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K&L Staff Recommendations
95 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "I always love the two blockbuster Syrahs from this estate, both of which need to be sought out by readers. Tons of black olive, smoked and salted meats, as well as ripe dark fruits all emerge from the incredibly polished, elegant and layered 2014 Syrah Estate, which is just an off the hook value. Inky colored, layered, yet graceful and light on its feet, with gorgeous fruit, drink this beauty over the coming 4-5 years, although I wouldn't be surprised to see it evolve for longer. (JD)" (7/2016)
91 points Wine Enthusiast: "Tart aromas of sour cream, yogurt, candied lime and pressed quince show on the nose of this stylishly structured Chardonnay. The palate carries the theme forward, with pithy pink grapefruit notes, lime ade and brie rinds, showing firm tension on the tongue and bound-up energy that will keep this bottle alive for years. (MK)" (2/2016)
93 points Wine Enthusiast: "Light but plump red strawberry fruit mixes with sandalwood, dried sage and thyme on this nose of this estate wine from winemaker Greg Brewer. Lots of spicy herbals show on the palate, from peppercorn and cardamom to thyme and oregano, giving deeper character to the light red-fruit core. (MK)" (12/2015) 92 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "One of the best values in Pinot Noir out there is Melville's 2013 Pinot Noir Estate and it overdelivers in just about every vintage. Firing on all cylinders on this occasion, with complex red fruits, rose petal and sous bois aromas and flavors all soaring fr ...Read More »
91 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "A small step up over the Katherine’s Vineyard, the 2012 Chardonnay Bench Break shows slightly more toasty oak in its apple and orchard fruits, white flowers and hints of nuttiness. Full-bodied, rich and layered, it’s a big, full-flavored effort that stays beautifully balanced and pure. Spending roughly 10 months in 57% new French oak, enjoy bottles over the coming 3-4 years. (JD)" (8/2014) 90 points Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar: "Light yellow-gold. Ripe, lees-accented orchard fruit and melon aromas are complicated by notes of orange pith, tarragon and sweet butter. Smooth and expansive on the pa ...Read More »
90 points Vinous: "The 2012 Pinot Noir Bench Break is a classic Cambria wine with exuberant fruit, deep color and exotic spice overtones. Lavender, menthol and cloves add complexity to the dark red and blue-toned fruit. The firm tannins could use another year or two to soften. (AG)" (7/2014) Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "Better, with a deeper, richer color, the 2012 Pinot Noir Bench Break offers a straightforward, subtle bouquet of black fruits, cherry blossom, underbrush and pretty floral notes to go with a medium-bodied, nicely concentrated profile. Aged 10 months in 40% new French oak, it can be enjoy ...Read More »
92 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Editors' Choice* Showing incredible depth for such an affordable wine, Andrew Murray does it again with this widely available bottling. The gamy nose shows lamb, rosemary, uncracked peppercorns, light tobacco leaf, soy sauce and a touch of tar. Purple flowers rule the palate, with lavender, violet and blossoming rosemary notes, with thyme and white pepper spicing up boysenberry fruit. (MK)" (7/2016) Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "The 2014 Syrah Tous les Jours is a total charmer and checks in as 100% Syrah from a bevy of Santa Ynez vineyards (all are within five miles of the winery). No ...Read More »
91 points Vinous: "The 2013 Cuvée Le Bec, Beckmen's entry-level Rhône blend, is absolutely gorgeous. Dark, sensual and inviting, the 2013 hits all the right notes. Black cherry, plum, spice, menthol and licorice blossom into the supple, deeply expressive finish. The 2013 is a bit more Syrah-heavy than in some previous years, which contributes to its personality. Best of all, the 2013 is an absolute steal. The blend is 45% Syrah, 40% Grenache, 8% Counoise and 7% Mourvèdre. (AG)" (8/2015) 90 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "Made from 45% Syrah, 40% Grenache, 8% Counoise and the rest Mourvedre, the 2013 Cuvee le ...Read More »
Named for founder Rudy von Strasser, the "Rudy" label is best known around here for top-quality, well-priced Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. Look for fine tannins that complement good acidity and rich, red fruit flavors. 2014 is the 25th vintage for the von Strasser winery, during which time they've won the "Winery of the Year" award from Wine and Spirits magazine an astonishing 12 times.
92 points Wine Enthusiast: "There's a very candied red-cherry quality to the nose of this wine from a vineyard that the winery will cease using with this vintage, along with sexy aromas of violet, lilac, clove, cola, peppercorn and rose. A sage-driven character emerges once sipped, giving spice to bright red, slightly sour cranberry fruit. (MK)" (12/2015) 91 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "Coming from the estate Verna's Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills and 60% destemmed, the 2013 Pinot Noir Estate Verna's Vineyard was fermented in 1.5 ton open-top stainless-steel fermenters before aging 11 months all in neutral oak. It ...Read More »
92 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Editors' Choice* This bottling by pioneer Richard Sanford is much more widely available, affordable and stylistically accessible right now than the single vineyard option. It’s delicate on the nose with bright lime spritz, Meyer lemon pith, crushed lemon verbena and a grippy brie cheese rind component, then proves tangy on the nuanced palate, with lemongrass and pomelo skin meshing into nectarine and apple flesh." (7/2016) K&L Notes: For years the Sanford winery produced amazing, intense, under-priced wines from the Central Coast. Richard Sanford, the former owner o... Read More »
92 points Wine Spectator: "*Smart Buys* This expressive white is aromatic and juicy, featuring a rich, ripe, fleshy core of apricot and peach flavors, with accents of vanilla bean, honeysuckle and melon. A spicy note lingers on the long finish. Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Chardonnay. Drink now. 5,100 cases made." (10/2016)
93 points Vinous: "The 2013 Chardonnay Dierberg Vineyard is super-polished and finessed from start to finish. Scents of almond, lemon peel and flowers open up in this striking, effortless Chardonnay. Orange peel and slightly more tropical notes develop with air in a Chardonnay that offers superb textural depth and tons of personality, all in a laid-back, understated style that is such a signature of Santa Maria. I have high hopes for Dierberg and its sister property, Star Lane. Winemaker Tyler Thomas, who was previously at Donelan, arrived in 2013, while Charles (AJ) Fairb ...Read More »
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "Made from 41% Grenache, 37% Syrah, 14% Mourvedre and the rest Counoise and Cinsault that spent ten months in French oak, the 2014 M5 offers classic notes of underbrush, peppery herbs and some meatiness to go with a core of black raspberry and cassis fruit, medium-bodied richness and solid underlying tannic grip. It’s a charming, complex effort to enjoy over the coming 4-5 years. (JD)" (8/2016) Wine Enthusiast: "A blend of 41% Grenache, 37% Syrah, 14% Mourvèdre, 4% Counoise and 4% Cinsault from seven vineyards, this longtime Margerum-fan favorite shows boisterous wild berrie ...Read More »
Au Bon Climat winemaker Jim Clendenen has been a driving force for high quality wines in Santa Barbara County since the early '80s. His signature style, which deftly merges Old World sensibilities with New World flair manifests in tasty, well-crafted wines from regional blends like this one, to the most sophisticated single-vineyard bottlings. According to the winery: "The 2014 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay is a beautiful example of the Au Bon Climat style. The flinty, stony aromas stand out while in the background is a hard spice note from surlee barr... Read More »
A small Santa Barbara winery specializing in single-vineyard Pinot Noirs. The Scarlett is a silky, balanced wine that shows bright red berry aromas--strawberries, raspberries, and dried cranberries--plus an earthy hint of forest floor.
The Brander family's first Sauvignon Blanc was crafted in 1977 from grapes grown in Los Olivos, and it became the first gold-medal-winning wine in Santa Barbara County. The 2015 vintage was sourced from multiple vineyards, including Brander Estate, Mesa Verde, Tierra Alta, and Buttonwood. It is rich and luscious, with a medley of tropical fruit notes--lychee, honeydew, and guava, with a hint of hibiscus and orange zest. Perfect for summer picnics or sipping poolside.
From the producer: "The 2014 Petite Sirah maintains incredible darkness, power, and purity of fruit. Petite Sirah likes to get ripe, and 2014 was a consistently warm and sunny vintage. It has gobs of dark cherry and black fruit flavors, spice and licorice aromas. Approachable as a young wine, it will also reward additional cellaring."
Winemaker Andrew Jones, of Field Recordings Wine fame, brings a line of varietal wines in tall boy cans under the name Alloy Wine Works.
Vinous: "Crushed flowers, sweet tobacco, dried cherries and mint are some of the notes that lift from the 2014 Pinot Noir Los Alamos Vineyard. Distinctly savory and aromatic, the Pinot is a very pretty wine. Ideally, it might have a bit more mid-palate richness to fill out its frame, but nevertheless, this is a strong debut from the Varner brothers. And the price? A steal in the realm of handmade wines. (AG)" (7/2016) K&L Notes: About the producer: "Varner Wine is devoted to the production of handmade Santa Cruz Mountains, Santa Barbara and Paso Robles wines."
95 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "Kirsch, dried flowers, dried soils, and spice box flow from the silky, pure, polished and elegant 2014 Pinot Noir Sandy’s, which saw 30% whole cluster during fermentation and 14 months in neutral barrels. I love its complexity, as well as its seamless, silky texture, and while it’s already hard to resist, it will evolve beautifully through 2024. (JD)" (8/2016) K&L Notes: From Melville's Small Lot collection, the 2014 Sandy's follows up on the successful 2013 vintage, which Wine Advocate scored 93 points, noting that with its reticent aromas and silky palate: "Here it... Read More »
92 points Vinous: "Despite its very reasonable price, the 2014 Chardonnay El Camino Vineyard delivers serious intensity, richness and nuance. Broad, ample and phenolic, the 2015 exudes all the classic Varner signatures, structure being the most obvious of these. Yellow orchard fruit, mint, candied lemon, chamomile and lightly honeyed notes are front and center. This is one of the most singular Santa Barbara Chardonnays readers will come across. The style and palate weight is more than a little reminiscent of the wines the Varners made in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The 2014 ...Read More »
94 points Vinous: "The 2012 Chardonnay Solomon Hills is quite a bit brighter than the Bien Nacido, with more of citrus-inflected profile and plenty of mineral-infused cut. Lime, lemon oil, white flowers and white pepper add the final notes of complexity. This is another strong showing. (AG)" (8/2015) 92 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "Showing an almost Bien Nacido level of salty, marine-like minerality, the 2012 Chardonnay Solomon Hills has beautiful stone fruits and white flower characteristics to go with a medium-bodied, fresh, pure and elegant feel on the palate. Barrel fermented and aged 16 months in 28% ...Read More »
91 points Vinous: "Bright yellow. High-pitched aromas of tangerine, peach and white flowers, with a stony accent gaining strength with air. Bright and racy on the palate, with juicy acidity lifting and intensifying the flavors of white peach and fresh citrus fruits. Finishes with an appealingly light touch, lingering minerality and strong persistence. Quiet elegant for the variety, especially for a New World rendition. According to Chad Melville, his family recently sold their Verna's vineyard, north of Los Alamos and in the Santa Barbara County appellation, because they ...Read More »
This is 85% Riesling with 15% Gewürztraminer blended in. It has a low alcohol level, 12.5%. This juicy, tasty white has aromas of jasmine and honey with flavors of citrus, peach, mandarin orange and wet stone. Zippy and bright with ever so slight a tinge of sweetness, this white is perfect for enjoying on the deck, with a plate of cheeses and meats or on its own when you just want an easy, quaffable white wine.
95 points Vinous: "Foxen's 2014 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard Block UU is one of the quirkiest California Chardonnays readers will come across. The plant material here is Chardonnay grafted onto own-rooted Riesling rootstock that was originally planted in the early 1970s. Oddly enough, this wine often shows distinctly tropical, Riesling-inflected notes, as it does again in 2014. White peach, ash, slate, pear and crushed rocks show superb energy allied to power in a Chardonnay with searing intensity, fabulous balance and tons of personality. Proprietors Bill Wathen and D ...Read More »
92 points Vinous: "The 2013 Syrah Estate offers up the typical Stolpman Syrah palette of dark flavors, but with a bit more cut and overall energy from the greater diurnal shifts that characterized the growing season. Graphite, smoke, black cherry, plum and menthol are all pushed forward in this tasty, richly textured Syrah from Stolpman. (AG)" (9/2016) 91 points Connoisseurs Guide: "*Two Stars and a Good Value* Once again a Syrah that tempers its ripeness and very deep and precise fruit with a careful winemaking hand, Stolpman's Estate Grown version is a rich and well-polished wine whose potency is matche ...Read More »
92 points Vinous: "Once again, Palmina's 2012 Barbera is absolutely delicious as well as one of the most distinctive wines in the range. Pungent red berries, orange peel, spice and mint open up in a super-classic, old-school Barbera endowed with tons of complexity and nuance, with a distinct nod to the great old-school Piedmont Barberas. The 2012 spent six months in neutral barrels then two years in cask. From top to bottom, this is a compelling set of new releases from Steve and Chrystal Clifton at Palmina. Although all of these wines are delicious, if there is one wine t ...Read More »
Palmina was founded in 1995 by Steve Clifton, one of the founding partners of noteworthy Pinot Noir producer Brewer-Clifton. Palmina focuses entirely on Italian varietals sourced from their Central Coast stomping grounds in and around Santa Barbara County, and few labels have done more to promote and develop the potential of these Italian varietals in this era of California winemaking. The 2015 Pinot Grigio is sourced entirely from the Honea vineyard in the newly established Los Olivos District AVA in Santa Ynez Valley. From the winery: "There is a brill... Read More »
90 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "Spice, underbrush, wild herbs and assorted red fruits all emerge from the charming, medium-bodied, supple, forward 2014 Pinot Noir from the Santa Maria Valley. It's geared for drinking over the coming 3-4 years, but offers incredible quality for not much buck. Note, this is a mix from Bien Nacido, Riverbench and Solomon Hills vineyards, and spent nine months in old French oak. This Santa Maria estate is run with incredible talent and passion by Bill Wathen and Dick Doré, who have been making wine together since 1985. They completed construction on a new ...Read More »
Winemaker Andrew Jones, of Field Recordings Wine fame, brings a line of varietal wines in tall boy cans under the name Alloy Wine Works.
90 points Wine Spectator: "Exhibits a broad, rich, plush array of flavors, with extracted blackberry, mocha and black tea notes. A potent Pinot that mimics Syrah, pushing to the edge of power and dimension without collapsing under its own weight. (JL)" (6/2016) K&L Notes: Clark & Telephone Vineyard, named after the streets it borders in the Santa Maria Valley, benefits from Pacific wind and fog that winds its way down a channel of the Santa Maria River. The site is planted to the Martini clone of Pinot Noir, which is considered something of a lost treasure.
91 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "The polished, elegantly styled 2014 Pinot Noir Sta Rita Hills gives up lots of black cherry, crushed flowers, leather and spice aromas and flavors to go with a medium-bodied, supple and nicely textured profile on the palate. This fresh, nicely focused 2014 has nicely integrated acidity, very polished tannin and the balance and depth to keep for 5-6 years. As I commented last year, there have been significant changes at Brewer-Clifton recently and Steve Clifton is no longer involved at the estate. However, Greg Brewer remains the driving force here, and ...Read More »
90-91 points Vinous: "Vivid ruby-red. Sexy, assertive aromas of candied raspberry and cherry, with an emphatic spicy overtone. Silky and expansive on the palate, offering juicy red berry and rose pastille flavors that deepen with air. Fruit-driven, smooth Pinot with very soft tannins building slowly on the finish. (JR)" (8/2015) Connoisseurs Guide: "Nicely defined with respect to the juicy, black cherry traits of good Pinot Noir and a wine that is less concerned with nuance, this direct, easy-to-access youngster is all about straightforward fruit. It is medium-full-bodied and slightly rounded in fe ...Read More »
Stolpman is an innovative family-run winery in Santa Barbara County that consistently churns out impressive juice, with rockstar winemaker Sashi Moorman at the helm. La Cuadrilla is their ode to the sharecropping model; each crew member farms a small parcel and earns a portion of the profits from the final wine. Though the 2014 vintage has yet to be professionally reviewed, the 2013 earned praise from Jancis Robinson: "68% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 6% Petite Sirah, 6% Sangiovese. Dusty dark purple fruit of berry and plum. Fresh, spiced and delicious with just... Read More »
90 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "I loved the 2015 Rose Mourvedre Vogelzang, and it reminds me a rose from the seaside village of Bandol, in the south of France. Giving up lots of strawberry, orange blossom and spice, it has notable richness and texture, yet is fresh, vibrant and lively. Made from 95% Mourvedre and 5% Grenache, drink it over the coming year. (JD)" (8/2016) K&L Notes: From the producer: "A vibrant coppery pink, tons of savory minerality, pomegranate, white raspberry and floral notes all hop from the glass. Minerality continues to lead on the palate with bursts of blood orange, fresh p... Read More »
95 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "Leading off the reds, the 2012 Pinot Noir Mt. Carmel Vineyard 2 3 5 is up with the creme de la creme of the vintage. Completely destemmed and aged 11 months in 42% new French oak, it has awesome purity and vibrancy, with classy blackberry, raspberry, rose petal and assorted spring flower-like aromas and flavors. Give this beauty another year in the cellar and enjoy bottles through 2022. Another Matt Dees project, with Ruben Solorzano managing the vineyard, Mail Road Wines is focused exclusively on the Mount Carmel Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills, and t ...Read More »
Inventory: Main Warehouse
90 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "90+ points. The medium-bodied, sweetly fruited, and perfumed 2013 Grenache Ballard Canyon has lots of kirsch, wild strawberry, dried spice and chalky minerality to go with a taut, energetic and surprisingly structured feel on the palate. While the tannin stuck out right on opening, this came together nicely with time in the glass and I love its overall balance. Made in the more pretty, mid-weight California style, give this a year in the cellar and it should impress over the following 5-6 years. (JD)" (8/2015)
Au Bon Climat winemaker Jim Clendenen has been a driving force for high quality wines in Santa Barbara County since the early '80s. His signature style, which deftly merges Old World sensibilities with New World flair manifests in tasty, well-crafted wines from regional blends like this one, to the most sophisticated single-vineyard bottlings. According to the producer: "Great value! This barrel fermented, full bodied Chardonnay has mouth filling citrus fruit and a palate cleansing, bright finish. It will become richer and more complex with age."
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "A rock-solid white that sells for a song is the 2015 Chardonnay Santa Barbara County (90% Chardonnay, 4% Pinot Blanc, 3% Viognier and 3% Riesling); it gives up lots of buttered orchard fruits, brioche, spice and a hint of citrus blossom in a medium-bodied, straightforward, beautifully quaffable style. It’s impeccably made and perfect for mid-week drinking. (JD)" (8/2016) K&L Notes: About the producer: "Driving north along the pastoral Foxen Canyon Wine Trail feels like traveling back to California’s early days. Rolling hills frame vast meadows, deer and wildlife roam... Read More »
94 points Vinous: "The 2013 Syrah Purisima Mountain Vineyard boasts tremendous tension and explosive energy. Underlying veins of tannin and acidity, along with a drop of Viognier, give the 2013 much of its freshness. A rush of dark plums, black cherries, mocha, violets, cloves and licorice add nuance on the huge finish. This is a fabulous wine from Steve Beckmen. Steve Beckmen excels with deep, powerful wines. Beckmen's estate vineyards are in Los Olivos and on Purisima Mountain in Ballard Canyon. I was impressed with what I tasted this year. In particular, the 2013 Syrah ...Read More »
Inventory: San Francisco
91 points Wine Enthusiast: "One of the first releases since Charles Banks invested in Bob Lindquist's pioneering brand, this wine shows Japanese apple, lemon blossoms, lightly browned butter and a touch of tropicality on the nose. Still a bit wound up, the wine conveys potential length, with green-apple skins, nectarine flesh, cement-like minerality and a chive herb lift. (MK)" (6/2016)
89-91 points Vinous: "The 2014 Chenin Blanc, which emerges from 50 year-old vines, is rich, phenolic and intense to the core, with a real sense of apricot/peach pit character that dominates. Sweet floral and spice notes add nuance as the wine opens up, but the Chenin remains quite structured and intense, at least today. This is one of the most distinctive Chenin Blancs readers will come across. Proprietors Bill Wathen and Dick Doré are at the top of their game... These are some of the most expressive, singular wines being made in Santa Barbara County today. (AG)" (6/2015) 91 points Wine Enthusiast: "One o ...Read More »
91 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "A year in, year out killer value, Jaffurs' 2013 Syrah checks in as 84% Syrah, 9% Petite Sirah, 4% Mourvedre and a splash of Grenache that was completely destemmed and aged 10 months in neutral oak. It's gives up tons of classic Cali Syrah notes of brambly blackberries, plums, licorice, violets and pepper herbs to go with a medium to full-bodied, plump, pure and straight-up delicious style on the palate. California (and Syrah) needs to have more of these fabulous wines at these prices. (JD)" (8/2015) 91 points Wine Spectator: "Focused and well-balanced, with raspberry and wildflower ...Read More »
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "Coming from the Santa Ynez Valley, the 2013 Dolcetto is a juicy, quaffable, value-priced beauty that gives up lots of strawberry, black raspberry, spice and peppery herb-like aromas and flavors. Brought up all in neutral French oak (big casks), buy it by the case and drink it over the coming couple of years. (JD)" (6/2015) Vinous: "Palmina's 2013 Dolcetto is soft, open and accessible, with plenty of bright flavors to match its vinous, inviting personality. Sweet red cherry, plum, spice and tobacco abound in a pretty wine to drink now and over the next year or two. ...Read More »
Qupé owner Bob Lindquist has been working in the Central Coast vineyards since 1975, while the winemaking trade in the area was still in its infancy. He worked for Jim Clendenen (who would later found Au Bon Climat) at Zaca Mesa Winery and founded Qupé in 1982. From the winery: "This full bodied red is made from grapes sourced from cool and warm climate vineyards. The cool climate components bring spice, freshness, acidity and lower alcohol, and warm climate components provide the deep, forward fruit. Because the wine is nicely balanced it is very enjoya... Read More »
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar: "(made with fruit grown in seven different vineyards; includes 5% Valdiguie): Vivid red. Primary red berry and cherry skin aromas offer straightforward appeal. Tangy cherry and redcurrant flavors show good clarity and lift, with a peppery element adding bite. Finishes clean and slightly tart, with no obvious tannins and an echo of peppery spices. (JR)" (12/2014) Vinous: "The 2013 Pinot Noir Hometown is a very pretty entry-level offering from Hitching Post. Partial aging in stainless steel keeps the flavors bright and nuanced throughout, with plenty of sweet red cher ...Read More »
Graham Tatomer is a rising star winemaker in Santa Barbara County, specializing in the unexpected: Riesling! Graham's wines are dead-ringers for the rich yet chiseled styles of the Wachau, thanks to his incredible talent combined with three years working under respected Austrian winemaker Emmerich Knoll. Our domestic team loved the wines so much on their Central Coast buy trip a few years back, they brought them in immediately for us to try, and we're hooked! We've stocked them ever since. These are wines for serious Riesing lovers, and Graham Tatomer is... Read More »
90 points Wine Enthusiast: "Fresh and fruity on the nose, this bottling by Joey Tensley and Alex Guarachi shows strawberries and olallieberries as well as crushed black rocks, wet slate and char aromas. Those same fruits power a zesty palate enhanced by lavender and black-tea flavors." (9/2016) Wine Spectator: "A bit like a Rhône-blend nouveau, this is supple and flamboyant, with touches of ripe sweetness. Aromas of blackberry cobbler and pepper combine with jammy black cherry and licorice flavors. Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah and Merlot. Drink now through 2022. 5,000 cases made." (3/2016)