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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.
Price: $27.99 Add To Cart
JD 94 VN 93

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!
Price: $174.99 Add To Cart
JS 97 RP 94

2013 Raymond "Reserve Selection" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 08-02-2017
From the superb 2013 vintage this Cab dominated blend (91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Sirah, 2% Petite Verdot & 1% Cabernet Franc) is dense, inky in both texture and flavor and has the hallmark savor of the vintage. Bold and fleshy this is packed with warm clay, beef jus, whole cherry and sandalwood flavors while keeping a fine ribbon of licorice and tar riding under this high line. Priced right and drinkable now this is will be great in 5-7 years’ time or to stock the larder for the next 6 months.

2015 Talley/K&L Wine Merchants Edna Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 08-01-2017
Fig, halved nectarines and subtle white pineapple aromas pop out of the glass bolstered friendly and alluring qualities of oak toast and whole cream. Fleshy and with good heft and smooth edges this may be more crowd pleasing than previous bottlings. We made a concerted effort to add richness and texture in this year’s bottling based on what the 15+ barrels we had to choose from were telling us. Still bright at the edges and with a savor/salinity that is rare for Chardonnay in this price point we this that not only is this a delicious wine but one of outstanding value and exclusivity.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart
VN 92 JD 90

2013 Bootleg Napa Valley Red Wine
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.

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.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart
VN 91 WE 91

2016 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir Rosé
Review Date: 06-19-2017
The 2016 vintage marks the second commercial release of the wineries rosé. From 100% Pinot Noir and all direct press this wine is already at the pinnacle of Domestic Rosé. Full of blood orange, pomegranate seeds, wet stone and raspberry aromas this nose is a symphony of complexity and freshness. As this has spent more time in the bottle I feel like it has fleshed out a bit more every day under cork with a broadening mouthfeel, white strawberry, rhubarb and cherry cola flavors and mouthwatering finishing acidity. While this is certainly one of the most expensive Domestic Rosés we carry we also believe that nobody will scoff at its price tag once they taste it.
Price: $32.99 Add To Cart

2014 Knez Winery "Knez Vineyard-Reserve" Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 06-19-2017
The least known of these three massive closeouts from Knez is the Knez Estate Reserve bottling, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take special notice of this beauty. From the younger estate site this wine charms with outright ripeness and crowd pleasing texture. Easily showing the most oak of the set, this has a powerful nose of smoky meats, hoisin sauce, Chinese five spice and cloves. The biggest of the bunch this wine fills the mouth with fun blue fruits, sunny, fresh berry intensity and lacings of fresh green herbs like lemon thyme and flowering rosemary. This considerable wine is fully fanned out and accessible with a coating texture and solid heft. Fans of larger pinots should take note here.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
VN 92

2014 Gainey "Estate" Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
Review Date: 06-19-2017
The 2014 Gainey Santa Rta. Hills Chardonnay may be the perfect summer bottle. Brisk, refreshing and thirst quenching this wine is shockingly good for its price tag. Whether you are BBQ’ing, poolside or just relaxing wherever you like to chill out this Chard will be friendly and help you get to where you want to be. Aromas of nectarine and apricot add richness to the lively nose that also shows notes of citrus and subtle oak. Picking up some pectic weight on entry this rolls along with fleshy fruit flavors dominating the intense, rounded palate. Think grilled peaches, kumquat, Bosq pear flesh and a hint of bergamot backed by a complex interwoven green tea and earthen spice. This is a fastball right down the middle of the Chardonnay plate, crushable!
Price: Hidden View Price
VN 92

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.

2015 Hahn "SLH" Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
Review Date: 06-12-2017
Cornmeal, toasted Challah bread, nectarine and minerality fill the clean and linear nose on this fully weighted wine. Fleshy, rich and with a pleasing light creaminess this is a bold enough Chardonnay to please the “bigger is better” fans but still has so much fruit complexity and a wealth of stone and spice components that people that enjoy more “traditional” Chardonnays should take note. Passion fruit, more buttered toast, orange marmalade and a pleasing flowery quality all intermingle on the full and well formed palate. This is something that we really think is tremendous for the value and should make a lot of friends with its generously friendly style over the summer and well into the fall.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
WS 91 WE 90

2015 Banshee Sonoma County Pinot Noir
Review Date: 06-05-2017
This year’s Banshee Sonoma County Pinot Noir is somewhat of a departure from the norm-- not in quality, as this is still at the epitome of quality for Pinot Noir of this price point--but in style. In 2015 Mother Nature gave everyone in the wine business a challenge, but Banshee passed the test, making an ethereal, feminine styled Pinot Noir that bucks the trend of super concentrated and sometimes overly intense young wines from this vintage. They managed the tannins and fruit concentration to near perfection in this difficult year and produced a wine of delicacy and freshness. Supple and lacy on the palate, this wine has a wealth of floral undertones and well-placed blue fruits, all the while running a ribbon of cardamom and fennel spice through the appealing blueberry-driven finish. Banshee 2015 Pinot is less about bombast and primary fruit as has been the case in the past and is a more fully formed, and realized, Pinot at the highest level of quality on the market for under $25.
Price: $23.99 Add To Cart
VN 90

2016 Banshee Mendocino County Rosé
Review Date: 06-02-2017
I know that we sing the praises of the folks at Banshee often, but there is a reason for it. They are making some of the best, affordable wines on the Domestic market today. One of the sneakiest of those releases is their yearly Rose release which seems to sell out faster and faster every year. This year may be their best ever rose as they went away from the 100% Pinot Noir rose model to add more dimension and complexity by adding Syrah, Grenache and Barbera to the mix. These varietals have all shown up in a big way but counterintuitively making a much more refined and delicate rose. Think Rainier cherry, white sage, soft minerality and rose hips all draped over a core of firm raspberry fruit. I loved this, the staff loved this and I think you’ll love it too.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
VN 90

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

2015 Bedrock Wine Company "Old Vine" California Zinfandel
Review Date: 05-11-2017
The one wine that you’re most likely to find from Bedrock, as all of the wines are quite limited in production, is the “Old Vine” Zinfandel. Made from a selection of historic vineyards from throughout California, averaging over 80 years old and coming from some of the biggest and best names in Zinfandel, this is not only one of the best Zinfandel values on the market but one of the best values period in the world of California wine. Lustily fruited this intertwines both higher toned red fruits and lower toned black fruits on the nose along with exotic spice notes of Szechwan pepper and star anise. Fully weighted but with soft and flexible tannins and a velvety mouthfeel this is a rare find in the world Zin. Wild berries, 72% dark chocolate, cherry coulis, ground white pepper and a finishing flair of black cardamom all combine for one tremendous and very affordable Zin.
Price: $23.99 Add To Cart
WS 93 RP 90

2013 Super Substance "Northridge Vineyard" Wahluke Slope Merlot
Review Date: 04-17-2017
Super Substance is yet another project from Charles Smith (K Vintners, Sixto, Kung Fu Girl) the famed winemaker and larger than life personality from the state of Washington. Somehow the man and his trusty crew have found time to make yet another fantastic set of wines that deliver massive quality, with pure deliciousness in mind for the consumer. As K Vintners has done for so many years with Syrah and other Rhone Varietals out of Washington State so does Super Substance for Bordeaux Varietals—it puts the best possible wine in to bottle for extremely reasonable prices, in slick packaging, from some of the best vineyards that the state has to offer. We highly suggest that at these special prices you check these wines out.
The “Northridge” Merlot was planted in 2003 and this teenage vineyard is in a fun spot still having the exuberance of youth but starting to develop its own personality. Coffee grounds and tea leaf driven aromas lead on the nose with a lovely polish oak, there is 70% new French Oak here, and an undercurrent of broad and expanding Blueberry fruit. Soft as a down pillow and yet still multifaceted with plenty of earth/fruit interplay, tension and overall complexity this wine delivers on both Merlot’s textural and fruit driven sides. Add notes of clay, wild Iris and berry blossom in the finish and this starts becoming serious without ever losing its gulpability.

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

2014 Foley "Rancho Santa Rosa" Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
Review Date: 03-22-2017
Coming from Foley’s beautiful estate vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills, Rancho Santa Rosa, this 230 acre vineyard is home to some of the most affordable bottlings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir the region has to offer. The Chardonnays are known for their density, richness and weight while still flaunting the acidity of the cool, windy climate of the Santa Rita Hills. Aromas of Fuji apple, marshmallow and vanilla bean may lead you to believe that this is a bit cumbersome at first, a sprinter trying to run a marathon; it would be far from the truth. Bright, modern flavors of Key lime pie, apple preserves and mango keep this humming along at a nice steady pace allowing the pretty finish of clover, smoke and apple skin to make a push at the finish line.
Price: Hidden View Price
WE 93 W&S 91

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 Maison L'Envoyé "The Attaché" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 03-22-2017
Made from some of the best vineyards throughout the Willamette Valley: Croft, Hyland, Eola Springs, Bishop Creek, amongst others this Pinot is about as close to a “can’t miss” for not only Oregon Pinot Noir lovers but for any pinotfile out there. It probably doesn’t hurt that Louis-Michel Liger-Belair is the consulting winemaker here either. Blue fruited and with a pretty this has the aromas reminiscent of the forests of the Valley in the morning, wet/warm earth, evergreen and wild mushrooms with blackberry and fresh fennel. The complexity here is off the charts and is only rivaled by the equally interesting and irresistible palate. Slick and high toned, plush and sexy this wine has it all with flavors of fresh blueberry, loganberry, Chanterelles mushroom and a subtle but lasting oak spice. The best thing about this wine is that it is so drinkable, so approachable that it will be equally loved by your wine snob friends as it will be by your, well let’s just call them your less discerning friends.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
VN 93 WS 92

2013 Joseph Swan "Saralee's Vineyard" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 03-16-2017
One of our staff’s favorite Pinots every year, the 2013 Joseph Swan “Saralee’s Vineyard” is sublime. Incredibly floral with wild iris and wisteria tones, backed by warm spice and energetic and lip-smacking red fruits, this is one complex Pinot Noir. What really separates it from so many others we sampled is its almost complete weightlessness. This is somehow packed with flavor yet never bogs down in pitchy weight or unnecessary ripeness. My final note on this wine is not suitable for print—it included a lot of exclamatory excitement and maybe a few joyous curse words!
Price: $38.99 Add To Cart

2014 Martinelli "Bella Vigna" Russian River Valley 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 Lincourt "Steel" Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
Review Date: 03-09-2017
Ten bucks. That is all. Just $10 gets you this tasty little non-oaked Chardonnay from one of the premiere appellations of the Central Coast of California. Some of you may think it’s too “cheap,” that there is no way that it can be good at that price point. Well I’m here to say that we think that you shouldn’t discriminate based on price because there is some serious substance in this Chardonnay. Don’t overlook the little guys, the underdogs; if you do you might just be missing out on the best Chardonnay deal of 2017.
Orange blossom and a pure beam of Cantaloupe and Honeydew melon, bolstered by a leesy weight, ride high on the nose of this non-oaked stunner. Broad but that broadness comes from fruit ripeness rather than oak extraction this is packed full of pureed Jonagold apples, orange pith, fried plantains and hints of zestier citrus tones like tangerine and Clementine. Add in the fact that there is 10% Sauvignon Blanc, 3% Gruner Veltliner and 2% Pinot Blanc in this wine and which add fruit complexity, minerality and a spice note to the wine and this is incredibly complex without oak or secondary fermentation. A value not to be missed.
Price: Hidden View Price

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 Gary Farrell "Russian River Selection" Russian River Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 02-09-2017
“Russian River Selection,” just what exactly does that mean? Well in the new 2014 Gary Farrell bottling it means that they have used fruit from some of the best vineyard sites in the valley. Bacigalupi, Olivet Lane, Rochioli, Allen, Martinelli and Westside Farms are all vineyards that make up this stunning value in the world of Chardonnay. These cream of the crop sites have led to a full bodied, juicy and aromatic wine that is more about the fruit than the winemaking, which these days is less and less common not only in Chardonnay but in the world of wine.
Golden fruited with edges of clover honey and white flowers this is lifted and complex on the nose. Bursting on entry with Fuji apple, nectarine and white pineapple this slowly builds on the palate adding layer after layer of flavor and a subtle, non-toasty, oaken heft on the back end all the while being incredibly agile on the palate. The balance here is superb and at $30 is head and shoulders above 99% of the Chardonnays in this price point. This is simply one of the best Chards we have in the shop for under $50.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
WE 95 WS 90

2012 Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 01-28-2017
The 2012 Napa Valley bottling has been wildly anticipated for the last few months. Hot off of the fall release of the stunning 2012 Alexander Valley bottling, The Napa bottling has finally arrived. The first in a string of three outstanding Napa Cabernet vintages it is wildly apparent from the nose that this is a hallmark 2012. Known for its generosity and ripeness 2012 has charmed people over the last couple of years but its wines like the Silver Oak that vintages like these are really judged on.
Dark but with a juicy core of blue/black fruit highlighted by espresso and sweetened cocoa powder the nose here resonates and has plenty of weight and concentration. This enters velvety and full bodied and shines as it rolls along to the mid-palate. Full of swirling and complex flavors of brambly wild berry, chopped green olives, blueberry angel cake, pipe tobacco, and homemade chocolate brownies this is gulp-able and yet serious at the same time. Finishing with its signature oaky pinning and considerable tannin, fruit rather than oak, this is one stunner of a wine and easily the best Silver Oak Napa Valley bottling since 2007 or 2009. In a word: Tremendous.
Price: $114.99 Add To Cart
WS 90

2015 Averaen (Banshee) Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 01-18-2017
Averaen: [AY-vuh-rain]
Noun
1: The new and wildly exciting Pinot Noir project from the men that brought you Banshee
2: The men from Banshee’s loose translation of “Bird Queen” from the Latin word “avis” for bird and French word “reine” for queen (Latin root regina)
Since the very first bottling of Banshee, K&L was their second customer ever, the three amigos: Baron, Steve and Noah, have made some of the best affordable Pinot Noir in California not to mention great Chardonnay and some other fun things as well. So when they told me in secret a little over two years ago that they were thinking about making Willamette Valley Pinot Noir I was obviously very excited. The result is Averaen and it is a wonderful example of why Banshee became so popular in the first place: the quality for value just can’t be beat. At $19.99 this was instantly in the argument for one of the best wines from the still youthful but very good 2015 vintage at this price point. Made from some vineyards well know to insiders and Oregon Pinot files like Meredith Mitchell, Deux Vert, Eola Springs and Valin among others this is top flight raw materials wedged into an entry level price point. Also an added bonus for the 2015 vintage bottling is that every grape harvested in 2015 went into this bottling where as in years upcoming they will also make single vineyard bottlings, so this really is the best foot forward with their inaugural release.
Made from a mix of Volcanic and Sedimentary soils and a blend of Pommard and Dijon clones this takes all the best parts of Oregon Pinot Noir and dovetails them in to one seamless and drinkable wine. Aromas of freshly picked cherries, clove and wet, warm earth dominate the nose backed by typical forest-y notes and hints of darker berry fruits. The first thing that struck me about this wine is just how serious it is in terms of balance and structure. Everything is in its place and while this is eminently drinkable it is also quite serious and complex. Lush loganberry at the edges with a pitchy red fruited core this Pinot has plenty of fruit intensity and lift but it also has the darker side of the Pinot spectrum as well with finishing mushroom, fern and purple flower notes. Add a subtle oaky quality, but no toastiness-this is all done in neutral oak foudre and stainless steel-and this really becomes one of the best Pinot Noir values, regardless of place, in K&L today.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
VN 91

2014 Mayacamas Mt. Veeder Chardonnay
Review Date: 01-06-2017
So many wineries have been releasing 30th and 40th anniversary bottlings recently that it has gotten a little out of hand. Sure those wines have been incredibly good, and the producers of the wines are some of the standard bearers of Napa Valley, but it’s started to feel like everyone is listening to the same marketing team, but a little gimmick can carry a quality product a long way. So when I saw the new 2014 Mayacamas Chardonnay was labeled to celebrate the winery’s 125th anniversary I kind of laughed out loud. I mean they had to have had enough with these measly 40-50 year anniversaries. They threw down the gauntlet and threw it down in a big way.
Mayacamas has long been one of my personal favorite wineries-full stop. Their wines are some of the most age worthy and historic that the North Coast of California has ever produced and not much has changed 125 over 125 years. Sure the winery was sold a few years back to Charles Banks and the Terroir Group but they really didn’t change much as far as the winemaking is concerned, they did bring in superstar winemaker Andy Erickson but he knows enough not to mess with a great thing. The old oak is still there, the enamel lined rectangular tanks are still there and the quality is still certainly there. (Most of the money that is going to refurbishing the winery is going into replanting the old and dying estate vineyard, hence the very little amount of wine they’ve produced in recent years.)
The nose of this Chardonnay is enough to stop you mid-sentence. It is a wild combination of traditional White Burgundy/Chablis notes like wet rock, lime and crushed cashew with a counterweight of Mount Veeder terrior, full of spearmint, chaparral and white sage. Linear and focused with a great wealth of character this is full of flavors of lemon verbena, prickly pear, more spearmint and a mouth feel that is at the same time oily rich and delicately lacy. This is so delicious right now that it will be hard not to chug all these bottles right away but I implore you to hold on to one or two of these wines for a number of years, anything up to 15-20 years, and watch them grow into something even more special. To say that this is one of the top Chardonnays that Napa has to offer is quite an understatement indeed.
Price: $47.99 Add To Cart
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2013 Sinor-LaVallee San Luis Obispo County Chardonnay
Review Date: 11-30-2016
Butterscotch, kettle corn, and notes of grilled peach and vanilla bean fill the intense and fleshy nose. But as soon as you taste this one has to also be impressed with how balanced it is. Freshening up a touch on the entry with lovely lemon meringue and key lime pie flavors that ride over more oak laden tones of stone fruit, shortbread and peach cobbler this is impressively rich and somehow lifting as well. With just enough acid to keep it moving along briskly, plenty of weight to impress the “big” Chardonnay crowd and intense tropicality with lychee, mango and nutmeg flavors in the finish this is a pleasing wine for just about any Chard fan out there.
Price: $21.99 Add To Cart
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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
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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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2015 Kalinda Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 10-12-2016
Black cherry, bergamot, spiced plum and a touch of cola combine in the compact yet slowly unraveling nose. Medium weight and yet with a sprightly feel this is a young Pinot that is already quite delicious but will grow in leaps in bounds over the next 2-6 months and then slowly develop over the next 3-7 years. With warm red clay notes, cranberry tang, velvety boysenberry preserves and a candied licorice note the palate comes off as inviting and bordering on plush. Finishing with a nice lifting red fruited crunch surrounded by earthy/foresty richness this is one special Pinot Noir and we couldn’t thank the crew at Chehalem for making us such a great wine.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

2014 Martin Ray "Coast Grade Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
Review Date: 07-08-2016
In recent years we’ve seen the resurgence of the Martin Ray name in the California wine industry. Having no real connection to the historic figure that Martin Ray was this brand has quickly become one of the best negociants in the Domestic market. Starting with affordable wines, like their second label Angeline and their myriad of Cabernets through out the state, we’ve quickly become fond of these wines and thing they are near, or at the top of the heap for large production, purchased fruit wines from California.
In the last year or two they’ve added a more “reserve” tier to their line up with great sub-appellation wines and single vineyard bottlings that have been very impressive. One of these that really caught our eye was the 2014 Coast Grade Vineyard Pinot Noir which knocked our socks off. Naming this one of my Top 10 Pinot Noirs of the year is high praise but this is firmly entrenched on that list already. Crunchy red and black berry fruits ride a high line with exotic undertones of cardamom and star anise aromatically. Full of life and vibrant this is what Pinot should be but more and more rarely is: a perfect combination of earth, fruit, herbal complexity and subtle spice with acid dictating its pace and focus. Long savory and floral in the finish this lingers on the palate long after it is gone for hauntingly pleasing effect.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart
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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.

2013 Green & Red "Tip Top Vineyard" Napa Valley Zinfandel
Review Date: 07-02-2016
From high upon their picturesque vineyards in Chiles Valley, Jay and Pam Heminway and their team have made excellent Zinfandel for decades. Somehow, our entire team had never been to their estate, and we were all completely happy to finally see this very rustic and honest operation. The Tip Top Vineyard is exactly what it sounds like—their highest elevation vines, ranging from 1,400 to 1,800 feet above sea level. Concentrated but without sugar intensity, heavily spiced but without noticeable oak, this wine was a revelation in Zinfandel, and for a completely reasonable price. Black pepper, Asian spice, dusty blackberries and a layered and open nature make this dark-toned wine something to please just about any Zin fan.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart
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2013 Robert Craig "Affinity" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 03-23-2016
A lot of changes have happened at the edges over that last couple of years at Robert Craig, the good news is that the wines are still as good as ever with the release of the 2013 vintage. The most noticeable change is to the packaging this year but there is also a major change with the Affinity this year. The bad news first: the price on this wine has gone up a substantial amount. Why? Because they’ve repositioned this wine now to be all Estate fruit from a single vineyard that they’ve owned since 1993 called La Londe Vineyard. This vineyard, sort of sandwiched between Stags Leap District and Coombsville has come into its own and the winery is fully confident that this, the 20th anniversary of Affinity, is as good as ever.
I’d agree with them wholeheartedly. While the wine is incredibly young and tight, my god this wine was good on the 4th day open, it couldn’t be more packed with Cab based goodness. With heady aromas of lavender, dark roasted coffee beans and cigar box you can tell they spared no expense on their oak regime. But at the same time I was really impressed with just how well all those pieces integrated with one another, lifting each other up rather than fighting each other and mucking up the works. Creamy and round with savory, dusty fruit flavors of black currant and wild blackberry along with licorice and ash the palate is stuffed to the brim. The tannins firm in the back end a bit but that is just the youth of the wine showing and they will be fine in a few years’ time. Affinity has always been one of the great values of Napa and this year it still is but it is taking itself a lot more serious. Now it wants to play with some of the bigger kids on the block and guess what? It’s holding its own.

2013 Larkmead Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 03-17-2016
A lot of changes have taken place at Larkmead over the last few years, but none of those moving parts have affected the quality of the wines. In fact, these wines are as good as I can ever remember them being. The new winemaker, Dan Petroski, who has his own brand Massican, and has worked for the likes of Valle dell'Acate in Italy and DuMol here in the States is one of the great up and coming winemakers in Napa. He has taken a more detail oriented approach with fermenting and keeping separate all the parcels of the vineyard until blending. This approach has made the wines a bit different than in the past, in my opinion, channeling specific lots into each of the proprietary bottlings. The Cabernet in 2013 is awesome, plain and simple, but it is much more spice and earth-driven than in years past. With considerable loamy earth qualities backed by laurel, dusty black currants, menthol/camphor and touches of Tiramisu, this is heady and intriguing aromatically. With more old school tannin/acid interplay and a rustic texture, this has really become serious wine that I think is going to age effortlessly. Flavors of cedar, cigar smoke, baking chocolate, eucalyptus, tar and boysenberry are already very well integrated and continue to come together and evolve in the glass. Savory edged throughout, this is a rare Napa Cab that impresses with structure and complexity rather than with sexy, bombastic fruit. I couldn’t be happier with it.

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!
Price: $10.99 Add To Cart
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