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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

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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)

K&L Notes: If you like sizeable, ripe, juicy and easygoing wines look no further than the legacy of Marietta Old Vine Red. For decades this wine has given drinkers impeccable value and serious, unmanipulated, delicious hearty red wine for next to nothing. In the world where something like The Prisoner, which began in the market place at around $20, is now over $45 this template for "Kitchen Sink" blends of that ilk is still a measly $12. Always non-vintage and a revolving blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah and other mixed black varietals from fully mature vines this has over-delivered and stayed true to form for as long as I can remember back in the biz. But there are new things on the horizon for Marietta's Old Vine Red, most importantly the winery has purchased a new sizeable vineyard in the Yorkville Highlands so within the next couple of years everything from the winery will become Estate grown, a rarity for a wine of this quality and production level. Also the second generation of the Bilbro Family has taken the reigns of the winery and has fine tuned what their parents did so well for so many years. (Bryan Brick, K&L)

Staff ImageMari Keilman | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: May 04, 2017

For years I always felt that the Old Vine Red consistently over-delivered lot after lot after lot, and the Lot 65 follows in the footsteps of its predecessors! The Lot 65 is ripe and approachable yet lifted with savory spice, black peppercorn and bramble, along with red cherry and bright blackberries rounding out the palate. Stock up because this amazing blend will not last long!

Staff ImageStephanie Vidales | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: May 03, 2017

This is for sure one of our best deals in California reds at K&L. This is a non-vintage Zinfandel based blend that goes above and beyond its price tag. It has red berry flavors along with smoked meats and dried herb notes that are sure to grab your attention. Grab one, or a case!

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. The 2013 Simi Sonoma County Merlot is a blend of 85% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Malbec aged for 14 months in a combination of French and American oak barrels of which 24% was new. Deep garnet with touches of ruby on the edges, this wine has an explosive nose of blackberry, plum, nutmeg, cocoa and hints of earth and cedar. The wine has flavors of smoky bacon, berry fruit with exotic spice and toasty notes. A brilliant wine for a meager price. If all Merlot was this good for the cost, people would be purchasing a lot more Merlot.

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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.

Staff ImageAlex 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.

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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."

Staff ImageMike 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.

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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)

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)

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. (RP)" (12/2016)

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."

Staff ImageJeff Garneau | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: February 28, 2018

K&L Wine Merchants has sold the Amici Cellars wines since the winery was first founded back in the 1990s. Over the past couple of decades Bob Shepard has become a good friend to K&L, and like any good friend, he always has a bottle of wine in hand whenever he drops by. I am sure he was smiling when I first had a chance to taste the 2014 Amici Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. This is really good! I said. Yeah, said Bob. Hints of oak spice, gorgeous, bright tropical fruit. Lovely weight. The quality at this price point is nothing short of miraculous. And if you dont believe me, just ask Bob.

Staff ImageRachel Vogel | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: November 25, 2017

The best word to describe the Amici Chardonnay is balanced. The pure and generous aromatics of stone and tropical fruit lead us into notes of toasted oak and a hint of vanilla. The grapefruit flavors keeps the palate lively while the medium-bodied wine is refreshing and luxurious at the same time. To me, this is one of the best dinner party Chardonnays. It can please those who enjoy richer wines without overwhelming those who enjoy lighter, more sprightly wines. Either way, this Sonoma Coast Chard is tasty.

Staff ImageScott 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!

Staff ImageKirk 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.

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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)

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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. (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.

Staff ImageStephanie 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.

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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).

Staff ImageStefanie 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.

Staff ImageRachel 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!

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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)

Staff ImageGary 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.

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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)

Staff ImageMari 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.

Staff ImageGary 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.

Staff ImageDavid 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.

Staff ImageStephanie 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.

Staff ImageAndrew 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.