K&L Wine Merchants - Header

K&L Monthly Newsletter - Featuring Sonoma - 03/14/2017 - Monthly Newsletter

One of my favorite trips every year is to Sonoma County, and the trip this year was no exception. My coworkers Mari Keilman, Stephanie Vidales, Keith Palace and Jordan Stone accompanied me on a whirlwind tour of the numerous viticultural regions of Sonoma County. Over the course of three days we set foot in Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma Valley and Alexander Valley, all the while tasting delicious wines from a tremendous string of recent vintages. No rain or gaggles of wild turkeys were going to stop us—we were on a mission. And that mission was to find some of the best wines California has to offer and bring them back to you, our trusted and loyal customers. What we found was a bounty of tremendous wines, many of them brand new releases that we should be able to bring you for some months to come. Whether it was bold and flavorful Zinfandel from intense old vines at producers like Ridge and Bedrock, energetic, resonant Pinot Noirs from some of the classic producers of California—think Joseph Swan or Martinelli—or powerful and structured Cabernets from mountainside sites like Laurel Glen and Arrowood, there was no shortage of wowing and show-stopping wines. Another treat was tasting the 2016 rosés, which were abundant and delicious, made from a number of different varietals and all right on track for the start of warmer weather. There was just way too much good wine to put in this little newsletter, so please check out our On The Trail blog for more of our thoughts, reviews, photos and anecdotes from our trip. - Bryan Brick, K&L Domestic Wine Buyer

Vintage Item Name Score Qty Retail Link
Marietta "Old Vine Red Lot #65" California Red Blend >60 $11.99 View
2013 Simi Sonoma Valley Merlot >60 $12.99 View
2015 Kalinda "Reserve" Sonoma County Chardonnay >100 $18.99 View
2014 Banshee Sonoma County Pinot Noir >60 $22.99 View
2014 Amici Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 92 >60 $24.99 View
2012 Barbed Oak "Zara's Block" Bennett Valley Pinot Noir (Elsewhere $37) >100 $29.99 View
2014 Hanzell "Sebella" Sonoma Valley Chardonnay >48 $31.99 View
2014 Ridge "Lytton Springs" Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 94 >48 $37.99 View
2012 Hidden Ridge "55% Slope" Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 94 >48 $59.99 View
2015 Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay >36 $64.99 View


Marietta "Old Vine Red Lot #65" California Red Blend ($11.99)

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "For many years I have been touting the old-vine red put together by Marietta cellars as one of the great values in all of winedom. I got to taste two of the old-vine reds, Lot 64 and Lot 65, and there is no reason to change my opinion. This is a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah and mixed Italian blacks. It usually hits about 13.5% alcohol, which is modest, and aged largely in neutral oak and stainless steel. Production is about 30,000 cases and, of course, they sell it like they are giving away free hotcakes it is so delicious. As for the NV Old Vine Red Lot 65, this was bottled right before I tasted it and again contains lots of Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah and other varieties such as Montepulciano and Barbera. This is delicious, concentrated and spicy with loads of roasted herbs, black cherry, briary berry fruit, pepper and meatiness. This medium-bodied, lusty wine was aged 60% in stainless steel and 40% in neutral oak. (RP)" (10/2016)

Wine Enthusiast: "*Best Buy* This great-value wine proves that a vintage date is not always needed for high-quality. Drenched with fruit flavor and nicely thick in texture, this full-bodied wine is not overly tannic, so it's easy to appreciate. It shows ripe black cherry and blackberry flavors, with smoky, meaty accents that come out on the second and third sips. (JG)" (03/2017)

2013 Simi Sonoma Valley Merlot ($12.99)

Much of the fruit for this luscious red comes from Simi's Red Fan and Los Amigos estate vineyards in Alexander Valley, with the remainder sourced from across Sonoma. The 2013 growing season was particularly friendly to red grapes, allowing them to develop concentrated, elegant flavors and bright acidity. Tasting notes for the 2013 vintage from the winemaker: "Deep garnet with a ruby edge, our 2013 Sonoma County Merlot has rich, dark notes of blackberry and plum with cocoa, nutmeg, and earthy hints of cedar and bay laurel. Smoky bacon notes frame bright fruit aromas into a compelling mixture of bright fruit with exotic spice and toast. Red and dark fruits play off each other with layer after luscious layer—both youthful and concentrated. 85% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Malbec."

2015 Kalinda

2015 Kalinda "Reserve" Sonoma County Chardonnay ($18.99)

We can tell you this much: our Kalinda private label hooks you up with awesome wine at a fraction of what you'd otherwise pay for this exact same wine under its normal label. While we have to remain quiet about the source of this beauty, we can tell you that it sells elsewhere at a much higher premium. Get it while it lasts.

Jim Barr | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: August 12, 2016

After several decades of assisting, evaluating, and helping to select many of our private label varietals, I am still, to a certain extinct anymore, fascinated by from what wineries and where some of these great wines are coming, many of which are highly allocated to you and expensive wines under the winerys label. The juice from this exceptional Chardonnay Gem came from vineyards mostly out of the Sonoma Coast appellation, but was produced for us from a Pritchard Hill winery that was established in 1966. This is stunning Chardonnay, maybe one of the best that we have had under the Kalinda label, with well-defined cinnamon apple to white peach to nectarine aromas with just a hint of supporting vanilla, creamy oak notes, all of which carries over to this viscous, amazingly structured, focused Chardonnay Gem with a note of slate-like mineral undertone, and a mouthwatering finish. A great Chardonnay Gem from an established great Chardonnay producer for us that The Bean has ordered for me to bring home cases of, for our regular enjoyment for the next two to four years. Great Value! DON'T MISS IT!!! ***** 14.5% ABV *****

Alex Schroeder | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: August 01, 2016

This is an outright impressive Chardonnay made by a very reputable producer in Napa, though the fruit is mostly Sonoma Coast. Its made in exactly the style that I like meticulously balanced with an emphasis on freshness. It has generous flavors of quince and pear, while maintaining a firm and creamy texture with good subtle acidity. This is incredible quality for the price.

2014 Banshee Sonoma County Pinot Noir

2014 Banshee Sonoma County Pinot Noir ($22.99)

Vinous: "The 2014 Pinot Noir (Sonoma County) is a pretty, attractive wine to drink now and over the next few years. Sweet red cherry and floral notes grace the mid-weight, feminine finish. This is a very pretty, understated appellation Pinot that delivers a compelling combination of quality, value and production. The Sonoma County is a blend of declassified barrels and some purchased fruit. (AG)" (02/2016)

K&L Notes: As difficult as it is to produce excellent Pinot Noir, it is even more difficult to do so at a fine value. In their development of the Banshee label, the winemakers gained a stable of quality sources for Pinot fruit from the finest AVAs in California. The 2014 Sonoma County Pinot Noir is the sixth vintage from the enterprising team at Banshee Wines. A large percentage of it is still sourced from the Sonoma Coast, often declassified barrels from vineyards that close followers of top-tier West Coast Pinot may recognize. From the producer: "As with past vintages, the high percentage of Sonoma Coast fruit (79%) is the bedrock of the wine, delivering the signature floral and earth aromatics and fine structure for which the Banshee Pinot Noir is known. The 2014 is strikes a beautiful balance between both red and blue fruits, notably Bing cherry and Asian plums. Interwoven with the fruit characteristics is coastal moss, fresh wild mushrooms and spice. The wine has good carry-through from front to finish, with lively acidity to keep it light on its feet."

Jim Barr | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: December 31, 2015

As many of you know, the 2012, 2013, and 2014 domestic vintages were back-to-back-to-back exceptional vintages (the 2015 vintages is also following into the same vein), and Banshee created some exceptional Sonoma Pinots in the first two vintages. Produced mostly from Sonoma Coast vineyard sources (as were the `12 and `13), the 2014 continues the wonderful qualities of the previous vintages. Medium-deep ruby in color, the nose is loaded with dried rose petal, black cherry, and a mild spicy clove-like fruit notes with hint of slate-like mineral undertones. Carrying over nicely to a well integrated, well-balanced, viscous set of flavors, this superb Gem shows excellent structure and depth, with excellent complexity and a superb long finish. Although thoroughly enjoyable now, this puppy will improve for the next five to eight years of aging. Rusty has demanded that I bring home at least several cases of this Gem and suggest that you do the same. Wonderful wine! Wonderful Value! ***** 13.6% ABV *****

Mike Parres | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: December 11, 2015

Wow! This is really one of the best Pinot Noirs I've tasted at this price point from Sonoma in a long time. The bouquet has notes of plum, dark strawberry, clove, chocolate and earth. On the palate there is beautiful balance, with good acidity, silky tannins and very good length. If your a fan of Pinot, don't miss this great value.

2014 Amici Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

2014 Amici Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($24.99)

92 points James Suckling: "Very pretty dried fruit with hints of mushroom and light toast. Lemon too. Medium to full body, very fine and tight. Hints of toffee and fresh fruit. Decadent and flavorful. Tight and textured." (06/2016)

90 points Wine Enthusiast: "Salty caramel rises to the fore of this lovely, medium-built wine, which begins thickly concentrated in Gravenstein apple and vanilla before finding its rhythm in more nuanced, elegant undertones. Lemon and lime lead the way to a hint of guava before finishing fresh and focused. (VB)" (08/2016)

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "Their 2014 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast also represents a fair value and an excellent proposition for consumers trying to maximize their buying power. Orange blossom, tangerine oil, white peach and pineapple are all present in this excellent, nicely textured, crisp, fresh Chardonnay that shows minimal influence of oak. Drink it over the next 3-4 years. This winery has a large and varied portfolio of wines, including their four value picks, which consumers need to notice. (RP)" (12/2016)

Wine Spectator: "Taut and vibrant, with a tender edge to the ripe pear, melon and spicy oak notes. Has room to mellow and grow. (JL)" (06/2016)

K&L Notes: The 2014 vintage was excellent in Sonoma, with rains during February and March giving way to a mild spring, a perfect summer, and an early harvest. The wine shows the intensely ripe aromatics of the vintage, with the structure and acidity of the cool Sonoma Coast. Barrel fermented in 40% new French oak. From the winery: "Beautifully balanced aromas of vanilla bean and toasty oak are underlaid with notes of tropical fruit, fresh ripe apple, and melon. On the palate, initial flavors of lemon-lime zest lead to rich, full-bodied flavors of ripe apple, hints of toasty pie spice, and a clean, crisp finish."

Scott Beckerley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: September 01, 2016

Wow! I never thought that I would be writing up a domestic chardonnay. That being said, this Amici chardonnay bridges that gap between oaky/buttery (not my favorite) and lean/chalky (my favorite). It starts with riper fruit, white stone fruits and apples, and moves into light toast and oak and finishes with some really nice acidity and a touch of chalkiness. Really, really nice!

Kirk Walker | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: June 15, 2016

A Sonoma beauty. Cool apple, pear fruit notes with a hint of pastry, vanilla and spice. Full on the palate with nice rounded texture that is balance with good acidity. With flavors that range from apple turnover to lemon bars, my mouth is watering just thinking about this wine.

2012 Barbed Oak

2012 Barbed Oak "Zara's Block" Bennett Valley Pinot Noir (Elsewhere $37) ($29.99)

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "The 2012 Pinot Noir Zaras Block possesses more plummy black cherry fruit without the intrusion of vegetative characteristics. (RP)" (12/2014)

2014 Hanzell

2014 Hanzell "Sebella" Sonoma Valley Chardonnay ($31.99)

Wine Spectator: "Tight, focused on zesty, citrus-infused green apple and pear flavors, with hints of grapefruit. Cleansing overall. Drink now. (JL)" (07/2016)

K&L Notes: Hanzell utilizes young estate vine parcels for their Sebella bottling which will someday be included in their flagship Chardonnay. The style of this bottling celebrates the purity and focus of youthful fruit. The precise profile is allowed to shine by virtue of its vinification and barrel-aging in French oak, but without new wood or malolactic fermentation. As a second wine, Sebella is far from simple and its virtue shows most clearly on the persistence of finish which out-classes much more fleshy and obvious Chardonnay bottlings on the market.

Stephanie Vidales | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: March 01, 2017

The Sebella Chardonnay from Hanzell is made in stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation so it's beautifully crisp with acidity and the minerality shines through. The nose is full of Meyer lemon, honeysuckle, grapefruit and wet stone that carries over onto the palette thats round and supple with vibrant acid creating outstanding balance. This is a Chardonnay thats more Burgundian in style and would be a wonderful match for sushi and shellfish.

2014 Ridge

2014 Ridge "Lytton Springs" Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($37.99)

94 points Vinous: "The 2014 Lytton Springs is another absolutely gorgeous wine...there appears to be plenty of complexity and depth hiding behind the acidity and tannin. Far from an easygoing Zinfandel, the 2014 Lytton is a wine to buy and cellar for at least a handful of years. The wine's richness, persistence and vertical intensity all lead me to believe it will be special in time. Black cherry, pomegranate, mint and sweet spices meld into the resonant finish. A kick of tannin from the Petite adds personality, something the 2014 has in spades. This is an absolutely stellar set of wines from Ridge... Zinfandel fans will find much to like in the 2014s, a vintage that produced super-elegant wines. Of course, the biggest news at Ridge is Paul Draper's retirement, but then again, that has been in the works for so long that it was hardly a surprise when it was formally announced earlier this summer. As one of the foremost ambassadors of American wine, Draper leaves behind a rich legacy at Ridge going back to 1969 and a team that is more than capable of leading the winery into the next generation. 94+ (AG)" (06/2016)

91 points Connoisseurs Guide: " *Two Stars* Not overripe so much as concentrated and reflecting its broadly based composition, this wine impresses with depth and potency, and while not boldly fruity in the classic Zinfandel model, it does come with notions of raspberry and dried strawberry in the midst of its blackberry-scented fruit. It is somewhat juicy to start, then turns tight and a tad astringent across the palate and into a finish that stays the course in the face of youthful tannin. Time will be a big-time ally here, and we would put this wine away for four years at a minimum and expect it to hold in good stead long into the next decade." (09/2016)

91 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "More fresh and elegant than the Geyserville, with a touch more focus, the 2014 Lytton Springs is another beautiful wine from this estate. Made from 69% Zinfandel, 18% Petite Sirah and the rest Carignan and Mourvèdre, aged in 20% new American oak, it boasts fabulous notes of plums, blackberry jam, toasted spice and licorice as well as medium to full-bodied richness, beautiful mid-palate depth and notable tannin. The Geyserville is a touch sexier, but this will be longer lived. Give bottles 2-3 years of cellaring and enjoy over the following decade or more. 91+ (JD)" (10/2016)

Wine Spectator: "Complex and well-modulated, with raspberry and dill aromas and flavors that combine delicate red fruit with a touch of earth and herb. Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane and Mataro. Drink now through 2024. (TF)" (02/2017)

K&L Notes: 69% Zinfandel, 18% Petite Sirah, 11% Carignane, 2% Mataro (Mourvedre).

Stefanie Juelsgaard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: January 11, 2017

This Zinfandel-dominant blend from top producer Ridge is perfectly balanced with deep red fruit, maritime acidity, and a slight touch of American oak. Ridge develops intense flavors and complexity in their wine with old-vine plantings, no irrigation, and sustainable farming. One of my favorite aspects about Ridge is the ingredient list on their labels, showing consumers everything that goes into their wines. This particular vintage is medium- to full-bodied with silky tannins. Always a favorite producer of mine, the Lytton Springs is a fantastic, classic example of how Zinfandel should be made.

Rachel Vogel | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: September 11, 2016

A wonderfully age-worthy Zin! The Lytton Springs has ripe, juicy, purple fruits on the mid-palate and great acid, but it is still tight and quite young. In a few years, when then tannins have relaxed, I can see this wine being full-bodied, dynamic and layered with earth, spice and deep fruit. I am eager to enjoy it again!

2012 Hidden Ridge

2012 Hidden Ridge "55% Slope" Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon ($59.99)

94 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon 55 Degrees Slope exhibits an opaque ruby/purple color as well as beautiful, sweet crème de cassis, Asian plum sauce, licorice and forest floor notes. Full-bodied with velvety tannins, and impressive concentration, texture and length, this superb Cabernet can be drunk early in life because of its velvety opulence or cellared for two decades.I was greatly impressed with the Hidden Ridge offerings last year, and once again their current and upcoming releases merit interest. The winemaker is Timothy Milos, and the wines come from steep slopes on the west side of Spring Mountain. The elevations range between 900 and 1,700 feet. (RP)" (12/2014)

93 points Wine Enthusiast: "*** Cellar Selection ***Entirely estate-grown, this is a gorgeous wine--crisp in red cherry, pomegranate and floral tones, with a fleshy, textured and juicy palate. Richly layered, the chalky tannins are fine-grained, underpinning a flavor structure of dried herb. Dark chocolate lingers on the finish. It has plenty of years to go; cellar through 2022. (VB)" (12/2015)

91 points Wine Spectator: "Sleek, with a firm, rich core of dark berry, mocha, black licorice, cedary oak and loamy earth flavors. Ends with taut, gripping tannins and good length. Drink now through 2026. (JL)" (10/2015)

Gary Norton | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 01, 2016

This is one heck of a wine for less than a hundred bucks. It's currently expressing notes of cassis, dark fruit, fresh salsa, dried herbs and licorice. I'd pick up a few of these for now and a few more for the future. It's pretty wound up right now and needs at least an hour of air time if you're going to open it tonight, but I'm substantially certain this wine can withstand a decade or more in your cellar.

2015 Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay

2015 Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay ($64.99)

Grown in the hills above the Sonoma Valley on well-drained, volcanic soils, this Chardonnay is known for its elegance and balance. About Kistler's winemaking from Robert Parker: "This winery has long featured some of the finest terroirs on the Sonoma Coast and Russian River for Chardonnays, and their approach has clearly been very Burgundian, with full malolactic fermentation, no acid adjustments and letting the vineyard and clonal material push its personality to the forefront. Perhaps the biggest change of all has been the shift to 100% indigenous yeast fermentations for all the wines." (12/2013)

Bryan Brick | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: March 07, 2017

Holy Moly! Are we actually sending out an e-mail about the always asked about and rarely in stock Kistler? We sure are! Over the last couple of years Kistler has begun releasing one wine to the broad market, and even then only to a select few customers. That wine is the 2015 Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay; all the other wines are still mailing list only. This Chardonnay shows why so many people have clamored after these wines for so long. <br>With an impeccable balance of richness and structure that is rarely found in California Chardonnay this wine shows off expressive aromas of dried apricots, fried polenta and vanilla custard in the nose to add depth to the higher toned persimmon and wet stone notes. Sinewy and powerful but with an airy frame this wine may be a bit more energetic than some remember the brand. With resonating citrus oil, brioche, a hint of pan fried popcorn and a return of apricot found on the nose this is one energetic and fresh Chardonnay that does carry some broadness as it unfurls on the palate. While this may be a bit fresher than some remember it back in the 90s through the mid-00s it is still full of class, precision and charm.

Mari Keilman | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: March 01, 2017

The 2015 Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay is everything you could want in a classic Cali Chard. Intense tropical and citrus notes along with a judicious amount of caramelized toast and brioche are matched on the palate with a full body, and glycerol creaminess. And just when you think this wine is about to go over the top, the bright, zippy acidity from the Sonoma Mountain AVA keeps it in check and creates a complete and balanced crowd-pleaser Chardonnay.

Gary Norton | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 28, 2017

These wines always change my view when it comes to high-tier domestic whites. Many expressions of Chardonnay at this price point are overblown and heavy, indicating that I am subsidizing the estate's new barrel program rather than paying for a well-made, balanced Chardonnay. I trust Kistler with my money and you should too. These wines are worth every penny and it's clear that the price point is reflective of the quality of the wine and the people behind the production. Arguably the best producer of white wines in California. Period.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 28, 2017

The wonderful '15 Kistler Sonoma Mountain lives up to every expectation. A big nose of ripe tropical fruit, well integrated toasty oak, and decadent vanilla cream. The powerful nose makes you expect a total monster on the palate and it is REALLY rich, but there's this lovely lemony zesty side that reminds us, yes indeed this is Chardonnay. Really the total package from the highest quality Sonoma Mountain Chard producer.

Stephanie Vidales | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 28, 2017

Kistler's 2015 Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay was the first Kistler wine I have tasted and I can see why it is so popular. Elegant and balanced, this wine offers all you'd want in a California Chardonnay. The fresh citrus and tropical fruit combined with luscious richness, toasty oak and bright acid come together to make a tasty well-rounded Chardonnay.

Anthony Gittings | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 27, 2017

Kistler wines are synonymous with high quality wine. This is one of Sonoma's premier wineries and I am proud we carry this Chardonnay. Sourced from the family's mountain vineyards, this wine delivers a unique Burgundian style. Juicy lemon and honey are well integrated with a rich creamy, almost meringue texture. A long clean finish polishes off this outstanding wine. I highly recommend this to anyone who is a Chardonnay lover!

Andrew Stevens | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 27, 2017

This is the perfect entry into one of the most recognizable Chardonnay producers of California, giving you a lovely overview of why Kistler is so highly rated. Made from a cuvee of all of the terroir Kistler works with, this is the overview wine that allows people to glimpse what this winery has to offer. Rich fruit on the nose gives a hint to the power and focus of this wine. Lots of stone fruit, with little hints of tropical lushness and wet rock are carried forward on a core of acid the leads to a long finish. Well balanced and very clean despite being a big wine in some ways.