Staff Favorites - Bryan Brick

Bryan Brick

Reviews

2015 Halcón "Alturas" Yorkville Highlands Syrah
Review Date: 08-03-2017
Last year this winery had a coming out party with its 2014 releases. They were highly scored in Wine Advocate and the door was ajar. Orders flooded in and the wines were sold out in a matter of days. This year we may run into a similar problem as again the scores are good and 2015 for Halcón, like most in California, was a very, very small vintage. This 100% Syrah blend from the estate vineyard high in the Yorkville Highlands (2,500ft) was fermented with 40% whole clusters and is full of the meaty savor that I love in Domestic Syrah. Superb aromatics of fleshy wildberry, crushed stone and burnt ends lead to supple caressing flavors of bacon, braised meats, blueberry and darkly roasted artisanal coffee. This wine is just beginning to unravel and if the past vintages are any indication will age slowly and gracefully for some time.

2014 Black Kite "Soberanes Vineyard" Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
Review Date: 08-03-2017
The Black Kite Soberanes Vineyard is just that. A big wine, for big Chard fans but there is a twist. While most “big” Chards come more from winemaking in the cellar than anything else this wine gets its largesse from the vineyard itself. The Soberanes Vineyard is a superstar in the making, after all it is jointly owned and farmed by the two biggest names in the area-The Pisoni and Franscioni families-and still is growing out of its youthful power. With about 40% new oak and full malolactic fermentation this certainly has a frame of a certain ilk but the fruit, the raw materials, of this wine override it with splendid fig, baked apple, pistachio ice cream and hints of lavender. Never losing its granitic minerality this wine has a counterbalance to all that size and that is really what keeps this from going too overboard.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
Review Date: 08-03-2017
Do not let the fact that this is the “entry level” Fogarty Pinot Noir fool you. This is outrageous wine, entirely under-valued and full of Pinot greatness. From numerous estate and non-estate sites Tom Jr. and Nathan Kandler have quilted together a wildly expressive wine that speaks of the Santa Cruz Mountains. From numerous sub-regions of the appellation this includes fruit that was grown from 400-2,600 feet elevation and that mountainside structure pulls this wine along seamlessly. Light, tangy and full of crunchy, red fruited snap it is worth the price of admission just to experience the playful tension between ripe pomegranates, plum and white cherry fruit and the zesty acid that Pinot Noir is known for from the area. But then comes the loaded finish that has chaparral, white floral and sage components that will leave you wanting glass after glass. In the world of crazy priced Pinot Noir these days this wine strikes out as something incredibly special.

2014 Quintessa Rutherford Bordeaux Blend
Review Date: 08-03-2017
The folks at Quintessa have been on quite a roll lately. For the last few vintages their iconic Cabernet bottling has been one of the best in the valley and after a recent visit I better understand why. Not only do they have a tremendous estate in Rutherford that they farm organically but they spare no expense and are dedicated down to the smallest detail to make the best wine they possibly can year after year. Aged in 80% new French oak this wine is labeled as Cabernet but also has small amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Carmenere in the final blend and to me it speaks more of the great Left Bank Bordeaux of the last two decades than of the sometimes excessive Napa Cabs over the same time frame.
Bursting with floral intensity and with a underlying core of amaro, and black fruited concentration this vintage seems a bit more lifted and spiced aromatically than either the ’12 or ’13 vintages at this stage. “Pretty” was the word that I kept coming back to in my notes as this wine has a lithe and giving frame full of open, airy berry fruit, crushed flowers, a subtle meaty spice and layered plum and cassis tones. This was like breath of fresh air not only for Napa Cab but also for the warm 2014 vintage for me as the vigor and energy of this wine is going to be hard to beat. I wouldn’t doubt this wine would be great in 20 years but it is also darn good right now too!

2013 Bootleg Napa Valley Red Blend
Review Date: 06-22-2017
The first time I tasted the 2013 Bootleg Red I was taken back numerous years to the first time I tasted Prisoner. They reminded me so much of each other it was a bit surprising. There was the same intensity, the same largesse, the same power to the wines that I was really taken aback. Then my brain started doing the “math” and I realized just what a killer wine the Bootleg Red was. I mean Prisoner is almost $50 now, which is difficult for most people to spend on a regular basis, and this incredibly similar wine is $32.99, much more affordable for the masses. So if you like big, brooding, oaky and darkly fruited red blends this new kid on the block is something you surely will want to chase down.
Price: $32.99 Add To Cart
RP 94 WS 90

2013 Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 06-20-2017
Another massive value—in a land where those are about as common as free tastings! I was blown away at how much this wine has already formed up and eased into its body and power. Dark, black-fruited notes dominate the nose, with pitchy dried meat, wet blacktop and driving concentration. The palate becomes more plush and juicy, with a pleasing core of both red and black currants, sweet oak, tangy olive and laurel notes. Large-scaled and full of umami savor, this is what the 2013 vintage is all about in Napa.

2014 Turnbull Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 06-20-2017
One of the truly stunning wines we tasted on our 2017 Napa trip, this dense, ripe and powerfully built Cab has it all, with massive fruit complexity and a modern and generous frame. The boisterous aromas of cut sage, boysenberry and baker’s cocoa meld wonderfully with the layered palate, chock-full of star anise, whole blueberry and the polished earth that comes so frequently from Oakville-based fruit. Add a fun finish full of vanilla-laden oak and a brighter turn of red fruit and tobacco, and this is really a steal for the price.

2015 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
Review Date: 06-19-2017
With how popular the Chardonnay from Flowers already is it still boggles my mind that it isn’t even more popular. I’ve used this wine for a few years now as one of the quintessential Chardonnays of the US. It rides a lovely middle line without sacrificing flavor, complexity or quality and is never “dumbed down” to be so likeable across so many different palates. The 2015 shows the intensity and concentration of the vintage while never losing the house style of framing pure varietal Chardonnay flavors of honeyed pear and nectarine under a nose of raw cashews and shelled pecans and the sea foam/briny highlights of the far Sonoma Coast. This wine is truly a standard bearer in the world of Chardonnay.

2013 Au Bon Climat "Knox Alexander" Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 06-19-2017
The 2013 “Knox” bottling from Au Bon Climat is ethereal, energetic and flat out wonderful. It is rare that I compare Domestic Pinot Noir to Burgundy, so often are those comparisons thrown out into the conversation and so infrequently do they hold any merit, but yet this wine compels me to do so as I believe it appeals to the Burgundy crowd equally as much as the Domestic drinkers. The main reason: the wine’s feel. From nose to finish this wine is reminiscent of those great Burgundies that transcend place and just become great wines. Heavily perfumed, but subtle at the same time the wine’s nose is packed with rhubarb, pomegranate husk, gunflint, crushed pebbles and a youthful barrel toast. Sunny and fresh on the palate this has an undercurrent of iron rich bloodiness and earthy savor keeping the serious mélange of cherry flesh, shaved fennel, whole raspberries, amaro spice and floral material from becoming too ripe, or edgy. This is just a superb food wine now with the power to go with something rich like porchetta or be the lithe background note to a simple fresh salad. The best thing about this bottle may be watching its evolution, my guess is this wine is going to pick up body and heft as it ages and will be a treat to drink over the next 12-18 years.

2016 Marietta "Old Vine Rosé" California Rosé
Review Date: 06-02-2017
This vintage dated multi-appellation blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir and Grenache Gris bowled us over with its electric energy, wealth of fruit and persistent spice. Do not be fooled by this wines electric pink color, as it is bone dry and quite brisk while showing its breadth from being aged for a short 3 months in neutral oak barrels. Add a slick new package, which will be on all the new Old Vine series wines from Marietta, and this wine really delivers the goods.
Price: $11.99 Add To Cart

2014 Provenance Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 04-06-2017
One of the top selling wines of 2016 at K&L was the 2013 Provenance Rutherford Cabernet. It was a wine that perfectly nailed the mix of value, quality, drinkability and label recognition. That combination led us to sell out of hundreds of cases in a matter of days. Needless to say we were very excited about the release of the 2014 vintage from Provenance, we bugged our distributor relentlessly to get the wine in front of us as soon as it was released, and we love what is in the bottle! Where the 2013 vintage of this wine really pushed the boundaries of ripeness, weight and polish the 2014 takes a much more classic approach. In fact this reminded me much more of some of the great wines of historic Napa producers like Heitz, Freemark Abbey or Duckhorn, which makes sense being that long term and founding Duckhorn winemaker Tom Rinaldi founded Provenance back in 1999.
With a pretty brick-ish ruby color and aromatic hues of red currant, chaparral, sage brush and sweet tobacco this is more an exercise in subtlety without sacrificing concentration. With a sappy and round entry and smoothly sanded edges this has all the texture of the 2013 just none of the glycerin driven bombast. Add fully formed flavors of sandalwood, Rainier cherry, hallmark “Rutherford Dust” and pipe tobacco and this is one classic Napa Cabernet that will not break the bank.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart
JS 90

2013 Thomas Fogarty Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
Review Date: 03-22-2017
The 2013 Thomas Fogarty Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay is 99% Estate fruit and 100% delicious. From all five Estate blocks this emanates from the glass with blanched almond meat, husked wheat, whole hazelnuts and fried polenta. Bright and energetic with a plush core of golden fruits and Shitake mushroom this shows both the power and savory intensity so often though of from SCM Chardonnay. Add Macadamia nut flesh, some forest floor flavors and fresh green herbs to the long and resonating finish and you really have a special Chardonnay that is not just built on texture and wine making but on the amazing raw material that Fogarty has to pull from. This really reminded me of a top flight St. Aubin at its very best but with Corton structure. Wouldn’t that be something?

2014 Martinelli "Bella Vigna" Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
Review Date: 03-16-2017
One of the biggest surprises on our recent trip to Sonoma was just how fresh and lovely the wines of Martinelli are. Gone are the days of super-extracted, high-alcohol Pinot and Chardonnay (don’t worry, the Zins are still as monstrous as ever), as we found there to be a lot more restraint and overall balance to the wines. A perfect example is the 2014 Martinelli “Bella Vigna” Chardonnay. Pretty, integrated oak plays nicely with milled corn and peach flesh on the nose with good lifting notes of lemon curd at its edges. Weighty but far from dull, this has just the right amounts of butterscotch, orange marmalade and dry honey that snowball and dovetail nicely into the soaring finish.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart

2013 Seven Hills Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 03-01-2017
Densely centered on the nose and filled with India ink, charred beef, brooding blackberry fruit and warm spiced oak aromas, this is a rarely found in a wine of this price point. Full bodied with pretty olive, laurel and tarragon flavors on the entry, this has fanned out with sometime in the bottle and has a nice lushness and fruit concentration. Powerful with plenty of hallmark Columbia Valley extraction and sheer fruit power this builds on its typically tannic frame and adds layers of Mexican chocolate and mocha on the packed and young finish. As I tasted this all I could think about is how much more expensive it would be if it came from Napa Valley. Thanks Washington!
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
WE 91

2014 Louis M. Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 11-30-2016
K&L has long been incredibly high on the Louis M. Martini Sonoma County Cabernet bottling. Year after year it delivers some of the best value not only for Cabernet coming out of Sonoma but out of all the US. Even the veritable Robert Parker himself called it, “One of the best values in Cabernet Sauvignon anywhere in the world,” high praise indeed. From fruit from Martini’s Frei Ranch Vineyards and Barrelli Creek Vineyard this wine takes the ripeness of Dry Creek and meshes it with the refinement and chiseled fruit of Alexander Valley. Pomegranate, Bing cherry, fresh tobacco, tar and a dollop of spearmint and roasting coffee beans fill the high toned and refreshing nose. Having considerable ripeness and extract is certainly a plus at this paltry price point and it has plenty of it with fleshy, easy going texture and a velvety soft feel but this also has a likable mélange of wild berry, eucalyptus, cedar and sweetened dark chocolate to add a note of precision and focus to the overall ripe feel. Then the finish kicks in and takes this to a whole other level with explosive flavors of black cherry, pipe tobacco and chaparral that wines in this price point rarely have. It’s certainly hard to debate Mr. Parker’s sentiments above after trying this.
Price: $13.99 Add To Cart
RP 90

2013 Domaine Eden Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
Review Date: 11-30-2016
One of my personal favorite wineries in California is Mount Eden. It is a truly special vineyard and the folks behind the scenes couldn’t be more dedicated to their craft and to the quality of the wines if they wanted to be. For decades Mount Eden has made some of the best Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon all from the same vineyard-is there another vineyard anywhere in the world that pulls this off?-all for supremely reasonable prices. So a few years back I was even more excited when they told me they were going to make a new sister wine called Domaine Eden and bottle all 3 varietals they have become known for. This took place in about 2007, right around the time that they purchased a second, noncontiguous estate just a few minutes down the road. This old estate was fully planted with some top notch, mature vines and had a reputation in its own right as the old Cinnabar Estate Vineyard. 10+ years later the Domaine Eden label has become known at K&L for incredibly serious wines for amazing values, in fact a big secret is that quite often a big amount of the original Mount Eden Estate fruit makes it into these bottlings.
The 2013 Domaine Eden Chardonnay is flat out stunning and probably the best young Domaine Eden Chardonnay I’ve ever tasted. The pretty nose is layered impeccably with notes of vanilla, caramel, grilled white corn and edges of honeysuckle brightness. Lifting and vibrant there is a fun interplay between the zesty tangerine and Clementine high tones and the more rich, dense flavors of toasted brioche, drop biscuits and a continuation of the vanilla found in the nose. Slick and fleshy this is about as good as it gets for Chardonnay under $30 and is a testament to just how great a job the team at Domaine/Mount Eden does with Chardonnay.

2014 Forman "Château la Grande Roche" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 11-10-2016
“Super Seconds” is a term we here at K&L throw around quite often to describe some of the best second wines from great Chateaus in Bordeaux. Wines like Clos du Marquis, Pavillon Rouge and Les Forts de Latour come to mind. Tremendous, and at one point at least, all incredibly affordable counterparts to their world famous big brothers. Forman’s "Château la Grande Roche" has long been one of the best “Super Seconds” California has to offer. From the same sites, made in the same way as Forman’s top wine, just with a little less time in oak, this is wonderful Cabernet-based wine that is wildly age-worthy and delicious in its youth, too, with just a touch of patience.
Dark and intense, this wine is brooding and powerful. If you just pop the cork and go, we think if you are going to drink this right away, certainly a decant is in order. Once this opens, with about an hour to an hour and a half in a decanter, it is pure old-school Napa Cab. From a few vineyards spread though out the valley, this displays some of the great dusty, graphite-laden, sandalwood and black currant aromas that Napa Cab has been know for historically. Black fruited and slowly unraveling, this has plenty of savory Cab flavors of dried sage, chaparral flowers and olive tapenade, and then underlying notes of sweet, roadside blackberries. Powerful and firm with long tannin intensity and slightly exotic spices in the finish this is something that should give you amazing return on investment in your cellar or a great wine to ruminate on over a long holiday/special occasion meal.
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart

2014 Ancient Peaks/K&L Wine Merchants Paso Robles Zinfandel
Review Date: 11-08-2016
Ancient Peaks burst on the scene about a decade 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 betrays the notion of Paso Robles’s intense heat. Since that visit I have touted their wares and we’ve have sung the wineries praises to anyone that will listen.
A few years back, on our initial round of co-branded wines with specific producers, we blended a delicious Zinfandel from Ancient Peaks. Many customers since then have asked us to make another so we obliged this year and we think this will bring back pleasant memories of that wine with its delicate juiciness and wealth of spice. This year this was the most difficult blend we put together. The winemaker and I kept fine tuning the wine trying to get the balance of fruit, ripeness, spice and mouth feel just right but I really believe that our hard work paid off. Blended from numerous different blocks aged in both neutral, newer (2nd & 3rd use barrels) and new oak this has already really integrated incredibly well. Intense and powerful on the nose this screams “I am ZIN!!!” with its mix of briary berry fruits and cracked black peppercorn. On the palate this turns a touch coating and creamy, but never feels heavy or has any residual sugar, and rides a high line of resonating boysenberry, cassis and dried sage flavors all coated in a fine dust of white pepper. The finish has some typical chewy tannins and adds a ton of power, and ultimately longevity, with additions of cocoa powder, black cherry and flowering lavender. If you weren’t a believer before this just might turn the tide, if you were a believer then be ready to become a fanatic.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

Wine Club

$19.99

2013 Brassfield "Eruption - Volcano Ridge Vineyard" High Valley Red Blend
Review Date: 10-21-2016
Big, loamy and full of massive and bursting flavors, this wine is packed to the brim with aromas of India ink, pastilles, blackberry candy and a slight bloody character. Entering juicy and broad, the name Eruption is a bit literal—this impresses with black cherry, anisette, wild berry preserves and has quite a bit of umami savor. Ramey’s touch on the finish shows with a classical dryness and spice rather than what so many wines of this ilk do, which is pack in the sugar. This is certainly not a classic claret, or Cabernet -styled blend, but it could certainly take the place of one on a dinner table without much argument from most.
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart
WE 92

2013 Amici "Reserve" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 07-02-2016
The 2013 Amici “Reserve” Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($79.99) is a perfect example of why we have long touted the wines of this comparatively under-the-radar producer and its sister label, Olema (out of Sonoma), for years. Basically, everything they touch turns to gold, and does so for a discount. And gold, or in this case wine, at a discount is something we can all get behind. We’ve sold past vintages of this reserve wine in small quantities, but this vintage is going to be huge for us all the way through the end of the year. It easily outperforms about 95% of the Cab coming out of Napa at this price point, which is a boatload of wine. Powerful but engaging, ripe but balanced, fruity but well sculpted, this wine has amazing complexity and tension that will serve it well over the next 6–12 years. Boysenberry, sweet tobacco, dried lavender, black olives and a touch of tar all combine for a complete wine. This is fun enough to drink with your friends at a simple dinner at home, or serious enough to take to that power dinner you have with work bigwigs.

2011 Halcon "Esquisto" Yorkville Highlands Rhone Blend
Review Date: 04-03-2013
One of the most truly delicious wines I’ve tasted in 2013 is the 2011 Halcón “Esquisto” Yorkville Highlands Rhône Blend ($25.99). Halcón was one of the revelations of 2012; they shocked me early on with their outrageously good Syrah and this new release did nothing but fortify that burgeoning reputation. Their estate vineyard is planted in the Mendocino County appellation called Yorkville Highlands. The vineyard sits at 2,500 feet in elevation, above the fog line, on fractured shale, quartz-rich rock and mica-schist, which is a very similar soil composition to the famous Côte-Rôtie appellation in the northern Rhône. People like Wells Guthrie at Copain have already taken notice of the relatively young vineyard and are bottling vineyard-designated Syrah from there. This estate blend of 40% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 30% Mourvèdre is wild, nervy and full of flavor, with tremendous aromatics of pithy raspberry, dried strawberry and a slight touch of cured meats. Weightless and full of energy, this is perfect for lighter meat dishes with its flavors of fennel pollen, lamb jus, black raspberry and a streak of white pepper. Rhône lovers shouldn’t miss this bottle.
Price: $25.99 Add To Cart
JD 90 ST 90