Staff Favorites - Ralph Sands

Ralph Sands
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Ralph is the senior Bordeaux specialist on the sales staff. In between trying to break into professional baseball, Ralph was picking up hours at a K&L store in Millbrae. Back then it was more about kegs and cheap booze, and both Ralph and K&L have evolved since that time. Since those long ago days in 1978, Ralph has visited his beloved Bordeaux 37 times, evaluated 19 straight vintages and has escorted over 200 customers to Bordeaux on his "Taste and Golf the Greats Tours of Bordeaux". Ralph has also conducted tasting seminars in 9 different states as well as in France, Spain and Hong Kong. Ralph's passion for wine reaches far beyond Bordeaux; to the fine wine regions of Burgundy, Loire, Rhone, Germany, Oregon and of course his home state of California.


Reviews

  
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2014 Pétrus, Pomerol
Review Date: 06-26-2015
Good, strong, red apple and black cherry fruit; not heavy or over-extracted in any way. Classic style with racy acidity; a powerful finish with fine tannins. Not a plush Petrus. ** Two stars

2014 Pichon-Lalande, Pauillac
Review Date: 06-02-2015
Lots of lovely, exotic, grapey fruit; elegant and precise. Tasty, with a long finish. Pichon-Lalande is back in a big way after complete reconstruction of the vinification facility and the way the fruit is handled. Two stars. **

2014 Pichon-Lalande, Pauillac (1.5L)
Review Date: 06-02-2015
Lots of lovely, exotic, grapey fruit; elegant and precise. Tasty, with a long finish. Pichon-Lalande is back in a big way after complete reconstruction of the vinification facility and the way the fruit is handled. Two stars. **
Price: $179.99 Add To Waiting List
AG 93 - 96 RP 93 - 95 WS 92 - 95
JS 93 - 94
Limit of 24 per customer

2014 Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac (1.5L)
Review Date: 06-02-2015
Sweet, saturated red-black fruits on the nose; in the mouth, red fruits and chocolate. Good middle texture and long, polished tannins. Everything in perfect focus and balance—just lovely. Two and a half stars!

2014 Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac
Review Date: 06-02-2015
Sweet, saturated red-black fruits on the nose; in the mouth, red fruits and chocolate. Good middle texture and long, polished tannins.  Everything in perfect focus and balance—just lovely. Two and a half stars!

2014 Alter Ego de Palmer, Margaux(1.5L)
Review Date: 05-07-2015
While the first wine is all power and a bit closed on the nose the opposite is on display here. Incredibly attractive aromas of black fruits and violets, classic claret as it is firm and fresh. Lots to like! 1 Star

2014 Alter Ego de Palmer, Margaux
Review Date: 05-07-2015
While the first wine is all power and a bit closed on the nose the opposite is on display here. Incredibly attractive aromas of black fruits and violets, classic claret as it is firm and fresh. Lots to like! 1 Star

2014 Palmer, Margaux (1.5L)
Review Date: 05-07-2015
A very serious and strong Palmer. Intense dark fruit with boysenberry hints, zesty and spicy. Complex, powerful, linear, and long in the mouth; this baby needs time! ** 2 Stars.

2014 Duhart-Milon, Pauillac
Review Date: 05-07-2015
Duhart Milon- Strong dark wine with deep fruit, flavors of blackberry jam and grilled meats, good middle fruit and tannin control. More flesh and lots to like here. Very good and better then Carraudes de Lafite. 1.5/3 Stars

2014 d'Armailhac, Pauillac
Review Date: 05-06-2015
d'Armaillac- Lovely upfront sweet red fruits, very attractive, with nice thick middle fruit and good tannins. The Mouton wine you can drink young and it is a winner! 1 Star

2014 Clerc-Milon, Pauillac
Review Date: 05-06-2015
Clerc Milon- Definitely in the classic style of Mouton but with a touch more forward sweet which is nice, but is still very concentrated. Long serious wine and should be one of the great aging values. 1.5 Stars

2014 Capbern St-Estèphe
Review Date: 05-06-2015
78% Cabernet Sauvignon 100% Delicious! Loaded with deep red fruit, fine balance, serious wine and very tasty. Could be the best value of the entire vintage.

2014 Lynch-Bages, Pauillac (1.5L)
Review Date: 05-03-2015
Bright and floral zesty red fruits greet you, followed by direct and tightly focused spicy Cabernet fruit on the palate. Like the Baron wine, not much flesh here. * 1 Star.

2014 Lynch-Bages, Pauillac
Review Date: 05-03-2015
Bright and floral zesty red fruits greet you, followed by direct and tightly focused spicy Cabernet fruit on the palate. Like the Baron wine, not much flesh here. * 1 Star.

2014 Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac
Review Date: 04-30-2015
Very deep and powerful with underlying sweet fruits of black cherry and herbal notes. This wine is very classic, strong with laser beam focus and brisk acidity. One of the long runners in 2014. 2 stars!

2013 Wines Of Substance Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 04-11-2015
One of the best values I've tasted this year! This wine is not simple and soft but has some good fruit and real Cabernet Sauvignon strike that even Bordeaux palates will love. Ralph Sands
Top Value!
Price: $14.99 Add To Waiting List
RP 90 - 93

2010 Torbreck "The Steading" Grenache-Shiraz-Mataro Barossa Valley
Review Date: 03-16-2015
This is a very interesting, complex and tasty blend. The old vine fruit is deep and sweet, but not fruity. Round in the mouth and nicely developed with flavors of kirsch and cassis, interacting with hints of black licorice, smoke and earth all leading to a strong Grenache finish. Like it, and good to go now!

2010 Ostler "Caroline's" Pinot Noir Waitaki Valley North Otago
Review Date: 11-14-2014
A lovely, expressive nose with a nice hint of development. A stylish and elegant Pinot drinking beautifully right now!

2005 Valandraud, St-Emilion
Review Date: 11-06-2014
A great vintage of Valandraud at this price; I am all in! As always, this wine exhibits deep, saturated purple fruit, sweet blackberry fruit on nose with toasty oak. On the palate exotic flavors of chocolate and blackcherry lead to a dry finish. This wine features the hallmark qualities of the outstanding 2005 vintage; purity of fruit, with great acidity and fantastic freshness! Ralph Sands
Drink from 2015 to 2015

2012 Oakridge Estate Single Vineyard Series "d'Aloisio Vineyard" Chardonnay Yarra Valley
Review Date: 09-16-2014
One of the most exciting Chardonnays I have tasted in many years. If you love big, buttery and rich Chardonnays this wine is NOT for you. But... if you love great Chablis and Puligny Montrachet you will love this wine as it comes off as a combination of both of those famous wine regions in the glass. Both of those regions have gone crazy price-wise, which makes this wine even more unbelievable for $22.99! Loaded with intense green apple fruit, great freshness a touch of flintyness and lazer beam focus. Just incredible and always in my vacation box of wine!. Enjoy! -Ralph
Top Value!
Price: $19.99 Add To Waiting List
JH 95 RP 92

2012 Léoville-Poyferré, St-Julien
Review Date: 06-13-2014
* Another winner! Rich wine with good, long tannins.

2013 Pontet-Canet, Pauillac
Review Date: 05-14-2014
Huge layers of silky, ripe black fruits and the fact that it smells like Zinfandel define this wine! Behind all of this fruit is brisk acidity and a long finish. This wine will be controversial, but it is undeniably super tasty! *½

2013 Pichon-Baron, Pauillac
Review Date: 05-14-2014
Striking aromas of strong Cabernet Sauvignon (82%) jump out of the glass followed by dark, bold, powerful fruit. This wine is classic claret: firm, honest and perfectly balanced. No question, it is one of the top wines of the vintage and one of the best cellar candidates. *½

2013 Branaire-Ducru, St-Julien
Review Date: 05-13-2014
Braniare Durcu- Honest as they come! Bright, fresh, elegant wine with tart cherry fruit. This tasty wine will be a lovely early drink.*

2013 Malescot-St-Exupéry, Margaux
Review Date: 05-13-2014
Big wine with loads of soft, sweet ripe fruit in layers. Good round tannins and lovely finish. Very impressive, tasty, lush wine that will drink well young.**

2013 Labégorce, Margaux
Review Date: 05-12-2014
Everyone should be aware that Delphine Colasa and winemaker Marjolaine Maurice-de-Coninck have turned this estate (and sister Ch. Marquis D'Alesme) around in just a few years; the wines are so much better now! Hats off! Labegorce has attractive-plump Merlot (53%) fruit with cassis, spice and earth. (Marquis d'Alseme is very bright and has more sparkling blue fruits and distinct minerality.) Both are star wines. *

2013 Langoa-Barton, St-Julien
Review Date: 05-08-2014
* Nice freshness, firm elegant wine with hints of cranberry and black cherry fruits. Consistent, tasted three times, classic claret at every tasting.

2013 Rauzan-Ségla, Margaux
Review Date: 05-08-2014
Amazing consistency and what a classy perfectly balanced wine from front to finish. Lovely.**

2011 Cantemerle, Haut-Médoc
Review Date: 05-02-2014
Sweet raspberries and black fruits, very floral, with herbal notes and earth all pulled together by round, firm tannins and a very long finish. Tasted twice. I'm 56 years old and Cantemerle is now my #1 favorite château, and I seriously doubt that will ever change. The reason is simple: great, complex wine, consistent quality and a fair price. A winner every time! **

2012 Margaux, Margaux
Review Date: 05-01-2014
** 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Lovely aromas of red roses and warm spices. Much rounder and deeper than the Pavillon. May not possess the weight and length of a great vintage, but does have the velvety texture the château is famous for. Lovely, charming and will drink well young.

2013 Margaux, Margaux (1.5L)
Review Date: 05-01-2014
The nose of a great Ch. Margaux is there, followed by medium-bodied sweetness and impeccable balance. A strict selection of 38% of the crop went into the first wine but is a prime example of how difficult this vintage was. *½

2013 Margaux, Margaux
Review Date: 05-01-2014
The nose of a great Ch. Margaux is there, followed by medium-bodied sweetness and impeccable balance. A strict selection of 38% of the crop went into the first wine but is a prime example of how difficult this vintage was. *½

2013 Léoville-Las Cases, St-Julien
Review Date: 05-01-2014
Serious business, a powerful expression of concentrated reds fruits that are fresh and attractive. The key is the long finish. Great vineyard, great wine. (The Petite Lion is the second wine, a bit lighter in body but super clean and has all freshness as well as nice tannins.) **

2013 Léoville-Barton, St-Julien
Review Date: 05-01-2014
This wine, like so many of the best St-Julien estates is just amazingly consistent. Bursting with masculine, deep purple and blue fruits. Sparking acidity and firm tannins are the backbone. *½

2011 Domaine de Chevalier Rouge, Pessac-Léognan
Review Date: 04-29-2014
Round, sweet and pure red fruits, fine overall balance. A nice, elegant wine. *

2013 Smith-Haut-Lafitte Blanc, Pessac-Léognan
Review Date: 04-28-2014
90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Semillon, 5% Sauvignon Gris. Beautiful aromas of white flowers and vanilla on the nose. Persistent green apple fruit on the palate and throughout the long finish. Another outstanding winner for your chicken dinner! **

2013 Giscours, Margaux
Review Date: 04-28-2014
Record 80% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, good, powerful firm fruit with sweet tannins. Zesty acid, serious wine. This estate as well as Ch. Du Tertre are on a fine roll under the direction of Alexandre Van Beek. *½

2013 Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge, Pessac-Léognan
Review Date: 04-28-2014
Smith stays true to their international style by making a deliciously rich and round wine with lots of red-blue fruits and a warm, soft mouth feel. A touch of spice, minerality and tannin on the finish. Lovely mid-term drinker. *

2009 Brown Rouge, Pessac-Léognan
Review Date: 01-15-2014
This is my pick for Bordeaux that is drinking well but won't break the bank! I was in Bordeaux in 2005 for a big blind tasting of 1995 wines from California vs Bordeaux, when a negociant told me the new young director of Ch. Brown Jean-Christophe Mau was going to do great things at Ch. Brown (they've had vines planted there since the 12th century). I agreed to go and meet him at his other estate (Preuillac) located in the far reaches/middle of nowhere of the upper Medoc. I found him perched 15 feet above the ground on a portable sorting table helping to sort out the non perfect fruit. I could tell this guy was passionate and intense. He invited me to visit him at Ch. Brown and I found him doing the same thing there but in the winery. The Brown wine always had a rustic-tough feel to it but Jean-Christophe told me that he was confident that after he analyzed the condition and health of every vine on the property and greatly reduced yields, that he would make wine of great purity without the rustic edge. I've tasted the wine every year since in April and the wine has improved dramatically.
Price: $34.99 Add To Waiting List
WE 92 WS 92

2003 Sarget de Gruaud Larose, St-Julien
Review Date: 01-13-2014
I love this vintage and this property.
Price: $29.99 Add To Waiting List

2012 Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan
Review Date: 05-03-2013
** Established in 1525! The 64% Merlot in the blend pretty much tells the story of 2012. They started to pick the Merlot on Sept 17th and in good conditions. This wine is so delicious, rich but not heavy and seriously grapey. This wine is perfectly extracted with a lovely long finish. I love it.

2012 Pontet-Canet, Pauillac (3L)
Review Date: 05-03-2013
** Established in 1725!There is just no stopping the fantastic roll of quality here! The perfectly ripe blueberry and blackberry fruit is focused and is amazingly fresh! Firm but round tannins and new oak is the framework for this great tasting PC that is accessible and invigorating. Hats off to Alfred Tesseron for giving the world good reason to be excited about buying the best wines made in 2012 as he drops his price to 1/3 the price of his 2009 and 2010 now in the marketplace.
Top Value!

2012 Pontet-Canet, Pauillac (1.5L)
Review Date: 05-03-2013
** Established in 1725!There is just no stopping the fantastic roll of quality here! The perfectly ripe blueberry and blackberry fruit is focused and is amazingly fresh! Firm but round tannins and new oak is the framework for this great tasting PC that is accessible and invigorating. Hats off to Alfred Tesseron for giving the world good reason to be excited about buying the best wines made in 2012 as he drops his price to 1/3 the price of his 2009 and 2010 now in the marketplace.
Top Value!

2012 Pontet-Canet, Pauillac
Review Date: 05-03-2013
** Established in 1725! There is just no stopping the fantastic roll of quality here! The perfectly ripe blueberry and blackberry fruit is focused and is amazingly fresh. Firm but round tannins and new oak is the framework for this great tasting PC that is accessible and invigorating. Hats off to Alfred Tesseron for giving the world good reason to be excited about buying the best wines made in 2012 as he drops his price to 1/3 the price of his 2009 and 2010 now in the marketplace.
Top Value!

Canard-Duchêne "Authentic" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 03-27-2013
Lovely Chamapagne! Super clean and elegant with a very nice dry finish; a real crowd pleaser and fine value.
Price: $29.99 Add To Waiting List

2009 d'Issan, Margaux
Review Date: 03-11-2013
Soft, elegant, easy-drinking wine.

2009 Reserve de la Comtesse Lalande, Pauillac
Review Date: 02-05-2013
A cedary nose... tight and dusty; it will need time.
Price: $49.99 Add To Waiting List
RP 91 WS 91

2009 Branaire-Ducru, St-Julien
Review Date: 02-05-2013
Full of bright, just-ripe raspberries and cranberries, with great freshness, elegance and lovely balance.

2009 Malartic-Lagravière Pessac-Léognan
Review Date: 10-29-2012
Fresh, bright, natural mouthfeel. Tasty. I loved it!

2009 Pape Clément, Pessac-Léognan
Review Date: 10-24-2012
Strong and masculine, with lots of coffee flavors.

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More Favorites

Ralph Sands is also a fan of the following items. To become a fan of Ralph Sands, click here to join Ralph Sands's Personal Sommelier Service.
2005 Pontet-Canet, Pauillac ($179.99)

2003 Lynch-Bages, Pauillac (stained labels) ($174.99)

2005 Lynch-Bages, Pauillac ($199.99)

1999 Lynch-Bages, Pauillac ($149.99)

2005 Pichon-Baron, Pauillac ($159.99)

2005 Ducru-Beaucaillou, St-Julien ($229.99)