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Staff Favorites - Bryan Brick
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2011 Pierce Ranch "GSM" San Antonio Valley Rhone 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. Case in point is the 2011 Pierce Ranch "GSM" San Antonio Valley Rhone Blend for a paltry $13.99. This blend of 45% Grenache, 35% Syrah and 20% Mourvedre is just out of this world for the price. We first found out about Pierce Ranch because of this wine a number of years back at Family Winemakers and we’ve been working with it ever since. Spicy, meaty cured pork aromas and ripe boysenberry fruit combine in the nose to give something that has notes of great Cotes du Rhone but is unmistakably modern in its fruit sense. Dry throughout with fine chalky tannins and layers of licorice ropes, asphalt, wild berry and cocoa powder this is a ton of wine for under $15. Add the return of that bacon-y smoke in the finish and you have a perfect everyday red bold enough to go with BBQ and other hearty meat dishes yet refined enough to take to your classy friend’s dinner party.
2011 McPrice Myers "Cremant de la Cote" Paso Robles Grenache Noir Brut
Review Date: 5-28-2014
When I saw a Domestic Sparkling wine made from Grenache Blanc and hailing from Paso Robles, of all places, I had to give it a try. I had this picture in my mind of something like Australian Sparkling Shiraz but I was completely wrong. It couldn't have been further from it. Light, delicate and with a lovely orange/pink hue to its color this was an unexpected treat. I loved how this spread out on the palate from some lees contact with a bready/cake-like aspect yet never felt blousy. White pepper, granite, custard and Rainier cherry combine forces to create something wildly new and completely different for anything I've ever had before.
2006 Clendenen "Rancho La Cuna" Santa Maria Valley Syrah/Viognier
Review Date: 5-19-2014
On a personal level, when we rediscovered the Clendenen Family wines last year the 2005 Syrah/Viognier was my favorite wine of the bunch. So I was very excited to taste the new 2006 vintage of the same wine when we visited the winery back in March. I have to say, I was a little worried that it couldn’t live up to the intensity, power and floral reserve that the 2005 had, but my fears quickly turned to joy when I tasted the 2006. Maybe a better overall wine at this stage in its life, the 2006 is full of dried lavender, cassis, menthol and a wealth of meatiness in both flavor and texture. Savory at its core and lush at the edges, this wine comes at you in waves of peppered beef, pastilles, violet and briary wild berry fruit. With all the modernizing in the Rhone Valley, both North and South, I think this wine may be more “traditional” than most Cote-Rotie on the market today. It certainly is much less expensive at the very least.
2008 Clendenen Family Vineyards "Le Bon Climat" Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 5-19-2014
In the pantheon of Jim Clendenen’s Pinot Noirs there is much to choose from. None are really quite the same as the one that came before or beside it. Some may think that is overkill, I think choice is a great thing. If you want another choice in Pinot Noir from him then do I ever have something for you. The 2008 Clendenen “Le Bon Climat” Pinot Noir is classic Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir. Sage and thyme ride just beneath a lovely beam of black cherry and red current fruit on the nose. Already growing into something special this had shed its baby fat and is becoming quite a handsome wine in its early years. With a savory quality from its whole cluster fermentation and its layering of exotic spices and fruit, this is a Pinot Noir of top billing. Pomegranate, roast pork, tarragon, lavender and crushed cherry combine to flesh out this Pinot Noir and should do well to take it another 10 years if you want to be that patient. I haven’t been so far…
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.
2013 Clendenen Santa Maria Valley Mondeuse Rosé
Review Date: 5-19-2014
The 2013 Mondeuse Rose from Clendenen Family is just silly good. We really didn’t know what to expect from this wine when we tasted it right after bottling in March, but did it ever knock our socks off. Only Jim could come up with something that is so far out in left field yet undeniably delicious. With its bright, juicy, red-fruited nature and mouthwatering acidity, this is easily drinkable by the bottle. Cherry skin, pomegranate seeds, wet stone and white floral notes combine to make one amazing rosé. Once we brought this back from a recent buying trip and tasted the staff on the wines it instantly became the staff’s favorite Domestic rosé. Summer is almost here-- is your rosé stock adequate?
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…
2008 Ici/La-Bas "Victoria - Elke Vineyard" Anderson Valley Chardonnay
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. The 2008 Chardonnay will tell you everything you need to know about why I hunted down these wines for so long. With intense aromas of sous bois, cashews and a hint of fresh mint this struck me as being somewhat Mersault like on the nose. Once I tasted the wine I knew that anyone pining after that $25 dollar bottle of Mersault that just doesn’t exist any longer needed to have this wine. Round and rich but never adding too much texture to take away from its impressive complexity this wine has a fully developed mid-palate of peach and nectarine flesh with a finish full of almond skin and lifting ruddy earth. Tremendous wine here.
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.
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.
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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