Syrah blends. It takes a special kind of man with an even more special vision to pull something like this off. Mind you this was well before the bottom dropped out of Syrah and people were forced to blend the sadly maligned varietal into Cab on a regular basis as a safety valve. All the background aside, and trust me there is more, the wines have always been of an uncompromising quality and an unmistakable house style. Big is always the word I use to describe these wines, they are full bore, heavily textured wines with generally higher alcohol levels. However there is always precision and balance in everything Stephan makes. This Optimus is as good as or better than any I’ve had with powerful aromatics of boysenberry preserves, braised pork belly, cassis liqueur and dried lavender. On the palate the wine is immense and dense in its scope with layers of spicy oak, bloody meat, torched sugar and a wealth of black fruits. Drinkable now with a hour or two of decanting or stow this away for 4-10 years, either way you’ll have a powerful but deft wine on your table.
2010 Chateau St. Jean Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 10-30-2013
Heading into the Holidays we all need some “ammunition wines.” What I mean by that is it is good to have a case or two kicking around that can be ready to go for any number of occasions - like the end of a rough day, an emergency bottle to take to parties, gifts, or wines for when people come over to your house and you don’t want them to drink all the bottles in your cellar. The 2010 Chateau St. Jean Cab is a perfect bottle to fill this slot. Lush, ripe and bold with plenty of varietal character and even some fine pencil lead notes this ripe Cab is sure to please just about everyone, especially when you consider it is only $21.99. A workhorse wine if there ever was one.
2010 Neely "Picnic Block- Spring Ridge Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
Review Date: 10-18-2013
If you receive our e-mails and/or newsletter and you haven’t yet heard of the wines from the Varner Brothers you probably really have not been paying attention. We’ve championed their numerous brands (Varner, Spring Ridge, Neely and Foxglove) for years and have made many a friend with their wines along the way. I stand by my assessment that they may be the best Chardonnay producer in California over the last decade, heck, even Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has gotten on the bandwagon giving the Varner Bros. wines consistently high scores over that same amount of time. That being said we really love what they are doing with Pinot Noir as well. All the Neely/Varner Pinots are 100% Estate fruit and while the Neely Pinots focus on single blocks, the Varner Pinot is a blend of three Estate blocks. The 2010 Neely Picnic Block Pinot Noir is possibly the most ageworthy of the three Neely wines. With much more foresty aromatics of fern, sous bois, redwood and wet earth this comes off leaner and a bit more terroir driven. Still carrying the trademark texture of the 2010 vintage from the Varners this adds brooding notes of black fruits, spice cake, cracked pepper and chewy back end tannins. There is much more scope and breadth here with flavors of Earl Gray tea, sage, boysenberry and ash but the wine needs a decant if you’d like to drink it right away or a cozy spot in your cellar for the next 3-5 years.
2010 Qupé "Bien Nacido Reserve-Block Eleven" Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 10-18-2013
It’s kind of funny if you really read the wine critics reviews that are listed here. All say very complementary things about the 2010 Qupe Bien Nacido-Block 11 Chardonnay but all four of the reviews describe the wine somewhat differently. This isn’t wildly odd in this biz, after all wine is certainly “in the eye of the beholder,” but it may be a bit confusing to our customers. I believe that the reason all four of these reviews differ so much, and mine as well, is that this wine is supremely balanced. In fact it is this balance that dominates the wine from nose to finish. Because of this I think you can really focus on what you enjoy in Chardonnay as a whole. If you like them bigger you’ll probably zone in on the brioche, toasted pecan aspects of the nose and the rich weighty texture, slightly tropical fruit and the toasty roasted corn-like new oak component. If you like leaner Chards then you’ll probably focus on its citrusy, honeysuckle aromatics along with the wines unmistakable energy on the palate with lemon curd, apricot, sous bois and a long acid driven finish. Either way there is something that I think every Chardonnay fan is really going to enjoy about this wine.
2012 Ancient Peaks/K&L Wine Merchants Paso Robles Zinfandel
Review Date: 10-8-2013
We here at K&L couldn’t be more excited to bring you the third wine in what hopefully will turn out to be a long, fruitful, project with wineries from around the US working with us directly to make exclusive bottling for you, our customers. Long an idea in the heads of the Domestic team here at K&L we’ve kicked around the idea of approaching wineries or winemakers we love and asking them to work with us to create exclusive wines to our specifications. Furthermore we wanted to not only promote these outstanding wines but the wineries behind them rather than putting the wines in our anonymous house labels like Kalinda. We hope that you think that these wines offer a tremendous value and a slightly different expression of wineries that you are already familiar with. Ancient Peaks burst on the scene a number of years ago with one of the highest rated, inexpensive, Zinfandels to ever come out of California by Wine Spectator’s standards. I was intrigued by the winery wondering if they were just a tank farm somewhere down in Paso, or a legitimate producer that we needed to watch out for. In visiting them the following year I realized that they couldn’t be more in the latter camp. Their sizable estate vineyard has to be seen to be believed, with it impeccable vineyard management, incredible diversity of soil types and singular microclimate that betray the notion of Paso Robles’s intense heat. Since that visit I have touted their wares and this year I took a crew of K&L folks there that were unaware of the quality behind these undervalued wines. As we were launching the new “Co-Branded” project with Qupé and Au Bon Climat I really wanted to have Ancient Peak involved as well and Zinfandel was the wine that I though best expressed the quality of the winery. Made from one block of Zinfandel, Block 32, this is a blend of 75% old oak, 20% new oak and the 5% to round out the wine is Syrah. I loved the bright clarity in the aromatics of the old oak Zin and while it was lighter in body it had all the Zin flavors I was looking for, briary fruit, white pepper, wild berry and a touch of baking spice. The new oak Zin component added pitch and much more spice in a confectionary way adding ripeness of fruit and more of a bass tone to complement the sassy old oak fruitiness. The Syrah worked perfectly to add mid palate weight and concentration and add a bit more “beef” in both flavor and texture, not to mention adding a touch of pretty floral complexity. I am so impressed with how this wine is already completely integrated in bottle and is ready to drink right away. The staff here couldn’t be more happy with the outcome and I hope you will be too.
2011 Stolpman "Estate" Santa Ynez Valley Syrah
Review Date: 9-3-2013
If you haven’t tried the Stolpman wines in a while it may be time to give them another shot. For years I thought of the wines of Stolpman to be sort of the best of the modern bunch: high extraction, higher in alcohol, bigger oak components and very ripe. However over the last couple of vintages that style has been changing bring the wines back down to a more balanced place. The wines now show off the varietals more and the unwavering quality that their vineyards always have produced rather than the winemakers hand in the cellar. The new 2011 Santa Ynez Valley Syrah unmistakenly shows this new lean with a nose more about new leather, freshly picked wild blackberries and cured beef than high toast oak barrels and prickly alcohol. Bright and sassy for Syrah, this has a wealth of spice components and really shows them off from the minute it enters your mouth. Whole black peppercorns, tar, cassis, mesquite smoke, pork belly and anisette are all apparent here with a pretty fresh green herbaceous note hiding underneath. This is Syrah in its purest form and could easily be mistaken for a young wine from the Northern Rhone from the 80s-90s. For any fan of traditional spice driven Syrah this is a must try.
2007 Cristom "Louise Vineyard" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 375ml
Review Date: 6-20-2013
I’ve loved the 2007 pinots from the moment they were released which was a unpopular stance to take. Sandwiched between the ripe, or mostly overripe, 2006’s and the blockbuster 2008’s 2007 got lost in its cool vintage nuance and subtlety. The wines were always incredibly aromatic, a note that is lost on most critics sadly, and had incredible energy, acidity and life. The problem was, for most, that they didn’t have a lot of stuffing, power or heft. Fast forward to now and many people are eating crow on the 2007 vintage. The wines have become even more wonderful adding mid-palate complexity and weight and are beginning to fully flesh out. This 2007 Louise, the warmest block on their property helpful in this cold year, is just delicious. Exotically perfumed with a load of tropical fruits, rose petal, cardamom and talc this is why I loved the aromatics of the vintage back when it was released. Bright and savory on entry this has loads of earthen/forest-y spice and an energetic yet surprisingly textural feel. White cherry, thyme, fern, apple skin and cranberry are delicately meshed on the palate and lead to a wine of great polish and poise.
2006 Cristom "Marjorie Vineyard" Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir (375ml)
Review Date: 6-20-2013
For some reason I’ve always gravitated to the wines from the Marjorie block at Cristom as being the most intriguing and interesting wines from their estate. This leads me to generally pick these wines as my favorite of the single blocks. The Marjorie block existed on the property when the Gerrie Family purchased the land in 1991/1992. The vines date back to 1982 making it one of the oldest vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills. The overall heat in 2006 has been well documented and all wines were struck by it including this one. The good news here is that this wine still has surprising cut and energy. The nose instantly shows the vintage with ripe, sunny tones of warm asphalt, dried raspberry and a bit of barrel char from the 64% new oak that it saw. Lush, expanse and open this is why so many people loved this vintage. This wine is all about texture and mouth feel and fans of more modern styled Pinots will love this will all of its bass toned red and black fruits and it overall round nature.
2005 Cristom "Louise Vineyard" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (375ml)
Review Date: 6-20-2013
2005 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir has always been a crowd pleaser. From the beginning the wines had tremendous fruit and supple, rich texture and a hefty overall nature. The fear about these wines was if there would be enough structural tension to hold everything together, and while I certainly won’t vouch for all the wines of the vintage I will go to bat for the 2005 Louise. Louise was the first vineyard that Cristom planted on their estate and is one of the warmer sites on the estate due to its lower elevation. The wine has a deep nose full of confectionary spices like cinnamon stick and clove and has brighter tones of dried cherry, rhubarb and sage all of which combine to give the nose a sort of exotic nature. That same nature really translates on the palate with layers of passion fruit, dragon fruit, clove, sweet licorice and a mélange of other red fruits. Still muscular and brawny this is a wine that will continue to grow into itself.
2004 Cristom "Eileen Vineyard" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 375ml
Review Date: 6-20-2013
The Eileen Block on the Cristom Estate is their highest elevation vineyard and their youngest Pinot Noir vines. This combination of youthful exuberance and tension from struggle makes for wonderful wines from this parcel. A perfect example of that is from the superb 2004 vintage which is one of the best vintages of the decade for my money in Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. A packed and inviting nose of whole cluster spiciness, wet soil, tree bark, tar, cassis, bay leaf and dark centered boysenberry combine give away early on just how complete and complex this wine is. Silky soft on the palate with a sexy mix of sandstone, more cassis, raspberry, black cherry, beet and rhubarb this is a wine that is easy to lose yourself in. Perfect for the dinner table with its overall poise and balance this is a testament to what Cristom is truly trying to accomplish.
2010 Ojai "McGinley Vineyard" Santa Ynez Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Review Date: 6-13-2013
On a recent trip down the Central Coast I was lucky enough to get an appointment at Ojai Vineyards. Tucked away in a beautiful spot in the town of the same name it would be easy to overlook the winery being that there is no advertising, no ballyhoo, heck there isn’t even a sign on their gate letting you know where they are. But once you are there it becomes readily apparent the level of attention and detail that is put into all of their wines. A perfect example of this is the 2010 Ojai "McGinley Vineyard" Santa Ynez Valley Sauvignon Blanc. 2010 was a cooler vintage in the Santa Ynez Valley and the wine shows that vintage character with its brisk acidity and pleasing, varietal muskiness. Fermented in old oak barrels this is allowed to come along slowly and frame the truly complex flavors that are rarely found in today’s Domestic Sauvignon Blancs. Quince, musk, lime, chalk passion fruit and Meyer lemon flavors swirl around the palate, all noticeable in their own right but meshed so tightly that they all become a sort of new flavor: Ojai “McGinley” Sauvignon Blanc. The finish is long and lasting and will certainly make you mouth water and ask for simple, nor not so simple salads, roast chicken or pork tenderloin. This is a rare find in Sauvignon Blanc that will hold up with the best in the world.
2009 Au Bon Climat "Talley Vineyard-Santa Barbara Historic Vineyards Collection" San Luis Obispo County Chardonnay
Review Date: 6-12-2013
Due to our wonderful relationship with the folks at Au Bon Climat we are lucky enough to bring you this tremendous Chardonnay. Back in May I went down to ABC and had lunch, tasted a bunch of cool new wines and put together a Pinot Noir blend that we’ll be seeing later in the year, but that is a totally different story. One of my favorite wines from that day was the 2009 Au Bon Climat "Talley Vineyard-Santa Barbara Historic Vineyards Collection" San Luis Obispo County Chardonnay which I was told that K&L could have an exclusive on. I was floored I couldn’t believe that a wine with this level of poise and balance could still be kicking around and furthermore we could be the only ones selling it, but both were certainly true. A lovely pithy nose of custard, egg cream, peach pit and nutmeg builds richness as its airs in the glass. Alluring and feminine that nose is a perfect prelude to the nectarine, apricot, apple skin and tea leaf qualities found on the palate. Stylistically speaking this is just about in the middle of the Domestic Chardonnay spectrum, oak and texture is there but it is not overwhelming the pretty stone fruit and integrated acidity. Seamless and bordering on beautiful it is rare to find such a complete chardonnay at the apex of its drinking window for $25.
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