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Staff Favorites - Bryan Brick
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2011 Clos Pegase "Mitsuko's Vineyard" Carneros Chardonnay
Review Date: 1-23-2014
The Mitsuko’s Vineyard Chardonnay from Clos Pegase may be one of the first Chardonnays I remember drinking, certainly one of the first I remember enjoying. This was back in the late 90’s/early aughts but the wine really hasn’t changed that much over all these years. The wine is still predicated on the one thing that it can’t escape: acidity. The coolness of Carneros seems to always keep this wine from going overboard and gives the apple flesh and graham cracker flavors lift and “pop.” That being said this is not one of those lean Chards, quite the contrary. There is always texture and richness here with a sort of expanse feel. The wine has incredibly integrated oak and a hefty amount of leesy richness but the flavors never feel anything but fresh. Tangerine, brioche, baked pears, honeysuckle and blood orange combine for one fully flavored, yet supremely balanced Chard.
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.
2011 Evening Land "Spanish Springs" Edna Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 1-21-2014
The wines of Evening Land have been on our radar for some time, working with a few wines over the last few years. We’ve always been impressed, as have many critics, with the purity, varietal correctness and energy of the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the winery. Plus they have access to some of the best sites in Oregon and California. One of these sites is the Spanish Springs vineyard in Edna Valley which sits at 900 feet elevation 2 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Sadly this will be the last wine Evening Land makes from this site. Pretty and delicate the nose is full of wild flowers, blueberry pie, sassafras and a lacing of shale like earth. A bit tight currently I found that the wine really blossoms with about an hour or so of decanting. The wine stretches out on the palate after this amount of time and shows lovely layers of mushroom, pork jus, more blueberry fruit, sage and a touch of lavender. Always on the prettier, reserved side of Pinot Noir we loved this wine with simple roast chicken. We believes this wildly over delivers for $20, we hope you feel the same.
2007 York Creek "MXB" Spring Mountain District Red Blend
Review Date: 1-15-2014
I think by now everyone has gotten the back story on the wines from York Creek and why they have been so successful for us here at K&L. If not, or if you just need a reminder, the short version is that we are working with the winery directly to exclusively bring you their incredible wines for insanely affordable prices. Up until now we’ve focused on the Cabernet based blends from the winery but we’ve always loved the other varietals they produce as well and we are not the only ones, Ridge Vineyards has made Petite Sirah since 1971 and Zinfandel since 1975 from this vineyard. This “MXB” bottling is from a field blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Barbera and Grenache and is just delicious. WE e-mailed the 2008 vintage of this wine back in December and it was a huge hit. The 2007 is different from the 2008 in that it is a much more spice driven, rustic styled wine with out as much ripeness of fruit. That is not to say that this is a tired wine in any way however. In fact most of our employees preferred this wine to the 2008 when we tasted the wines side by side. I view this wine as being a bit more Rhone-ish with aromas of new leather, whole peppercorns, dried cherry and a touch of wet asphalt. Briary and medium/full in weight this is a wine that is super versatile with its flavors of wild berry, sassafrass, ground pepper, braised meat and clay. So basically this is another wine in a long line of tremendous values from York Creek. (As a side note, we bought all the cases left at the winery so once this is gone, which won’t be long, it will be gone for good!)
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.
2012 Rancho Zabaco "Heritage Vines" Sonoma County Zinfandel
Review Date: 1-8-2014
We all need a wine for the little times. Things like the month of January, Monday nights, or those friends that pour their wine glasses up to the top. This Rancho Zabaco Zin is one of those kinds of wines: simple, drinkable and kind of unassuming but fully enjoyable. The thing I like most about this wine is that it has become very hard to find a fully dry Zin at this price range and this is dry in spades. It also has much more stuffing than I expected with a nice peppery streak to the dusty blackberry fruit. If you’re looking for an everyday red you certainly could do a ton worse for the value.
2012 Au Bon Climat/K&L Wine Merchants "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 12-5-2013
Back in February when we approached Bob Lindquist at Qupé about making a wine for us we also spoke to Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, after all they share the same facility on the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard. We thought that there would be few winemakers in the world of Pinot Noir that we’d like to work with more and few that have made as consistently good Pinot as Jim has over the last 30+ years. To our surprise Jim was interested and told us to keep in touch. Come May I was sitting down at a table having lunch with Jim and his General Manager Jim Adelman putting together this fantastic blend. We tasted 14 components that afternoon from both Le Bon Climat and Bien Nacido Vineyards. What we ended up with in our bottling was 100% Bien Nacido Vineyard fruit from 2 blocks: Block 11 and Block 2. More specifically the wine is a blend of 50% Swan Clone from Block 11 planted in 1997, 20% Mount Eden Clone from Block 2 planted in 1996, 20% a mixture of all Clones on Block 11 planted between 1997-1998 and 10% 115 Clone from Block 11 planted in 1998 40% of which was whole cluster fermented. The bright red cherry, cassis, pastille, fresh lavender and subtle mint aromatics came together wonderfully that day with a juicy core of green spiced, blue fruits on the palate from the whole cluster portion of the wine. The earthen spice and black tea notes from the mid palate on were brought by the Mount Eden clone which also added lovely weight and a bit of scope. I think that all three of us left the table that day happy with what we agreed on and now that it is in bottle I couldn’t be more excited about it. Bottled in early August this can use a vigorous decanting until around New Years and after that I believe it will open up and become something that will continue to get better over the next 6-7 years at least. Thanks Jim and Jim for making this dream become a reality.
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.
2008 Camiana "Blue Hall Vineyards" Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 9-18-2013
I can’t say enough about how good this wine is for the price. Mike Jordan, my counterpart in the San Francisco store, worked some serious magic to bring this price to all of you. I loved this wine when I first tasted it but was really worried about its asking price thinking that I wouldn’t be able to get it into peoples’ hands, but at $40 it is a no-brainer if you like mountain fruit Cabernet as much as we do. From a 3-acre parcel planted in 2001 at 1,700 feet elevation on Howell Mountain this wine is packed with aromas of fresh wild mushrooms, ash and deeper set tar and wet asphalt notes perfectly reminiscent of the mountain in which it comes. Soft and fairly open for a Howell Mountain wine this is wonderful now, although I think it will improve a bit over the next 2-5 years, with lovely ripe, yet precise flavors of camphor, black currant, sweet tobacco and a hint of scrub brush. Any fans of the Dunn, Ladera, Mayacamas, Keenan school of Cabernet should really pay attention here.
2010 Qupé "Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard - K&L Selection" Edna Valley Syrah
Review Date: 7-23-2013
A blend of 91% Syrah and 9% Grenache this is a lovely wine already with alluring aromatics of cocoa powder, dried fennel, camphor and subtle notes of bacon smoke covering warm blueberry muffins. Soft and inviting this is wonderful right now with supple, caressing texture and fleshy black fruits all pinned down by velvety tannins and some pleasing black pepper spice. Long and juicy on this finish this keeps echoing flavors found on the palate along with notes of fried sage and sweet licorice. I couldn’t be happier with the wine and think it is going to be just as well received as a cocktail wine as it will on the dinner table. Think cassoulet, short ribs and pork loin as willing and justified partners.
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.
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.
1999 York Creek Spring Mountain District Meritage (Some Damaged Labels)
Review Date: 5-7-2013
At some point last year I was sitting at my desk thinking about some of the wines I’ve had from what I believe to be truly great wineries in the fine state of California. One of these great wineries that kept popping into my head was York Creek. The saddest part is that I hadn’t carried the wine for a couple of years due to lack of distribution. So I picked up the phone and made a call, long story short James Beard Award winner, beer icon, owner of York Creek Vineyards and an all around great man Fritz Maytag was at my desk a couple of weeks later showing me the lineup from his estate high upon Spring Mountain. From that meeting a fruitful business relationship developed which began with us selling almost 300 cases of the highly touted 2007 Estate Cabernet, followed by the possibly even more popular 2004 Estate Cabernet that flew out the doors during the Holidays of 2012. Well we’ve gone back to the well once again and found another true gem at a completely ridiculous price. We recently tasted every vintage, minus the 1998 which they did not make, between 1994 and 1999 of the Estate Meritage. What we found was amazing, all of the wines were wonderful in their own vintage specific way but we really loved the 1999 vintage. I feel like this vintage is really at its apex right now and is a wonderful example of an old wine with plenty of freshness and life. Sure there are some secondary notes of tobacco, sandalwood and mint in the nose and of course the tannins here are polished to a fine patina but this is insanely drinkable and full of fresh red fruits and a deep set forest driven spice that only Spring Mountain can deliver. Add that all up, plus you get a wine that is almost 15 years old, for $24.99 and this maybe the bargain of the year.
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.
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