Staff Favorites - Bryan Brick

Bryan Brick

Reviews

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 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.

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.

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
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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
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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
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2012 Frei Brothers "Reserve" Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 04-22-2015
Frei Brothers has long been the “Green” winery in the Gallo wine empire; in fact they were “green” way before it was cool to be “green.” Kermit the Frog may have been the only thing green that was cool when Frei Brothers began to really look at the impact wine growing had on the land that they were farming. Now everything the winery grows is fully sustainable, for every acre of vines they plant they set aside an acre of natural wildlife habitat and they even pulled out 15 acres of vines to help restore a local natural wetland. While this is the kind of stuff we can all get behind it doesn’t matter much in this context unless the wine is good, right? Frei surely has had its ups and downs with quality but I can assure you that this bottle of wine is really great for $20. It has a big bold varietal character with plenty of ripe cassis and olive spice components on the nose. Savory oak and a pretty plum and cocoa laden palate along with earthy loam notes and a slick overall feel build a wine that seems easy going and more than friendly for most California Cab drinkers. Add the nice lift found from some bright, red fruit flavors on the finish and this is a rock solid Cabernet.
Price: $21.99 Add To Cart
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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.