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Staff Favorites - Bryan Brick
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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.
2010 Marietta "Angeli Cuvee" Alexander Valley Red Blend
Review Date: 1-15-2014
Marietta has long been on our radar as one of the best producers of a non-vintage field blend for pennies on the dollar. Their “Old Vine Red” has graced our shelves continuously for the past 7-8 years, if not longer, and is always one of the best Domestic values in the store. Sadly however we’ve not found a permanent home for too many of their other wines for reasons that I can not honestly explain. That is until now. Their Angeli Cuvee, which is their top wine, is named after the owners of the ranch that became the current estate that the Bilbro family purchased in 1991. This blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane and Syrah is a tremendous wine showing the balance and poise that a blend like this rarely has. Maybe that is because of the overall coolness of the 2010 Vintage or maybe it is because it is just put together with a bit more attention and care, bottom line is this is smoking wine. Big and boisterous from the onset this is packed with aromas of black cherry, tar, sweet licorice ropes and cracked peppercorns. Ripe and full on the entry this shows pleasing texture and heft without turning jammy or coating and has plenty of countering spice and brightness of fruit. Flavors of boysenberry, allspice, mocha and unsweetened chocolate bounce around the palate and would work wonderfully with some braised short ribs or hearty meat packed chili.
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.
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.
2010 Brewer-Clifton Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
Review Date: 5-23-2013
The wines of Brewer-Clifton have long been some of the K&L staff’s favorite Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays made in California. Maybe it was because of their unflinching stylistic choices to make energetic, sunny, fresh wines. Maybe it was due to fact that they offered some of the best values in their respective price points. But mostly I think that it was just because they made wines that just about anyone could enjoy. The wines from B-C straddle a perfect line between the modern, richly flavored, bold wines that I like to call “new-school” and the subtle, thoughtful, precisely balanced wines of the old world. This Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay, pulled from some of the most famed vineyards of the region,Mount Carmel, 3-D, Gnesa, Sea Smoke, and Zotovich , to be exact is just a silly value for $24.99. Full of vibrant aromas like cantaloupe, kiwi, clover honey and apricot one would think that this would be one of those monster chardonnays but it is far from it. Sure it has a wonderful, round, filling texture on the mouth but it is far from heavy. Richly flavored, check, but this is no hammer with lifting tones of Kaffir lime, peach skin and orange flesh and a long nervy finish that speaks of the cool climate of the region. If you never had a wine from B-C this is a perfect place to begin and if you already have you know what a tremendous value this really is.
2009 Saarloos & Sons "His" Santa Ynez Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 4-3-2013
Sometimes you just know. You just sort of have a feeling that everything is going to work out just fine. Some call it ESP, some say it is their gut feeling and some are just so braggadocios that they will tell you they knew all along. Well, whatever you want to call it I think all of us that visited Saarloos and Sons on our recent trip to the Central Coast back in late February knew pretty quickly that we were going to do some really cool stuff together. I originally heard a hot tip about this winery from Bob Lindquist at Qupé a while back and if Bob says someone is doing a good job than that is good enough for me. What I didn’t know was just how much this family is committed to making great wines, being true stewards to their vineyards all the while having ridiculous amounts fun and trying to pass their wines onto people in a truly different way. I mean cupcakes with wine pairings at the tasting bar??? Seriously rad. Gift Certificates made out of barrel staves. Totally bitchin’ right? Letting their 6 year old daughter decide when to begin harvest on their Sauvignon Blanc? Genius! Writing a sustainable 250 year business plan? That is just plain cray-cray. But even without all the coolness surrounding this family project I would have loved these wines every bit as much. The reason: purity. These wines are the essence of well farmed fruit made gently into even better wines. Sometimes when you taste wines with the people behind them it gives you a better context in which to understand the wines. Here we instantly saw the personality of the people in the wine: honest, dedicated, farmers, looking to do something classic but always with a modern spin. Basically what I’m trying to say is these awesome guys and gals make wines that perfectly personify that awesomness.
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales "Bam Biere" Farmhouse Ale, Michigan 750ml
Review Date: 5-25-2010
The Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales "Bam Biere" is one of the best work horse beers out there. Made in the style of a Saison this is one of the best interpretations coming out of the US right now. With its yeasty, fruity nose of peach, apricot, fresh bread dough, tangerine and a pinch of clove this is about as traditional as Saison gets. Lightweight on the palate but full of flavor the beer displays flavors of brewer’s yeast, fried plantains, wet earth, savory grassy tones and a bit of drying hoppiness in the finish. The sweet/bitter interplay here is perfect, keeping the beer from ever getting out of balance or cloying white the understated fruitiness builds complexity as it goes. Big time Boosh!
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