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Staff Favorites - John Majeski
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2013 Kistler "Sonoma Mountain" Chardonnay
Review Date: 2-25-2015
What’s in a name, you might ask? The name ‘Kistler’ comes from the ancient Germanic-Swiss guild of Kistermacher, or ’makers of chests’, derived originally from the Latin ‘custos’, guardian or keeper. Of course in the wine world it has come to be known as ‘maker of iconic wines’, and Steve Kistler has, like, a fine cabinet maker, continued to burnish his craft by creating some of the most elegant Chardonnays and Pinots in the New World. Like every great artisan, he sought the finest wood, or in this case, budwood, for his wines, and found it over forty years ago in a low-yielding Chardonnay strain discovered at Mount Eden and originally believed to have come from Corton in 1896. From this single heritage Burgundian clone Kistler has fashioned ten different expressions of Chardonnay, each wine the definition of a specific terroir, and each remarkable. The Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay, planted on an elevated, well-drained site of mostly volcanic soils, showed a prismatic quality to the fruit, as if every nuance reflected another in a dancing kaleidoscope of citrus, apple, stone fruit, chalk, ginger and almond flavors, all harmoniously held together by superb, crisp acidity and a breathtakingly long finish. A truly prodigious feat of winemaking!
2012 Cicada by Chante Cigale IGP Méditerranée
Review Date: 2-23-2015
This little Cicada sings! A joyful expression of the great value to be found in the magnificent Southern Rhone, this red wine is fashioned in a versatile style for easy drinking. A lyrical blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Carignan, it is guaranteed to serenade your guests at casual events, parties and picnics. Delicious enough to pair with both Mediterranean, Italian and Asian dishes, just pop the cork, pour and enjoy!
2010 Zaca Mesa Santa Ynez Valley Syrah
Review Date: 2-18-2015
A veritable raft of blueberries and blackberries, a suave pinch of baking spice, violet pastilles and vanilla all deliver the goods in this indulgent, pleasure-packed Syrah. With its voraciously voluminous fruit and engaging gorgeousness I marvel that whole herds, er, flocks of hungry, ravenous blackbirds never made a desperate, feathered assault on the Zaca Mesa estate vineyards, but don't ask why or wait, just sink your clever talons into a case or two before your next gathering of the human flock. It will be gone before you can say 'Birdman wins the Oscar'....I said it here first.....
2013 L'Ecole No. 41 " Luminesce" Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla White Wine
Review Date: 2-16-2015
'Luminesce'....sometimes even a wine's name can conjure glowing memories. As a kid growing up on the outskirts of Nashville, I will never forget my first sighting of hundreds of fireflies twinkling in the dusk of a warm midsummer's eve. Like tiny circuits on again, off again, now you see them, now you don't, they filled the air with magic, wonder and enchantment. This truly incandescent blend of Washington state cool-harvested Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc from the famed Seven Hills Vineyard was liquid, luminous sunlight in a bottle. Whole-cluster pressed fruit was given a slow primary fermentation on neutral oak followed by partial malolactic, and then spent four months napping on the lees. Fragrant and lively with luxurious aromas of citrus blossom and honeysuckle, interplayed with a core of crisp kiwi, passionfruit and green papaya frolicking on the palate, this beauty is a delightful, delicious treasure of a wine by any measure, and the perfect complement to fine poultry or seafood dishes.
2013 Calera Central Coast Chardonnay
Review Date: 2-4-2015
Oh, the Agony of the Pete...yesterday was both Groundhog Day and the day after the "Big Blame," I mean Big Game, and I couldn't help but wonder if Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll saw his shadow or was, like the film, destined to relive that last play again and again forever. Sympathy might not go far in this case, but a bottle of good wine always helps to heal deflated dreams. The folks at Calera scored big by hand-harvesting fruit for this coastal Chardonnay from select vineyards stretching from Santa Clara to Santa Barbara. Grapes were whole cluster pressed and gravity fed into the barrel room, where they underwent native yeast fermentation and achieved full malolactic in 10% new French oak for ten months. The result? A well-balanced and value-priced Chardonnay brimming with orchard aromas and an enticing array of trophy fruits... juicy apples, ripe melons, lush peaches and nectarines, with plenty of weight and acidity to carry through the "super" finish...... now go and intercept a bottle or two of this winning wine! You can't lose.
2013 Banshee Sonoma County Pinot Noir
Review Date: 1-21-2015
As one felled by images, I’ve often mused about the strange creature on this wine’s label. It is actually a cockatrice, that eerie hybrid bit of mischief, a demonic cross between a serpent and a rooster, armed with a "death-darting eye that could slay men with the poison of their sight." And a Banshee being the spirit of a wailing woman said to lie outside the walls of peasants’ houses, waiting for mortal men to die…..ahem. Well, on to the magical stuff in the bottle! Yet another lovely incarnation, this cool-climate beauty captured all the purity and essence of Sonoma coastal vineyards, with a core of enticing red fruit enlivened by tea, plum and boysenberry notes, all ballasted by clean acidity and gentle tannins. Enough supernatural fruit in here to silence a Banshee and keep her pet cockatrice at bay…..enjoy!
2012 Textbook Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 11-9-2014
Mention the word "textbook" and aside from the "textbook" definition, I flashback a decade or so to my poor niece Emily having to lug the equivalent of twenty pounds of school books in her beast of a backpack during the seventh grade. Fortunately times have changed, and today, with handheld tablets no one needs to be a human pack mule to get a decent education. Of course the best education for a student of wine is an uncorked bottle and a sparkling glass, allowing the winemaking talents of folks like Jonathan and Susan Pey to shine forth. With extensive experience in Bordeaux, Burgundy and the restaurant culture, they bring true sense and sensibility to their passion for wine, and their "newly published" Textbook Cabernet Sauvignon is defined by lovely aromas of ripe, juicy plums, succulent blackberries, licorice and camphor framed by subtly spicy oak, elegant tannins and scrumptious, mouthwatering acidity. An incredible Cabernet value, serve this throughout the holidays and into 2015. No homework required!
2013 Charles Smith "Kung Fu Girl" Columbia Valley Riesling
Review Date: 10-28-2014
True Kungfession: I get a real kick out of this super-smooth, fun and funkadelic wine from our talented neighbor to the north, Charles Smith, who somehow conjures up a domestic Riesling releasing zingy flavors of Fuji apple, Asian pear, ripe apricot and citrus blossom that manages to hit me smack dab right in the center field of my price to quality comfort zone, and easily scores big on the home palate. Blame it on playoff fever mixed with the need to take in plenty of essential stress-quenching liquids during this nailbiter Fall Classic, but this pure and luscious, slightly off dry beauty with the krazy name remains a world-serious wine and a surefire winner. Don't miss it!
2013 Rutherford Ranch Napa Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 10-22-2014
While this attractive charmer may not quite qualify as the "Hunter Pence" of Chardonnays, it does express his buoyant, infectiously-engaging personality and ability to generate hits with its unabashed aromatics and "give-it-your-all" flavors of ripe, luscious peach, glistening apple, creamy pineapple and mouthwatering citrus. It even manages a kiss of oak to balance the vibrant array of orchard fruits. A surefire hit with your base, and one to keep around for all your post-game and holiday celebrations......
2012 Ponzi "Tavola" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 9-28-2014
For anyone interested in reading more about West Coast Pinot Noirs, I'd strongly recommend Pacific Pinot Noir by John Winthrop Haeger, an exhaustively rich tome guaranteed to enhance your pleasure while delighting in a favorite bottle. I discovered, for instance, that Dick Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards started out as an aeronautical engineer and once designed rides for Disneyland before re-venturing into his first love, winemaking, way back in 1969. His vibrantly talented and energetic daughter Luisa has been the winemaker since 1993, and her mastery of the nuances of their various vineyards in Willamette Valley is evident in this balanced, artfully-blended Pinot Noir. Bright fruits scintillate in the glass, revealing generous aromas and flavors of lush plums, black cherries, fresh violets and cola, with supple tannins and a touch of spice on the finish. A wonderful, generously mouthwatering everyday Pinot for sharing with fine friends and family. Drink up!
2012 Joseph Jewell Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 9-21-2014
Nothing exists in isolation. I was just listening to Tom Waits' hilarious cryptic dirge from Mule Variations, "What's He Building In There?" about a strange guy hammering "what the hell?" in his garage when I flashed on not just Jobs and Wozniak but a few of the famed California winemakers—think Burt Williams and Ed Selyem—who started out finicking, blending and canoodling with stuff in their garage. It comes as no surprise that two young "garagistes," Micah Joseph Wirth and Adrian Jewell Manspeaker, also finessed their first Pinot from such economies of scale, by realizing that measured growth, savvy inspiration and the right fruit go a long way in the creation of a well-crafted wine. Their latest cuveé, gathering fruit from three primarily cooler sites in the Russian River Valley, is a deft expression— nothing overstated or overblown— just pure, delicate aromas of black cherry, gentle spice, a kiss of rose petals and oolong tea leaves, sleekly stylish yet savory, touched by sultry tannins and warm earth. Now put down that hammer, turn up the music, sit back and enjoy a glass of great Pinot!
2012 Eyrie Vineyards "Estate Grown" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 9-8-2014
David Lett was barely twenty-five in 1965, fresh out of UC Davis, with a smart detour in Burgundy under his boots and a strong, irrepressible passion to make great wine. So the next year he and his wife Diana transported a few thousand Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and other varietal cuttings up to northern Oregon and christened them on a few acres of pristine, southern-exposed slopes in the Red Hills of Dundee, thirty miles south of Portland. These were the very first Pinot vineyards in the Willamette Valley, and David Lett remained an outspoken, influential and wise presence in the region until his untimely death in 2008, affectionately nicknamed "Papa Pinot" by those who knew, respected and treasured him. I visited Eyrie this spring with several K&L staffers, and was met by David Lett's son Jason, who took over the winery in 2005 and was shepherding it through yet another growing season. Having grown up in the vineyards, he spoke with gentle ease about the sense of bestowed responsibility and challenges—always small production, a distinctive sense of place, uncompromising ethics—that faced the winery as it entered its fifth decade, and of the importance of maintaining the Eyrie style of natural, lithely-textured, aromatically pure, age-worthy wines. A superb example that expressed the magnificent 2012 vintage, the Eyrie "Estate" Pinot was both rounder and riper than in 2011, with more lavish spice, silky red and black cherries and raspberry on the palate, pleasant acidity and a touch of iron earth and bramble on the fine, flavorful finish. A marriage of suave and sensual, and although age-worthy, this promises considerable charm now, as the tannins are well-integrated and impressively smooth. Lett it be!
2012 Eyrie Vineyards "Estate Grown" Dundee Hills Chardonnay
Review Date: 9-8-2014
Please note that our inventory of Eyrie wines is always rather scarce, as they just don't make very much wine, but what they do make, well… this latest Chardonnay reflects what has been described by many as an epic vintage—the warmest summer in years, a long growing season allowing for perfectly balanced ripeness and acidity levels. But as with everything Eyrie, it's in the raw material—the Burgundian clonal varieties scrupulously hand-chosen by David Lett over forty years ago that sets this delicately straw-colored Chardonnay apart, imbuing it with refined elegance and lingering aromatic complexity. Liminal notes of poached pear, quince, lees, apple and spice play upon the palate in a stunning wine that will continue to evolve for at least a decade, probably two.
2013 Michel Delhommeau "Symbiose" Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie
Review Date: 9-3-2014
Every time I taste these magnificent Muscadets from Michel Delhommeau I cannot but reflect upon the manifest destiny of the wondrous grape- Melon de Bourgogne, from which they're created. Although it originated in Burgundy, it eventually managed to migrate, swim or magically rediscover its true and lasting home beside the rapturous sea in Muscadet. Imbued with sublime, effortlessly clean, lime pith and minerally-precise flavors, the Symbiose is a slightly weightier, glycerin-textured, richer companion to the excellent Harmonie. Remember, don't be shellfish, and share it with special friends!
2013 Eric Cottat Sancerre
Review Date: 9-3-2014
Once knew a very fine fisherman who generously invited us over for fresh-caught salmon, so fresh in fact that it tasted like it leapt from the cold Pacific waters right onto the hot coals. Looking back, I wish I'd had of bottle or two of this beautifully-delineated, expressively-textured, citrus and mineral-enhanced Sancerre at the time to complement the astronomically-gastronomic flavors of the grilled salmon. What a feast!
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