Staff Favorites - Bryan Brick

Bryan Brick

Reviews

  
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2015 Charles Smith "Kung Fu Girl" Columbia Valley Riesling
Review Date: 01-18-2017
With typical varietal aromas of subtle petrol tones layered over with mounds of fresh white peach, apricot and picked wild flowers this is about as good as Riesling gets in this price range. Never cloying and full of zesty and mouth watering acidity this is a long way away from anything like a dessert wine. Snappy and zingy with just enough residual sugar (1.4% Residual Sugar g/100mL) to put it into something like the classic Kabinett range of Germany this is more at home for the main course with thinks like Spicy Thai, Indian or even Mexican food. Dry clover honey, lemongrass, grilled peaches and honeydew melon flavors all drizzled in Meyer lemon juice, this is one guzzle-able wine whose value can’t be matched on today’s market. So if you love Riesling or you just need a tangy refreshing white around the house this is something you may want to grab in quantity.

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
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2013 Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend
Review Date: 01-13-2017
For as long as I’ve been in the wine biz Pahlmeyer has been one of the most reliable producers of high end Napa Valley wine. Their efforts, year in and year out, are rarely matched in terms of sheer deliciousness, elegance, poise and relative value whether it is their rich, oak laden Chards, the texturally impressive Merlots or the refined Proprietary Red Wine. The combination of the outrageous 2013 vintage and the long term dedication to quality from Pahlmeyer makes these wines some of the easiest choices on the market for their respective price points. We know not everyone can afford these wines on a regular basis but we also can’t recommend them highly enough for that special dinner/moment/gift that we all find ourselves needing from time to time.
The 2013 Proprietary Red Wine from Pahlmeyer, a blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 6% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot , is one of the best Bordeaux blends of the year from Napa at $150. Some of you may ask, “Well why are you so jazzed on a $150 wine from Napa?” Great question! The reality of Napa Cabs/Bordeaux blends is that $150 is no longer a high end wine; in fact $150 has sort of become the middle ground for that category. When all the major critical publications are saying things like “this is the value of the vintage” or this is a “sleeper” of the vintage and the wines they are speaking of are $70-$90 all of a sudden a blue chip wine like Pahlmeyer at $150 is not looking so out of reach.
This stunning wine is full of fancy oak lacing, wild berry, cassis, tobacco and loamy earth on the nose. Refined and almost patient in its delivery with a layered oak frame, fine hued tannin and laser etched acid the structure here is something that gives plenty of instant gratification but also is built to age for the next 8-15 years. Plenty of blue/black fruit is present but any Cab can do that, what separates this wine from so many others is that it is not the strongman that Cab is so often is but more the sneakily strong gymnast, flexible and full of stamina. Finishing with a continuation of the flat out delicious fruit and adding a broad beam of savory earth and fresh herbs this is a wine that I would happily put in a blind tasting with any modern Bordeaux or Cult Domestic wine at twice its price, or just drink at any luxurious occasion.

2013 Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Merlot
Review Date: 01-13-2017
For as long as I’ve been in the wine biz Pahlmeyer has been one of the most reliable producers of high end Napa Valley wine. Their efforts, year in and year out, are rarely matched in terms of sheer deliciousness, elegance, poise and relative value whether it is their rich, oak laden Chards, the texturally impressive Merlots or the refined Proprietary Red Wine. The combination of the outrageous 2013 vintage and the long term dedication to quality from Pahlmeyer makes these wines some of the easiest choices on the market for their respective price points. We know not everyone can afford these wines on a regular basis but we also can’t recommend them highly enough for that special dinner/moment/gift that we all find ourselves needing from time to time.
The 2013 Merlot from Pahlmeyer is such a stunning wine that it may make you forget the last 10+ years of general anti-Merlot sentiment that one stupid line from an indie move created in the US. Velvety soft and full of fully formed aromas of café con leche, blueberry muffins, wet asphalt and torched sugar this is one impressive nose. Powerful yet accessible this Merlot is far from being a one trick pony and has all the complexity, if not more, than most of the Cabernet in this price point all in a more drinkable and pleasurable frame. Soft, pliable tannins and a wealth of purely fruited flavors like wild blackberry lead to darker and more bass toned flavors of cocoa powder and dark chocolate covered espresso beans. As this wraps up with plush oak tones and a lengthy finish that adds a touch of warm spice this is about as good as varietal Merlot can get and maybe the best Pahlmeyer Merlot I’ve tasted.

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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2014 Olema Sonoma County Chardonnay
Review Date: 01-04-2017
The 2014 Olema Chardonnay is something special like a comet that blasts through our atmosphere once every 75 years, or the ever elusive Quadruple Double. Something that is so rare that when you taste it you can’t help but be bowled over by its combination of incredible quality and sheer value. Packed full of butterscotch, quince paste and cantaloupe on the nose this also expresses unparalleled balance: richly hued but bright rather than heavy or hefty. The oak here is mostly up front and acts as a warm blanket that encapsulates the wealth of melon, baked pear, lime flesh, wet stone and custard. Long and surprisingly complex in the finish with subtle salted caramel over granite and lychee this is just simply a wine that is not made in California for this price point any longer. Lucky us in that we all get to benefit in being lucky enough to be around to be able to drink it in.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
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2013 Black Stallion Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 12-27-2016
One of the ways that you start feeling old in this business is you start remembering what certain wines were priced when you started in the industry. While I’ve certainly paid my dues, I’m long from the number of years that my co-workers Jim Barr or Ralph Sands have put into the wine business; however, I can still remember plenty of wines that were much more reasonably priced in years past. But there is one place that always takes the cake in terms of price increases, and that is Cabernet from Napa Valley. Year after year it seems like every winery is raising their prices and not by a tiny percentage but by 5%-10% year over year. The idea of a $15 Napa Valley Cab is fairly absurd in this day in age and anything under $30 is rare to say the least. So when the 2013 Black Stallion Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon came across my desk I was certainly excited.
Made by the Delicato family in a stunning facility that used to be a horse stable and indoor track on the Silverado Trail, this is a rarity for Napa Valley Cabernet in that it has true value and is still 100% Napa Valley fruit. Ripe, plush and full of heady aromas of black cherry, pipe tobacco, torched sugar and cured olives this offers tons of Cabernet varietal character and the unmistakable intensity of Napa Valley. Open-knit and immensely drinkable, this fleshy, rich and fully formed Cabernet has gobs of black currant hard candy, black licorice ropes, sage, lavender and unsweetened cocoa powder to glide over a seamless and velvety mouthfeel. $25 for Cabernet like this out of Napa Valley is just unheard of in today’s day and age. Be sure to get some while that is still possible. Sadly, I don’t think it will be under $30 for that much longer.

2014 Lemelson "Thea's Selection" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 12-27-2016
Simply put 2014 is a superstar vintage in the Willamette Valley. Whether it’s Pinot Noir or the myriad of white wines made in the valley everything was of the highest quality and to make the vintage even better there were extremely high yields as well meaning that there is plenty of wine to go around.
A perfect example of the extremely high quality of 2014 is the Lemelson Thea’s Selection Pinot Noir. This pours a clear, vibrant ruby color and has a heady nose of typical Oregonian earth, bitter cherry, amaro, pine needles and freshly picked raspberries. Easy going, but without sacrificing complexity or depth, this wine has a lovely zest and red fruited energy with fun flavors of Bing cherry, cola, vanilla bean, whole clove and loganberry preserves. A warm, coating finish with enjoyable heft and building, richer notes of café con leche, chocolate covered cherries and touches of tar and sweetened cranberry juice round out this crowd pleasing Pinot Noir. But if you don’t want to take our word for it Wine Spectator placed this in their Top 100 wines of 2016 article at #68. Not bad for a wine under $30!
Price: $27.99 Add To Cart
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2013 Chardenet "Durell Vineyard" Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
Review Date: 12-12-2016
Durell Vineyard has long been one of the best vineyards for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in California. Used by some of the best producers of those varietals in the state (Kistler, Patz & Hall, Chasseur, Williams-Selyem, just to name a few) you typically have to be able to shell out upwards of $50-$60 if you can even find one to begin with. Bigger in scope and size than its sister wine Coteau Blanc, and with the unmistakable class of this site, this is a layered, richly hued and full bodied wine full of aromas of butter baked apples and peaches. Airy and weightless on entry with a linear youthfulness this needs a touch of air to blossom. Lime, crushed stone, apricot flesh, well integrated oak and floral highlights combine in this powerful complex wine. Add in a wonderful textural mouthfeel and this is on par with some of the great Durell bottlings I’ve had over the years. The only difference is that this is less than half the price of most, and that can’t be beat.
Price: $23.99 Add To Cart
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2013 Chardenet "Coteau Blanc" Carneros Chardonnay
Review Date: 12-12-2016
The Coteau Blanc is from the wineries estate vineyard in Carneros. Close to the San Pablo Bay this cool climate region has long been know for producing some of the best Chards in the business. Sand based soils dominate the region but Coteau Blanc is actually planted on a rare deposit of limestone. Nutty with a Mersault-like crushed cashew and almond skin tone over a subtle rosewater floral quality this is alluring and pretty on the nose. Fleshy and with a continuation of floral intensity this has good mid-weighted flesh and precise, pinpoint balance. Bright, tangy and with a considerable amount of crushed stone/rock this is not unlike an AC Chablis in its cutting finish. Stunning and just an amazing value for this price point.

2013 Sarah's Vineyard Central Coast Pinot Noir
Review Date: 11-30-2016
While labeled Central Coast, this is a single-vineyard, estate-grown Pinot that drives forward with crushed cherry and strawberry tones and deeper aromas of Porcini mushroom and old leather. Overall red fruited but with more bass than treble, this is plump but with good energetic tang and a level of seriousness that is rare for under $20. Interwoven fruit, earth, savor and acid are all presented in a fun and pretty frame with a dominating pitchy resonance that has a wealth of cranberry, white cherry, beef blood and Shiitake mushroom that really can’t be beat at this price.
Price: $17.99 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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2013 Love & Squalor Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 11-30-2016
The main thing that has struck me over the last couple of years with the Love and Squalor wines is just how epically drinkable they are. Sure they are cerebral, sure there is a tremendous acid/fruit structure to the wines, yes they are precise and focused but the thing you always come back to is just how much fun they are to drink. Clove, mace and cinnamon highlights hover over pure loganberry and wild blackberry fruit on the nose. Medium weight and full of layered black fruits with lush cassis and cola notes this is also bolstered by touches of pastilles and sweet fennel on the palate. Dry and mineral driven the finish portrays an overall prettiness and refinement that is just not found often from Pinot Noir at this price point all adding up to a wine that is urging you, pleading with you almost, to drink it not think about it, although both could be done with ease.

Marietta "Old Vine Red Lot #64" California Red Blend
Review Date: 11-30-2016
Lot #64 is another doozy of a wine combining the briaryness of Zinfandel with all of the density and darkness of Petite Sirah, throw in some peppery Syrah spice and the lift and complexity from small quantities of numerous other varietals and this is one special inexpensive wine. The concentration of this wine is instantly apparent which is one of its most enjoyable traits, the old vines here play their role and do it well with zesty aplomb and brooding energy. Full of white pepper, zippy plums, blueberry compote and fried rosemary this is as chuggable as it is serious. In fact I can see this aging incredibly well for the next 4-6 years but who could wait that long.
Price: $11.99 Add To Cart

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 Pinot Noir
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.
I know saying that the 2013 Domaine Eden Pinot Noir is like a baby Mount Eden Pinot Noir is a bit redundant but I can’t stress enough how much this really shows the savor, complexity and intertwined structure of its bigger brother. In the past the Domaine Eden Pinots have been delicious wines but in certain vintages they have not had a ton in common with their sibling, this is absolutely not the case with the heady and powerful 2013 vintage. Full of foresty aromatics, hints of warm spice and Amaro the nose is the first real tip off that this Pinot is on a whole other level. Dense and a touch compact in its youth, if you give this a touch of air, or a few years of patience, the reward is substantial with Asian plum, wild blackberry, fern frond and new leather flavors all with a subtle underlying tang and long finishing spiciness. This is so good right now and it’s going to be on the upslope for quite some time. I can only imagine how good this will be when it hits its apex in about 4-6 years.

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 Columbia Crest "Grand Estates" Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 11-28-2016
It’s not often that K&L brings you the latest and greatest wine for $8.99, especially one from a producer that is a household name like Columbia Crest, but this 2014 Grand Estates Cabernet is not your typical $8.99 wine. This is lights out Cabernet for under $10. It’s the wine I’ll tell all my friends to look for when they need something inexpensive for holiday parties. As K&L's domestic wine buyer, I can say it's the best Cabernet or Cab-blend we have in the store at that price--no questions asked. Seriously, it’s that good and the best part is that it is under $10 at a time of year that we all need a little help in our wallets. So buy a bottle, or a case, or numerous cases and see for yourself just how good this darkly fruited, varietal correct, lushly rich and warm spiced Cabernet is for yourself. I know I’ll happily be drinking a case or more of this over the Holidays for the next few years.
Price: $8.99 Add To Cart
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Sean Thackrey "Pleiades XXIV Old Vines" California Red Blend
Review Date: 11-17-2016
Sean Thackrey has long been the champion of wild blends, out of the way or forgotten about sites and fully old school winemaking. His wines are never simply laid out with precise numbers and percentages rather there is always some mystery about what is exactly going on and that mystery creates intrigue and charm more times than not. Never “clean” or “polished” his wines more often than not bring up the descriptors like “rustic” or “old world.” The Pleiades bottling has long been the door into the wild, magical world of Sean Thackery and this cuvee, the twenty fourth, is no exception. A blend with both red and white varietals this is at once delicious, odd, cerebral and loveable all at once and that is something that is quite hard to pull off with regularity in the world of wine.
Resonating aromas of street tar, caraway, tobacco, cherry jam and blackberry cobbler please on the nose carrying a surprising amount of density and weight for such a vibrant, energetic wine. Savory but fruity, ripe but balanced, spicy but soft this is a wine built around pleasant contradictions. A wine where every sip shows something new and exciting. A wine that challenges you and pushes you to pay attention, to listen throughout to what it’s trying to say. Pomegranate, white cherry, blueberry, coffee grounds, black tea and a return of the tar found on the nose, old leather and dried berry fruits are all flavors that swirl around in your mouth as you drink this. There is just so much going on here that you can't help but like this odd, slightly magical, but overall fun and delicious wine.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2015 Tablas Creek "Patelin de Tablas" Paso Robles Rhône Blanc
Review Date: 11-16-2016
Fleshy and full on the nose this has a wealth of tropical Viognier tones of white pineapple and passion fruit but also has a fresh green herbal streak under all this sweet tinged fruit that consists of thyme, white sage and lemon verbena. All aromas typical of the small pieces of Marsanne and Roussanne found here. This wine is whole cluster pressed and fermented with only native yeasts and never sees a lick of oak, letting the true character of this multi-varietal blend shine through. Round and rich with a weight typical of a blend of this nature this continues with its high levels of tropical fruit although they turn more towards citrus on the palate with Kaffir lime and tangelo flavors over a consistent streak of wet stone/granite. With good lift throughout, however far from sharp or tinny this is a rock solid blend that really delivers on its history, pedigree and price point and while this maybe a little out of the ordinary that is exactly why we like it so much and truly believe you will too!

2012 Au Bon Climat "Historic Vineyards Collection-Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 11-16-2016
Toasted pecans and walnuts over grilled white corn and lush apricot preserves with just a touch of lime zest-these aromas alone are worth the price of admission here. As this is a 2012 there is also just a touch of bottle age starting to creep in on the nose as well with a ribbon of caramel and an edge of torched sugar. However the palate is fresh as can be, dare I say even electric at this point with superb entering flavors of lemon meringue, Clementine, marzipan and a wealth of floral material that reminds me of white roses and carnations. Soft and lush on the finish with vigor at its edges and a delicious white peach fruit that sings on this is a lovely, complex and serious Chardonnay that is one of the best values of the year in Chardonnay and one of my top 5 Chardonnays of the year.

2015 Au Bon Climat/K&L Wine Merchants "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 11-15-2016
This year we incorporated the same blocks as previous vintages, Block 11 and Block 2 from Bien Nacido, but in different proportions and with a different clonal selection. Block 2 dominates this year, making up 90% of the blend, and within that are equal percentages of three parcels: one a mixture of clones 113 and 103—this was the nose and structure of the wine—and another is all clone 115, which added texture and power, while the other equal parcel was all clone 113, which made the finish of this wine something special. The other 10% came from Block 11 and is a mix of Swan and clone 115 that was whole-cluster fermented. This is the glue that holds the wine together, with snappy red fruits, warm spice, and a juicy feel that we think is wildly enjoyable. This is a plush, fresh and rich Pinot that has a little bit of something for everyone: Meaty spice—check. Ample, delicious fruit—check. Earthy savor—check. But possibly the best thing about it is the price. For $30 it is just an insane value—there is simply no other Bien Nacido-based Pinot Noir on the market for this price, or anywhere near it, honestly. As this was bottled in July 2016 I'd dump this in a decanter for an hour or two to really let it open up if you were going to drink it over the next 6 months to a year and I think this is going to be great 5-7 years down the road.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart

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

2013 Provenance Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 11-08-2016
The 2013 begins with an inky and darkly hued color which betrays its lifted and treble-y nose of blue and black fruits, cedar, sarsaparilla and underlying floral undercurrents of lilac and lavender. To say there is a lot going on in the nose would be an understatement and that complexity and intensity finds itself popping up throughout this wine. Classy on the palate with showy, lush, creamy fruits and a texture that is pure silk this is one mouth filling wine. I mean I’d pay this much for the wine four just the mouth-feel alone. But there is gobs of cassis and mocha flavors all slightly glycerin-y, maybe in just exactly the right proportions, with very varietal notes of bay leaf, sandalwood, a slight pinch of white pepper and long finishing fruit akin to freshly dried blackberries and unsweetened cocoa powder. The best part about this is that it is delicious right now and I can only see this getting better over the next 2-3 years and having a lifespan of 7-11 years without trying very hard at all.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart
RP 94

2012 Kathryn Kennedy "Estate" Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 11-01-2016
Heady and fully varietal in the nose, this has deep-set and yet effusive aromatics of hardwood, clove, red currants, sweet fennel, kirsch and old, warm leather. This pretty, and more uncommon presentation of Cabernet, one that is more about balance and precision rather than full-out bombast and extract, is a treat for any Cab fan of yesteryear or someone with a palate that likes wines to be more traditional in their approach. Fleshy and yet fully in check, with velvety tannins and a tension between fruit and savor in its flavor palate, this deserves to be in the conversation with the other great “old-school” producers of Cab like Heitz, Mount Eden, Ridge, etc. Certainly at $100 this is not a cheap wine, but if you can afford it and you like the style, there is no way that you won’t love this now, or 15 years from now. Truly a phenomenal wine that wants a subtle filet or a classic like beef wellington, it will make everything better and will cure plenty of ills with its sublime nature and graceful flavors.
Price: $99.99 Add To Cart
WE 97

2014 Concannon Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 10-24-2016
Black currant, loam and wet clay aromas swirl in the pitchy and surprisingly high-toned nose with good amounts of polish and varietal complexity. That resonating bright edge always rides slightly above the creamy, weighted palate full of berry fruit, sandalwood and soft flexible tannins. The overall impression here is one of juicy freshness but the wine is far from flabby and it certainly firms up as it goes with complex notes of unsweetened cocoa powder and freshly grated nutmeg. Solid in every department, the only thing that is holding this wine back is the possible negative association with this being more of a “supermarket brand.” Trust me when I say that if all wine were this good in supermarkets we’d all be out of a job!
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart
WE 91

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

2013 Gary Farrell "Russian River Selection" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 10-18-2016
A few years back when Gary Farrell sold his winery we were all pretty bummed out. We thought, “Well there goes another iconic name down the drain.” Honestly time told us we were wrong. Why they may have had some growing pains when Gary finally left in 2007, the last few years the wines have been tremendous, especially since Theresa Heredia (Joseph Phelps, Freestone, Domaine de Montille ) became their full time winemaker in 2012. Since she has taken over we have been incredibly impressed with how the wines are at once delicate and powerful, fruity yet serious and ripe but fully dry. The 2013 Russian River Selection had plenty to offer and wildly overshot its $37.99 price point, and since I originally wrote this the price has come down even further! In fact I’ve tasted plenty of $60 pinots this year that couldn’t hold a candle to this wine. Anise laced cherry fruit, wet red clay, boysenberry, white pepper and a touch of mocha combine on the wonderfully complex and powerful nose. Pliable and soft on entry with an expanse mouth feel this has both tons of fruit but also a skyscraper-like structure. Red and black berry fruits combine with well meshed oak toast, some bay leaf and an acid structure that is reminiscent of fresh farmer’s market persimmons. Blood orange, rhubarb, savory meaty qualities, and a return of the anise found on the nose squeeze into the packed and lovely finish. I’d love to see how this develops over the next 6-10 years; this will only grow into something even more special than it already is.
Price: $32.99 Add To Cart
WE 95

2013 Dunn Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 10-14-2016
Dunn Vineyards has long been a personal favorite wine for me. From the first time I tasted the wine about 15 years ago I was wildly intrigued by how a wine could be so hardly tannic yet so enjoyable at the same time. How you could have a bushel of earthy, foresty, mushroomy intensity but still a wealth of ripe, rich fruit. How a wine could be so monolithic, yet so captivating while it was in its youth. All of this still applies to Dunn to this day, and the 2013 vintage is no exception. In fact, this may be the most enjoyable young Dunn wine I’ve had since the 2008. The first time I had this was at the winery, back in May, on a larger Napa Valley trip where we visited some of the greats (Dominus, Heitz, Spottswoode, to name a few) and if it were not for the supernova of a wine that is the 2013 Dominus, this would be right up there in the top two or three Cabernets we tasted--along with Dunn’s 2013 Trailer Vineyard Cab, which we can talk about some other time. A stunning wine for your cellar that will reward all the patience you are able to pay into it.
Price: $109.99 Add To Cart

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 Hahn Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
Review Date: 10-12-2016
$20 Pinot Noirs are rare these days with the grapes themselves, and the materials to make them “right,” costing too much to have a twomp pencil out in the ledgers and still be able to keep the lights on. However you still see them everywhere, mass produced and not tasting so much like the varietal on the label, we are always apprehensive about the quality before we taste them. So on the rare occasion that we find one that is not only affordable but also varietally and regionally correct and critically acclaimed the only thing we can do is back up the trucks and shout from the heavens, or at least our e-mail platform, “BUY THIS, BUY THIS NOW!”
The Hahn label is not unfamiliar to K&L; the 2012 vintage did extremely well in our wine club and had people coming back for more. The 2013 was one of the top selling Pinot Noirs of the year, and a wild customer favorite, for us last year. The 2014 may be the best of this tremendous run from this producer with just as much deep set, black and blue fruits and warm spice but with a new added lift and Bing cherry brightness that we haven’t seen in the previous vintages. This new resonance and pitch to the wine adds another layer of complexity and packs even more into this bottle that already wildly over delivers.

2013 Walter Hansel "Cahill Lane" Russian River Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 09-15-2016
It seems like we e-mail you a few times every year expounding on just how good the wines of Walter Hansel are. You may be getting sick of these e-mails by now. You may be wondering if we owe them some great debt, or if they own a part of K&L, or if they give us a free Volkswagen every time we sell a pallet of their wine. The answer to all of these, of course, is no. The reason why we send these emails to you is that there are very, very few producers in the US right now that make wines that are this consistently crowd pleasing, affordable (the winery has raised prices only once in the last decade), critically acclaimed and just downright tasty.
The 2013 Walter Hansel “Cahill Lane” Russian River Valley Chardonnay is the latest offering that puts emphatic checkmarks by all the above criteria. Full of toasted brioche, almond butter, quince and torched orange peel the nose here has both lifting and weighty qualities that echo throughout the wine. On the palate I was surprised to see a bit more lift and energy than in the last few vintages with distinct citrus and floral intensity. At the same time this is unmistakably Hansel with its oily, mouth-filling richness, toasted corn, almond skin, vanilla and cream flavors. I’d have to say that if the rest of the 2013 vintage is going to be this good from Hansel you should expect a few more e-mail in your inbox over the next 12 months.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart
VN 93 RP 90

2013 Walter Hansel "Cahill Lane" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 09-14-2016
It seems like we e-mail you a few times every year expounding on just how good the wines of Walter Hansel are. You may be getting sick of these e-mails by now. You may be wondering if we owe them some great debt, or if they own a part of K&L, or if they give us a free Volkswagen every time we sell a pallet of their wine. The answer to all of these, of course, is no. The reason why we send these e-mails to you is that there are very, very few producers in the US right now that make wines that are this consistently crowd pleasing, affordable --the winery has raised prices only once in the last decade, critically acclaimed and just downright tasty.
The 2013 Walter Hansel “Cahill Lane” Pinot Noir is wonderful right now. Forward and youthful this Pinot is stacked with earth/spice complexity and fruity charm. Maybe a touch more rustic on the nose than usual this has very enjoyable notes of roasted beets and wet clay over more typical Hansel markers of pomegranate and cherry pit. With that welcome earthy note comes a bit more structure and over-all this comes off with a bit more seriousness than in recent vintages. As that earthy outer layer peels away in the mouth then comes all the typical sassafras, Bing cherry, white sage and white pepper flavors that are so typical and welcome in the Hansel Pinots. This like its Chardonnay counterpart is just coming out of its youthful awkwardness so I’d recommend a decant of about an hour to have this hitting on all cylinders.
Price: $38.99 Add To Cart
RP 93 VN 93

2014 Halcón "Tierra" Yorkville Highlands Petite Sirah
Review Date: 09-08-2016
The 2014 Tierra Petite Sirah is one of the most drinkable and accessible Petite Sirahs I’ve tasted all year. Velvety, aromatic, slick and with incredible tannin management, this is just a delicious wine for both fans and skeptics of the varietal. Plum, charred bread, marjoram and sweet coffee tones mesh nicely on the medium-weighted nose, leading to nice integration and, dare I say, subtlety on the palate. Driving but not heavy, this PS impresses not with its sheer force, but how it can retain force while adding some agility and lift on the palate. Add in delicious flavors of cigar tobacco, cassis, violet candy and a subtle Amaro note and this may be the best Petite Sirah I’ve tasted in 2016.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart
RP 93

2014 K Vintners "Milbrandt" Wahluke Slope Syrah
Review Date: 08-30-2016
Charles Smith, the crazy haired maniac that has helped put Washington State wine on the map is about as big of a character as all the stories, both true and rumored, would have you believe. I have some of my own stories but those would be inappropriate in this, or about any other setting. The one thing about him that I can talk about though without any hesitation is his unflinching commitment to quality whether it is in his massive bottlings of $15 dollar wine or in his one barrel of $150 wine he never cuts corners and the ultimate product is all that matters to him cost or time be damned.
The 2014 Milbrandt Syrah is a perfect example of this attention to detail and overall quality. From two different vineyards, Clifton and Northridge, both farmed and planted by the Milbrandt brothers this 100% Syrah is big and burly with a bursting fruit driven intensity and plenty of cured meat spice. Coffee bean and mocha blend with fennel pollen and white sage on the nose in this flagship Syrah. Plush and velvety this is electric Syrah with the typical K Vintners crushed violet tones, chocolate covered cherries, pan fried bacon and chocolate milkshake flavors. Savory and with tremendous length the white pepper studded finish is on par with some of the best Syrahs the US has to offer. This is one powerful, massive wine that still has good generosity and drinkability, easily enjoyable now or over the next 8-12 years.
Price: $26.99 Add To Cart
RP 94

2014 Sobon Estate Amador County Red Blend
Review Date: 08-21-2016
The newest superb value in an otherwise packed stable at Sobon Estates is the 2014 "Premium" Red Blend. After years of making single varietal wines, this blend is a deft foray into the ever-expanding world of kitchen sink reds. Made with 47% Syrah, 24% Zinfandel, 21% Barbera, 3% Petite Sirah and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, all from their estate vineyards at high elevation in the Sierra Foothills, this is a fun and fruity red with good snap and plenty of stuffing. Great for the mid-week meals and quaffing with family and friends with its tangy red fruited charm and rich finishing briary spice.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart

2014 Terra Valentine Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 08-10-2016
The 2014 Terra Valentine Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is one of Sam’s first new forays, and we couldn’t be more excited about it. First of all it is true Napa Valley Cab that is $29.99. Just that alone should catch people’s attention. With heady aromas of spice cake, pipe tobacco, boysenberry preserves and Oolong tea, the nose here is packed with personality and class found in much more expensive Cabs. Sweet fruited and with good lift, this is a wildly drinkable Cab that opens with ease. Packed with baker’s chocolate, wild berry, black tea, chaparral and spiced plum, there is as much complexity here as found in most Napa Cabs twice this price. This is certainly something to stock the cellar with as it could easily be drunk now and should continue to get better over the next 7-12 years.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
WS 91

2013 Seghesio "Cortina" Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
Review Date: 08-02-2016
Simply put the 2013 Seghesio “Cortina” Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel is a blockbuster in the world of Zin. Combine the mature vines of the Cortina Vineyard in the heart of Dry Creek Valley from one of the great vintages of this decade made by a family with decades of experience and you get one rarified Zinfandel. Poised on the nose with a mélange of fresh wild berries, vanilla bean, whole white peppercorns and a touch of flowering lavender, this is Dry Creek Valley Zin at its finest. Still incredibly youthful, this has plenty of primary berry fruit, but if you’re really paying attention you’ll see the class and subtlety of this wine. Seamless and soft, this has all the makings of a 10-15 year old wine with its superfine tannins, bright integrated acidity and wealth of complex spice. While I think this is going to age supremely, it is hard not to want to drink it now in its juicy, fun, delicious youth.

2014 Chappellet "Signature" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 08-02-2016
Very few Domestic Cabernets have outperformed the Chappellet Signature bottling over the last few years. Both the 2012 and 2013 were gigantic hits with both our customers and staff, selling out quickly and having both asking for more. So when the 2014 was released a few days back, we rushed at the opportunity to try the wine and get it out in front of you before everyone catches on to just how good this wine is again.
From 2014, the third in a series of tremendous and plentiful vintages in Napa, this deeply set, richly hued Cabernet Sauvignon is packed with character and youthful exuberance. Pastilles, spiced plum, figgy pudding, lavender fields and a sweet-hued black currant fruit pack the overt nose. Shockingly seamless for a wine of this ilk and age, this has a long and wide palate of blackberry cobbler, cocoa nibs, cured black olives, white pepper, sweet black tea and nicely positioned tannins towards the back of the mid-palate. I loved the tension here between the sizeable grip and the mass of sweet, exotic fruit that drives the wine forward. There are going to be a lot of $60 Cabs that can’t hold a candle to this released over the next few months, probably with plenty of high scores. We’d recommend grabbing one of the best while you can before the press, or the groundswell of interest, catches up with it.

2014 Casa Smith "Cervo-Northridge Vineyard" Wahluke Slope Barbera
Review Date: 07-10-2016
Some of you maybe wondering why in the hell are we emailing you about a Washington State Barbera? My answer to that is because it is just that delicious and needs to be tried to be believed. This brand new label, Casa Smith, which focuses solely on Italian varieties, is the newest in an ever-expanding series of wines from Charles Smith. The man with the crazy hair that brought some of the best wines Washington State can produce to market, both at value prices (Wines of Substance, Charles & Charles, Kung Fu Girl) and at the pinnacle of quality (K Vintners, Royal City).
Cervo is a single vineyard Barbera from the Wahluke Slope, a veritable hotbed of amazing vineyards, and while not Asti or Alba, it could be the next best place for the varietal if this wine is any indication. This wine has all the vigor and snap Barbera has to offer, with a bit more punch. Bing cherry, sassafras, blueberry and a touch of milk chocolate combine in the nose. Fresh and full of lifted blue fruits, this is a wine that will be certain to wake your mouth up no matter what you are, or are not eating. Adding a layer of tobacco and tar to the energetic fruit adds ballast and dimension and keeps the wine from becoming too linear in its approach, but this wine will surely cut through the richest of foods and help shepherd other high acid tomato based foods along easily and without issue. This should be your new table wine, full stop.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
RP 93

2014 Taken Wine Co. "Complicated" Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Review Date: 07-08-2016
Anytime you can find $15 Pinot Noir that actually tastes like Pinot Noir it is a major victory and a huge find, something akin to the wine Holy Grail. That is exactly what we found with this Complicated PN. I love the name of this wine because at $15 it should be anything but complicated but I’m happy that it actually is. Delicate blueberry fruit, pliable and perfectly ripe, dictates the nose and rides over subtle sage and mushroom tones and a touch of understated French oak. Surprisingly full and complex on the palate this completely over-delivers with serious notes of ash, chaparral, old leather, red currant and cranberry all while presenting itself in a seamless and complete way. Tangy but not sharp, ripe but never jammy, flavorful but with out excess, this is a great accomplishment in the world of inexpensive Pinot Noir and is instantly one of the best values in the shop.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
WE 91

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
WE 95

2013 Mercer "Sharp Sisters" Horse Heaven Hills Red Blend
Review Date: 07-08-2016
Mercer first popped up my radar screen about five years ago when I toured their vast operation in the Horse Heaven Hills of Washington State while on a trade junket. I had tasted a few of their wines before and was impressed with their quality/value ratio but I had no idea how massive and historic their farming operation is. The Mercer family dates back to 1886 in what then would become Washington State. They were the first to plant grapes in the Horse Heaven Hills 1972 and that block became the famed Champoux Vineyard, they are one of the main growers for the Chateau St. Michelle empire, and have started quite an empire of their own with numerous labels under the Mercer moniker.. They also have one of the largest miniature carrot processing plants in the US and farm something like a few thousand acres total.
This Sharp Sisters blend which consists of 47% Merlot, 41% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Sangiovese and 1% Petit Verdot is a perfect example of that aforementioned quality/value ratio. As a somewhat unusual blend this is a crowd pleasing wine that is fully of ruddy, honest charm and plenty of fruit to spread around. Spiced cherry, 60% chocolate, black raspberry and café con leche combine on the dark and lightly spiced nose. Sappy and ripe on entry this opens to show fun red berry fruit laden with more serious black pepper, pipe tobacco and clove notes. This is a versatile and easy going wine that would be a great foil to BBQ fare, burgers or tomato based pasta sauces.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
WS 92

2013 Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 07-02-2016
Always one of our favorite, dare I say, “overlooked” Cabs, this wine always delivers and does so for a relative value. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this wine is one of the best Napa Cab bottlings I can currently think of for $90 in the store, and will be a sure-fire bet to go 15–20 years in the cellar. Textural without heft or excess, this is poised Cabernet, not bogged down by oak char, high sugar or high alcohol. Classic black fruits intertwined with sage, tobacco and sandalwood make for a classic and classy wine that I would love to see develop over time.

2014 Cave Dog Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend
Review Date: 07-02-2016
The 2014 Cave Dog Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend is something really exciting. From Michael Havens, one of my favorite winemakers and a name that should ring far and loud for our longtime customers, this new 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc blend is a recreation, of sorts, of Michael’s “Havens Borriquot.” Made from the same vineyard as the Borriquot, it has the same intense aromatics and spice box nature, with fresh gingerbread, Bing cherry and dry-cured olive aromatics. Soft and velvety on the palate, with the plush, cassis-driven Merlot fruit adding dimension to the delicately spiced Cabernet Franc. A rock-solid offering that should turn heads with its tension and balance.
Price: $54.99 Add To Cart

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: Hidden View Price
W&S 94

2014 Varner "Home Block-Spring Ridge Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
Review Date: 06-24-2016
I’m not scared to say it, and I have many times, out loud, to real people: I think the Varner Chardonnays are some of the best, if not the best, Chardonnays made in the United States. These wines are still way under the radar for most wine fans, due to their small production, out-of-the-way location--high in the hills above Portola Valley in the Santa Cruz Mountains--and stylistic choices. But for all of us lucky enough to have tasted these wines vintage after vintage, we can’t help but feel this way. The wines are just too good, with pinpoint precision, amazing complexity, and little “winemaking” to get in the way of the amazing raw materials they put into each and every bottle they make. The bad news, however, is that the 2014 vintage will be the last vintage for these wines from the Spring Ridge Vineyard, as the Varners couldn’t come to an agreement with the owner of the vineyard on and extension of the lease for the vineyard. So get them before they are gone forever.
The Home Block is the most focused and fully realized of the trio of Chardonnays in 2014. With a floral aromatic intensity that is not found in the other two wines, this is a lifted and spicy nose packed with lime blossom, honeysuckle and magnolia blossom. Brisk and energetic on entry, this has a touch of a brackish/sea salt quality as a background note that resonates behind the wall of orange pith, nectarine, sweet tobacco and morel mushroom flavors. Precisely balanced and well formed, I found this to be the most instantly drinkable of the three Chardonnays and maybe the most typical, given the history of the brand.
Price: $47.99 Add To Cart
VN 93

2014 Varner "Amphitheater Block-Spring Ridge Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
Review Date: 06-24-2016
I’m not scared to say it, and I have many times, out loud, to real people: I think the Varner Chardonnays are some of the best, if not the best, Chardonnays made in the United States. These wines are still way under the radar for most wine fans, due to their small production, out-of-the-way location--high in the hills above Portola Valley in the Santa Cruz Mountains--and stylistic choices. But for all of us lucky enough to have tasted these wines vintage after vintage, we can’t help but feel this way. The wines are just too good, with pinpoint precision, amazing complexity, and little “winemaking” to get in the way of the amazing raw materials they put into each and every bottle they make. The bad news, however, is that the 2014 vintage will be the last vintage for these wines from the Spring Ridge Vineyard, as the Varners couldn’t come to an agreement with the owner of the vineyard on and extension of the lease for the vineyard. So get them before they are gone forever.
The 2014 "Amphitheater Block” is much friendlier than in previous vintages. Historically, this wine has been the most linear and hard-lined of the trio, but not this year. Crushed minerals with notes of crimson clover, persimmon and a touch of caramelized corn swirl in the nose and lead in to the much more round and fleshy set of flavors. Pear, apricot, peach and a honeyed lace dominate the flavors but these rich, lush flavors never tip into overbearing territory. Rather, there is a broad beam of acid that cuts through this pitch like a hot knife through butter. This is the vineyard that intrigues me most every year with its changes and development. I’ll be sad to not to see it continue to grow up.
Price: $47.99 Add To Cart
VN 93

2014 Varner "Bee Block-Spring Ridge Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
Review Date: 06-24-2016
I’m not scared to say it, and I have many times, out loud, to real people: I think the Varner Chardonnays are some of the best, if not the best, Chardonnays made in the United States. These wines are still way under the radar for most wine fans, due to their small production, out-of-the-way location--high in the hills above Portola Valley in the Santa Cruz Mountains--and stylistic choices. But for all of us lucky enough to have tasted these wines vintage after vintage, we can’t help but feel this way. The wines are just too good, with pinpoint precision, amazing complexity, and little “winemaking” to get in the way of the amazing raw materials they put into each and every bottle they make. The bad news, however, is that the 2014 vintage will be the last vintage for these wines from the Spring Ridge Vineyard, as the Varners couldn’t come to an agreement with the owner of the vineyard on and extension of the lease for the vineyard. So get them before they are gone forever.
The 2014 “Bee Block,” long the favorite block of most of our local customers, is once again the richest and fleshiest of the Chardonnay trio. Golden fruits, Gala apples, sous bois and a touch of quinine combine on the serious and centered nose. Weight and ripeness abounds here from the moment it hits your palate. This is textbook Bee Block right down to its hallmark honey background tones. Milled corn, grilled peaches and almond skin, all with the slightest bit of creaminess, roll easily over the palate and barrel towards the direct and powerful finish. If you like your Chards on the bigger side, this is as big as the Varner Chards get.
Price: $47.99 Add To Cart
VN 95

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