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Staff Favorites - Bryan Brick
2012 Center of Effort Edna Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 04-01-2015
Rare is the case that a new Chardonnay comes across my desk that really has something to say, but that is exactly what the 2012 Center of Effort did. It spoke, and it did so clearly and efficiently. From estate fruit that is planted to rockier/sandier soils than what’s found in the majority of Edna Valley, this is from one heritage clone of Chardonnay that was planted in 1997. Furthermore the wine making team of Mike Sinor (Ancient Peaks, Sinor-LaVallee) and Nathan Carlson (EOS, Tolosa) select only the best block on the estate property to make this wine. A very rich nose full of brioche, custard and orange oil comes together nicely without being overbearing or over “made” here. Slightly tropical and nicely weighted, this is a full-throttle Chardonnay that is still balanced and energetic. Its backbone of solid calcareous minerality is a wonderful foil to the creamier notes of oak toast, white pineapple and apricot on the palate. Simply put, this is one of the best new $30 Chardonnays I’ve seen this year and a wine that is sure to please fans of the larger side of the varietal while still being intriguing to the folks that are looking for balance above all else.
2013 Mercer Canyons Columbia Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 03-20-2015
The Mercer winery was first put on my radar a couple of years back on a field trip to Washington State. We met with the folks behind this large farming operation; they are one of the largest producers of carrots and potatoes in the state, to check out their impressive amount of vineyards. Long one of the main growers for the largest wineries in Washington a number of years ago they decided to start making their own wine off of the better parcels of their sprawling acreage. The “Canyons” series was debuted in 2012 and already has turned heads nationally with its tremendous quality for value ratio. I was shocked on just how pure and clean these wines were. The Chardonnay is a perfect example of this. Pulpy apple aromas fill the nose with a broad streak of vanilla/butterscotch that meld into a rich golden fruited base. Broad and rich but still with a nice airy feel this has all the toasty flavors and yeasty richness that the classic Domestic Chard fans are going to want but also has a pretty floral component and some mellow citrus tones to keep the wine from being bogged down in excess. The best thing here is that this is only $11.99 a bottle which is a paltry sum for a wine that has this much going for it. I think we just found our best “cheap” Chardonnay.
Marietta "Old Vine Red-Lot #62" Red Blend
Review Date: 02-25-2015
For years the Marietta Old Vine Red has been one of the most underappreciated values coming out of California. This non-vintage, multi-varietal and multi-appellation blend has flown under the radar of most affordable minded customers, but in our experience, one try and you’re hooked. We’ve sold it religiously over the last 7-8 years and every year I’m astonished with just how true the flavors are, how fresh the fruit is and how balanced the wine comes off overall. This blend, Lot 62, is every bit as good as any of the other blends, maybe a bit more, as a new estate vineyard has come more on board in this bottling, with pretty graphite, briary berry and a clove/nutmeg spice to the nose. Pulpy and sun-fresh, the ripe, but bone-dry, berry flavors on entry are sure to please with a persistent, bright energy and an underlying pastille spice. Plum and violet combine with a rich, coating nature on the finish to round out this tremendous value for well under $15. Simply put, this is one of the truly best wines in a category with more filler than killer.
Sherman & Hooker's Shebang "Eighth Cuvée" California Red Blend
Review Date: 02-04-2015
When customers ask me about Shebang! I always have the same answer that goes something like, “We’ll it’s probably the best inexpensive wine in the shop right now.” The impressive thing is that I’ve now said that about 4-5 of the 8 cuvees in a row. Somehow Morgan Twain Peterson just keeps rocking out these amazing blends that are some of the most delicious and serious in the category. From a wealth of old vine material throughout the state of California that Morgan has access to this year’s bottling is predominately Zinfandel with pieces of Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouchet, Grenache, Carignane, Syrah, Mourvedre and Barbera. All of this adds up to a lovely spiced effort full of briary black fruits and an intensity that betrays the $11.99 price point. A wine that you can find new complexities in every time you open a bottle this is as suited for the dinner table as it is for a BBQ rager in someone’s backyard. A can’t miss bottle.
2013 Banshee Sonoma County Pinot Noir
Review Date: 01-29-2015
With every new release of Banshee I become more and more impressed with just how dedicated to quality these three young men are. This year they’ve really upped their game adding Winemaker Ross Cobb, of Cobb Vineyards, a little known winery to the masses but to us nerds this means something, and moving production to Copain’s new winemaking facility. Both of these moves are apparent to me in this new Sonoma County Pinot Noir. There seems to be a much finer point to the wine this year with better delineation of flavor, more pronounced acidity while still being fully interwoven in the wine and a bit more overall structure. All in all the fruit that most of our customers have come to know and love is still here but there is just a little bit more here than in past vintages. I’ve loved these wines for the value that they offer our customers over the years and I continue to love them for not resting on their laurels but to be in constant pursuit of upping their game.
2013 Alma Rosa Santa Barbara County Chardonnay
Review Date: 01-28-2015
Richard Sanford is a true legend that simply does not receive the credit he deserves. Back in 1971 he planted the first Pinot Noir in the Central Coast at the now famed Sanford & Benedict Vineyard. Just that act alone has him in the history books yet he still continues to make rock solid and affordable wines, first under his Sanford label that was a staple in fine wine shops in the last three decades of the 20th Century. After a shake up at Sanford, which we won’t get into here, Rick once again set off to create something new, this time Alma Rosa where sustainability was paramount to the winery, both in the vineyards and in the business practices of the winery. Taking this model Rick has made many lovely wines from both his self-planted, historic vineyards and new sites as well. This 2013 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay is a perfect example of his craftsmanship. Mostly coming from a 35 year old block of Chardonnay at the White Hills Vineyard this is a powerful wine that betrays its paltry price point. With notes of almond skin, apricot pit, sage and a touch of salinity in the nose there are few rival Chards that can hold a candle to this sort of complexity at this cost. Waves of peach flesh, green apple, sea salt, low toast oak and crushed cashew flavors flow freely on the palate to create a sense of both richness and breadth. If that’s not enough for $15 the finish is long and energetic with lemon zest and a touch of a white floral note. Kudos to Rick and all he has done, for so many years, for all the wine drinkers out there.
2011 Westerly Santa Ynez Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Review Date: 01-22-2015
Sometimes in the profession of Wine Buying you really have to work hard, whether it is tasting and assessing a hundred plus wines in a day, dealing with testy winemakers/winery owners, long boring conversations with marketing people about pricing or a whole myriad of other things, you can really get beat up. Then there are times when everything is simple and just kind of clicks into place. The latter is what happened with this Westerly Sauvignon Blanc. It really just sort of fell into my lap, or my e-mail box, specifically. The winery reached out to see if we were interested in the wine and being that we were they sent us bottles to check out. We tasted the wine and immediately took the rest that they had. This Sauvignon Blanc impressed us with its fresh, persistent orange flesh-like acidity and pretty notes of alfalfa, tangerine and lemon curd on the palate. When we figured out we could sell it to you for a paltry $7.99 we jumped at the opportunity. What we have in stock currently is all we can get; I don’t expect this to be around for more that 24-48 hours. Act fast.
2012 Seven Hills Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 01-22-2015
I don’t know how they do it, I really don’t. Somehow Seven Hills puts out a $20 dollar Cabernet every year that just crushes the competition. Deep and inky, this wine has plenty of complexity to offer on the packed nose. Aromas of pencil lead, sweet licorice, pipe tobacco and black olive swirl freely in the glass. Ripe but structured, this is perfectly positioned to be an everyday drinker for fans of big Cabernet. It has enough fruit to please, but enough structure to be friendly at the table. Black tea, currant, ink, wet stone, subtle olive and dried sage flavors combine here for one shockingly complex wine, especially considering the price tag. Be it the super high quality fruit, the fantastic 2012 vintage in Washington or the open, friendly style of the winery but this wine maybe one of the best Columbia Valley bottling I’ve seen from them in the last 4-5 vintages. It’s surely not a wine to be missed.
2013 Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel
Review Date: 01-07-2015
Back in 2011 there was quite a scare in the world of Zinfandel. That was the year that the Seghesio Family sold their winery to a large company named Crimson Wine Group. This was a bit unsettling at the time being that the Seghesio Family was second only to the Foppianos for the crown as the longest running winemaking family in Sonoma County. We were all a little depressed by it for a while but then nothing really changed. The family still held control of the old vine plots like Cortina and Home Ranch, Pete stayed on as CEO and Ted as winemaker. The quality and branding was the same as it ever was and quite honestly I think most people even forgot that the Winery changed hands. This was great news to all Zin fans, especially when they kept churning out tremendous, affordable Zin like the 2013 Sonoma County. Just released this is a great wine for $20 with all of is warm spice cake, berry cobbler, whole peppercorn and sweet tea aromatics. Big and burly but with wild acidity acting as a counter weight this has a little something for everyone in the Zin world with its briary richness of fruit, bushels of pepper, fresh berry notes and a sweet oak lacing which ties up the substantial finish. I guess change, or the lack thereof, isn’t always a bad thing!
2012 Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
Review Date: 12-16-2014
Can you really teach an old dog new tricks? I don’t really know but I think that some old dogs are smart enough to pick some new things up as they go along. That is exactly what Chateau St. Jean did with this brand, spanking new Sonoma Coast bottling. (By the way please don’t confuse this with the Sonoma County bottling that is everywhere and is completely different.) To say that I was taken by surprise by this new wine would be an understatement. I was blown away by the amount of power and richness it had, all the while keeping true, cool weather Sonoma Coast acidity throughout. With a nose laced with apricots, crème brulee and persimmons, while having an underlying citrus backbone, this was completely appealing and felt really natural. On the palate comes waves of vanilla, baked apples, some crushed stone and a lovely white floral highlight. For the under $20 arena of Chardonnay it certainly does not get much better than this. I’d scoop this up before the powers that be at CSJ realize just how good this wine really is!
1995 York Creek Spring Mountain District Meritage
Review Date: 12-15-2014
After the last few years I think just about everyone has heard us pontificating about just how good, and how insanely inexpensive, the York Creek wines are. Luckily for us and our thirsty customers, Fritz Maytag kept deep cellars over the years and still has plenty of wine for us to sell. After the rousing success of past vintages we just keep reloading because the wines are that good and you keep asking us for more. We’ve found an extra special treat to roll out this time: The 1995 Meritage. That’s right... we are wildly excited to sell this wine, which was made when Clinton was president, people went to see Waterworld just because of Costner, and somehow Hootie and the Blowfish sold like seven million copies of a record. Luckily this wine has aged much better than at least those last couple things. Still vibrant and with a lovely bouquet of dried rose petals, new leather and red currants, this is a wine that is a testament to just how well California wines can age over long periods of time. With a solid entry of sweet black tea, fresh tobacco, cocoa powder, spearmint and dried blackberries, this is one complex and likeable wine that is just about perfect for folks that are fans of more mature wines. Fully meshed and with little to no desiccation of fruit, this is just great old wine for a silly price. Think Toy Story rather than Jumanji and Radiohead’s The Bends over anything from Silverchair.
2012 Michael & David "6th Sense" Lodi Syrah
Review Date: 12-09-2014
Incredibly surprising or surprisingly incredible, either way I think those two statements describe the new releases from the Michael & David winery. Always known for their amusing labels and marketing I think the most recent batch of wines will make people take notice for just how much quality is in the bottle for such little cash. The style of wine is still full throttle, fruit driven and bold, as the wines always have been but there is much better balance in the wines overall and most importantly I found there to be no discernible residual sugar in the wines. These are a must try for fans of exuberant Domestic Wines for reasonable prices. The 2012 6th Sense Syrah was really eye opening for me. I’ve tried this wine for years and it’s always been a bit clumsy in regards to its ripeness levels, not so much this year! Now don’t get me wrong this is not Northern Rhone Syrah but it is a wildly pleasurable fruit driven Syrah for a measly $12.99 and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Aromas of chocolate ganache, wet black top and white pepper are very alluring leading to a exuberant palate of raspberry coulis, sweet licorice, pipe tobacco and wild berry cobbler with fine tannins and a stealthy long finish of toasted coconut and black pepper. A complete steal for fans of “big” wines.
2012 Michael & David "Freakshow" Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 12-09-2014
Incredibly surprising or surprisingly incredible, either way I think those two statements describe the new releases from the Michael & David winery. Always known for their amusing labels and marketing I think the most recent batch of wines will make people take notice for just how much quality is in the bottle for such little cash. The style of wine is still full throttle, fruit driven and bold, as the wines always have been but there is much better balance in the wines overall and most importantly I found there to be no discernible residual sugar in the wines. These are a must try for fans of exuberant Domestic Wines for reasonable prices. I’m a big fan of party rock. Think Rick Springfield’s Working Class Dog album or any of the great Power Pop Albums of the late 70’s early 80’s like The Beat’s Self Titled album. These are certainly not the most critically acclaimed albums but when you hear them, especially at a party they really make everyone feel good, loosen up and start moving around the room. I sort of felt this way about the Freakshow Cab. Not the most critically amazing wine but damn if it doesn’t taste great and won’t please everyone in the room. Under $20 this is like a record that has 3 hits on it that you’ll never get tired of and is in the dollar bin, pure magic. Deep, with silky black fruits and a nice waft of tobacco this is palate coating and intense wine that really brings some fun to the Cabernet game. Blackberry, spice cake, toffee and café con leche flavors are all apparent here and are meshed nicely. It’s going to be hard to beat this cab for this price.
2013 Au Bon Climat/K&L Wine Merchants "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 12-02-2014
Last year’s Co-Branded Pinot Noir from Au Bon Climat was such a hit we couldn’t help but to make it again! Once again we think Jim Clendenen and his wildly talented crew at Au Bon Climat has out done themselves with the quality of the components that they allowed us to make this wine from. Just like last year this wine is 100% fruit from the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard, with both components coming from Block 2, which was planted in 1994. Made from 50% Clone 113 and 50% Clone 115, of which 50% was whole-cluster fermented, this was actually the first blend we put together once we ran through all of the components we had available to us. That’s right; we nailed this blend on the first go around! We certainly tried to improve it but it always lingered on our palates as the best of the bunch. Instantly drinkable this is packed with boisterous red fruits on the nose of Bing cherry and muddled raspberry with a hint of sassafras, tarragon and finely ground white pepper. Mouthfilling and with no roughness, which is impressive in its youth, this is one easily gulpable wine but it’s so much more serious than what you’d first expect. With velvety fine tannins and a persistent mouthwatering acidity this wine has plenty of structure to get better over the next 4-8 years. However if you drink it now you’ll be able to experience plenty of delicious flavors like red plum, dragonfruit, cola, violets and Rainier cherries. Long and lasting on the palate with a likeable plush texture we think this Pinot has a little something to please everyone. Go ahead prove us wrong.
2011 Obsidian Ridge "Obsidian Ridge Vineyard" Red Hills Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 11-18-2014
Do any of you remember the story about the little train that could? Maybe you read it to your kids/grandkids or maybe you remember having it read to you when you were young like I do. The way I recall this story, not having heard it in a couple of decades, is there was this little, forgotten, overlooked train that had great pluck and determination. He kept with it always knowing that he could pull with the best of them. One day he got his chance and wouldn’t you know it he saved the day! In my mind that’s a perfect metaphor for the 2011 Obsidian Ridge "Obsidian Ridge Vineyard" Red Hills Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.99). We’ve always kept this wine around in corners of the store that sometimes just get passed by too quickly. The staff has always loved the wine but maybe it slips their minds when someone asks them for a recommendation. This year’s wine is just too good to forget. Simply put it may be their best effort yet and it certainly is one of the best Cabernets we’ve seen from the much, yet sometimes unfairly, maligned 2011 vintage at it respective price point. There is just so much wine in this bottle; the scope and largesse here is pretty spectacular with bold, rich flavors of tar, ink, blackberry, ash, fried sage and lavender. Add a ton of spicy, exotic oak notes in the nose and a rock solid tannic structure and this is a wine that will be mistaken often for a wine twice its cost. Come on; give the little train a chance.
2013 Bethel Heights/K&L Wine Merchants Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir
Review Date: 11-12-2014
On our recent trip to Oregon this summer we certainly found plenty of great wines and met with a multitude of amazingly talented people. Many of the wines we found on that trip have already come in and sold out mostly due to our sheer excitement about the quality of wines we found. One of the most exciting opportunities from that trip was to work closely with our friends at Bethel Heights to put together a Pinot Noir exclusive to K&L as part of our burgeoning Co-Branded project. This 2013 Bethel Heights/K&L Wine Merchants Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir ($24.99) is a blend of the young vibrant fruit of the bordering Bjornson Vineyard, a vineyard planted in 1996, and the more nuanced, ethereal fruit from the old Wädenswil block at Bethel Heights Estate, planted in 1977. Ben Casteel (winemaker for BH), the K&L staff and I came up with and tasted numerous blends before we enthusiastically chose the one in the bottle here. We thought it was a perfect middle ground between the sappy, rich black fruits of Bjornson and the more earthen, sage and subtle red fruits from the Estate. We loved how the nose really spoke of classic Oregon Pinot focusing on earthen, sous bois and floral tones rather than chunky fruit. The wine is seamless in texture at this point with a feminine frame and well integrated acid/tannin interplay. A bit of aeration, either by untwisting the convenient Stelvin closure or popping this into a decanter, will really help to heighten the lovely tones of loganberry, evergreen, black currant, white sage, new leather and lavender found here. Thanks to the entire Casteel Family for helping make this wonderful wine that we couldn’t be prouder to have our name on!
2013 Ancient Peaks/K&L Wine Merchants Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 10-06-2014
What we agreed upon for the final blend was as follows: 40% Cabernet Sauvignon from Block 15 (the structural and aromatic backbone of the wine), 40% Cabernet Sauvignon from Block 49 “A” (the mouthfeel of the wine and oak richness), 10% Malbec from Block 45 (added mid-palate weight and density), 8% Merlot from Block 3 (finishing complexity and length) and 2% Cabernet Franc from Block 9 (toasty oak and sweet spices). This blend was easily the best on the table creating a complete and complex wine that we thought showed both the style of Ancient Peaks and the collective palate of K&L. Plum, cassis and a touch of mildly toasty oak came together instantly for a surprisingly integrated and pretty nose. Ripe, with plenty of plush fruit and a medium-full weighted palate the wine showed plenty of blue/red fruit interplay along with tobacco, gravel and pencil lead. The finish is bright and juicy with a lovely layer of oak toast adding a nice confectionery spice to long and energetic finish.
2012 Eyrie Vineyards "Estate Grown" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 09-08-2014
It always shocks me that people don’t know more about Eyrie Vineyards. The history is rich: they were the first to plant Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley and the first to plant Pinot Gris in the New World; their prices are comparatively reasonable; and the quality of the wines is second to none. A perfect example of why Eyrie should be known more than they are is this 2012 Eyrie Vineyards "Estate Grown" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($32.99). This stunning wine rivals any Pinot from anywhere in the world at the price point. Truly exceptional. Heck, I even wrote the word “Superstar” in my notes the first time I tasted it. Deeply perfumed on the nose, the wine expresses itself openly with layers of blood orange, rose water, crushed lavender, and white cherry. Long, open and sort of lanky, this is a pretty, Old World-influenced Pinot with no manipulation, just a pure expression of the great estate vineyards. Light to medium weight but bursting with flavor and complexity, this is packed with sassy flavors of loganberry, wild blackberry, clay, sous bois, tangy red cherry and a subtle herbal quality. Simply put, I don’t know of any better Pinot Noir on the shelves right now in this price range.
2013 Talley/K&L Wine Merchants Edna Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 08-20-2014
Back in the late winter/early spring of this year I was really trying to identify a Chardonnay producer that we might be able to do a co-branded wine with. In looking at what we had and what was popular with our customers, I thought Talley would be a great fit for the project. We spoke and we both agreed that we really were excited to work with each other on this level. So at the end of June I drove down to Arroyo Grande to blend the wine with winemaker Eric Johnson out of barrel. There were 13 barrels for us to choose from, all of which were from one of Talley’s estate vineyards, Oliver’s Vineyard, and I got to select five of those barrels for this blend. What I found that day is that if I could have taken all 13 barrels, I would have. The quality of all the barrels was just superb and really showed off the vineyard and all of the subtleties that Chardonnay can have, but rarely does, in California. The final blend was actually the first we put together and while we futzed with it a bit, we agreed that this blend was always the best blend of the bunch. The nose showed a really delicate interplay of white floral notes, baked apple, sandy soil and a richer core of peach flesh and a hit of tropical fruits. With good entering cut and resonating energy and intensity throughout, this richly weighted Chardonnay never felt bogged down in anything excessive like oak or manipulated buttery richness. Instead it traded on its richly textured mid-palate and wealth of stone fruit and cleansing earth aspects as well as a lifting citrus oil note. I honestly couldn’t be happier with the way this wine came out. Thanks, Talley, for making us such an awesome wine!
2013 Bedrock Wine Company "Ode to Lulu" Old Vine Rosé
Review Date: 07-17-2014
Morgan Twain-Peterson may be the most talented young winemaker in United States. How could he not be growing up in vineyards besides his well-known father, winemaker Joel Peterson (Ravenswood). Morgan has done exceptionally well in the eyes of the press, and us here at K&L, with his label Bedrock. His wines are thoughtfully crafted small production bottlings from old vines located in “Heritage” vineyards throughout California. Hard to come by, these Bedrock wines already have a loyal and rabid following that just keeps growing year after year. This year we were lucky enough to secure a solid amount of one of Morgan’s least talked-about wines in the Bedrock series, his lovely Mouvedre-dominated Rosé. This year Morgan headed to Mendocino County to find fruit from “soils that had a bit more edge in them.” Still based in old vine fruit from his estate Bedrock and Pagani Ranch, this year’s rose is bolstered by Grenache planted in the 1880s in McDowell Valley and Carignane planted in the 1950s from Ukiah. With its lovely salmon color and intriguing aromatics of fresh mint, red currant, granite and lavender this is pure rosé that is certainly in the realm of great southern French rosés yet it has more depth and structure than most. Earthy to its core with a wealth of bay leaf, anise seed and caraway over a stony core this is bone dry and screaming for food. As the wine opens, and comes up to cellar temperature, the fruit hidden away at the beginning comes out showing tart plum, white cherry and red apple skin. This is about as structural as any Bandol I’ve seen in years and just as good for a lot less money. Don’t miss out!
2013 Bodkin "The Victor's Spoils - Sandy Bend Vineyard" Lake County Sauvignon Blanc
Review Date: 07-09-2014
Plain and simple I was shocked when I tasted the 2013 Bodkin "The Victor's Spoils -Sandy Bend Vineyard" Lake County Sauvignon Blanc. Why? Because in all my years in this business I can’t remember ever tasting a Domestic Sauvignon Blanc that was this close to the wines of the Loire. From the intense minerality and slight oiliness on the nose to the laser-like acidity and leafy, slate-y, grapefruit, quince and lemon rind on the palate this is a dead ringer for Sancerre or Pouilly Fume for a fraction of the cost. Hell, even some of our most Francophillic employees were raving about this wine after trying it. Seriously if you love Loire Sauvignon Blanc this is a must try, I think you’ll be as floored as I was.
2012 Charles Smith "Chateau Smith" Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 07-03-2014
The era of deals in the realm of Cabernet Sauvignon is closing rapidly, if not all but dried up these days. I seldom see wineries or vendors looking to move Cabernet for pennies on the dollar even in difficult vintages, more less rock-solid ones. So it comes to me as some surprise that a wine like the 2012 Charles Smith "Chateau Smith" Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon can still come in under $15. From the larger-than-life personality, Charles Smith (K Vintners, Charles & Charles), who is known as much for what comes out of his mouth as what goes into his bottles, this Cabernet is just a rocking deal. From the moment the big inky, chunky nose that is packed with tar, cassis, chocolate covered cherries and a touch of gravel hits your nose you’ll know that this wine is punching way over its weight class. With its plush, round, crowd-pleasing mid-palate full of blackberry, olive, mocha and black tea this is packed with flavor and is something that you just have to twist the cap off and pour without thinking too much about whether or not it is going to be appropriate, chances are high it will be the right wine for most jobs. Add some slick, polished oak in the finish and an overall feel that couldn’t be farther away from big box manipulation and this is one of the last great deals in Cabernet land.
2011 Seven Hills "Seven Hills" Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 07-01-2014
Seven Hills has long been one of favorite Washington producers here at K&L and one of my personal faves for about as long as I’ve been in this business. This first generation Washington winery has made great wines, seemingly continuously, since its founding in 1988 in all price points and from all varietals. However I think that this winery really shines with its Cabernet Sauvignon. There is a depth, richness and texture to their wines that rivals some of the best America has to offer, yet they do it for a fraction of the cost that we’ve come to expect from Napa or even comparative Sonoma Cabs. The Seven Hills Vineyard bottling is from the “Old Blocks” on this prestige site in Walla Walla Valley and while these old blocks may not be 100 years old they are certainly mature vines of the highest quality that you’ll find in Washington. Deep, inky and powerful this wine initially comes off as a bit of a brute, however as it develops in the mouth you realize just how complex and nuanced it really is. Layers of oak toast, dried black currants, road tar and black olive are tightly woven together with a long, persistent finish. This is a wine that needs a bit of air if you want to drink it right away so make sure you have a decanter handy, but if you have the time, patience and space I can’t think of a wine right now, for this sort of value, that would be better lived in your cellar for the next 5-10 years.
2011 Pierce Ranch San Antonio Valley Arinto
Review Date: 05-29-2014
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. One of the most unusual varietals planted there is Arinto. Arinto, most commonly found in the Portuguese regions of Vinho Verde, Alentejo and Bairrada, takes heat and humidty well and retains its naturally high acidity. In this case it leads to a sassy wine full of earth aromas and a touch of salinity. Medium weighted and floral in nature this has plenty of citrus fruits and acidity to keep your lips smacking. Add some cleansing minerality in the finish and this is a wonderful substitute to Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino or Vinho Verde.
2009 Pierce Ranch "Cosecheiro" San Antonio Valley Red Blend
Review Date: 05-29-2014
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. A true showcase for the multitude of “Iberian” varietals the Pierce’s have planted on their property the 2009 "Cosecheiro" is a stunning blend of 53% Touriga, 40% Tempranillo, 5% Tinta Cao and 2% Graciano. Honestly this has been one of my favorite wines to sell over the last year to our customers. The blend is so different and combines all the best things from the red table wines from the Douro/Duero valleys big, chunky fruit, wonderfully floral aromatics, structural intensity and current drinkability. Think violets, wild berry, bittersweet chocolate, black pepper and exotic baking spices and that’s sort of what you’re getting into. At $18.99 I find this to be one of the best values around with the added bonus of being one of the most “different” wines out there.
2012 Clendenen "Stallion Vineyard" Santa Ynez Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Review Date: 05-19-2014
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.
2007 Clendenen "Le Pip" Santa Maria Valley Nebbiolo
Review Date: 05-19-2014
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: 05-19-2014
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…
2001 Arcadian "Sleepy Hollow Vineyard" Monterey Pinot Noir
Review Date: 03-10-2014
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 Hendry "Block 7 & 22" Napa Valley Zinfandel
Review Date: 02-26-2014
Hendry long has flown under the radar in the world of Zinfandel except with maybe the most ardent fans of the varietal. They don't do a lot self promotion and they don’t have a big flashy building on Highway 29 or the Silverado Trail in Napa. All they do is quietly make amazing wines, their Zinfandels long my favorites from their bench land vineyards. This Block 7&22 Zin is one of the best I've seen in the past few years with alluring aromas of warm soil, blackberry, pastilles and subtle pepper notes. This is the rarest kind of Zin in my book, one of refinement and poise rather than hammering weight and extraction. Lithe and friendly from the moment it hits the palate this is full of black currant, bittersweet chocolate and a pleasing undercurrent of savory herbs and iron rich soil. Long and lasting with great finishing acidity this Zin is going to be much more appropriate on your dinner table than as a cocktail wine, even with its balanced 15.5% ABV. This makes me want roast pork with crispy skin really bad!
2011 Seven Hills Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 01-22-2014
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.
2009 Saarloos & Sons "His" Santa Ynez Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 04-03-2013
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.
2007 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 03-24-2011
Call it "classic," call it "old school," call it whatever you want but this is still one of the best mid-priced Cabernets coming out of Napa. Full of intense black fruited richness, woody tannin and leafy/foresty spice this is sure to please those that are looking for something leaning more towards the traditional side of Cabernet.
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales "Bam Biere" Farmhouse Ale, Michigan 750ml
Review Date: 05-25-2010
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!
West County Cider "Redfield" Cider, Massachusetts 750ml
Review Date: 05-25-2010
A perfect summer beverage is the West County Cider "Redfield" Cider. This is far from your typical cider made from the apple varietal of Redfield which is red fleshed giving the cider its brilliant orange, ruby color. Aromas of raspberry, rose water, mango and warm clay are wonderfully alluring and really add a separate dimension that most will not expect from cider. The cheery, bright flavors of cherry, cinnamon and pear build on each other developing acidity and cut as they go until you reach the grainy bittersweet apple quality towards the center of the mid palate. Mildly tannic and totally serious this has the ability to change any negative opinions you may have had about cider in the past. Total Boosh!
2007 Chasseur Sonoma County Chardonnay
Review Date: 03-26-2010
One of the best "entry level" Chardonnays on the market is Bill Hunter's Sonoma County bottling. Checking in at less than $30, this is superb, rich yet balanced wine. Packed full of fig paste, cantaloupe, summer squash and butterscotch aromas, this is chock full of goodness on the nose. This complexity is mirrored on the palate, showing plenty of acid-based structure all while displaying richly textured layers of honey, tangerine, cashew, sweet cream and buttered toast. Over the next year this bottle will continue to improve, meshing the oak more fully into the wine; itshould be a great bottle to visit over the next 4-6 years.