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Staff Favorites - Bryan Brick
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2009 Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 3-6-2014
The first time I tasted the 2009 Smith-Madrone Cabernet was at the annual Family Winemakers tasting last Fall in San Francisco. I always go to their table knowing exactly what I’m going into, or at least so I thought. Riesling-check, Chard-check, Cabernet-che…whaaaaaaaat? Talk about a head turner, this was something completely different from one of my favorite Cabernet producers in Napa. Sure the wine was made the same: mountain fruit, 100% new American oak but the outcome was something that I never expected. The 2009 vintage in all its ripe glory produced a crowd friendly, fruit forward wine from a place that I didn’t even know could do such a thing. But the truly great thing about this Cab is that it did it without sacrificing its soul. There are so many homogenous wines in Napa right now that I was worried for a quick second that one of the classic stalwarts went to the dark side. But as I paid more attention to this wine I realized it still had its foundation of Spring Mountain tannins, mint/camphor spice, earthy/mushroom-y/olive-y undercurrent, and the signature dill/marshmallow tones from the American oak. It just has so much more ripe boysenberry/current fruit over the top of it that its almost hard not to drink this wine right away while still knowing that it will easily be happy in a cellar for the next 10-15 years. Kudos to you Brothers Smith for making what could be the best Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve ever had!
2011 Limerick Lane Russian River Valley Syrah/Grenache
Review Date: 2-26-2014
Limerick Lane was always one of the great mysteries of the Russian River Valley. I think however that mystery has finally been solved. Let me explain. For years this winery had zero consistency. Some years the wines would just floor you with their rare mix of finesse and complexity, the next they’d be undrinkable. It always seemed that the raw materials were exceptional; they were just not being molded in the right way. Then the Bilbro Brothers, previously working at their family’s winery Marietta, bought the winery in 2011 and everything changed. The wines, even the early ones that they didn’t make from front to back were of the level that I’d expect. The 2011 vintage is the first that they made in its entirety and the wines are absolutely stunning. The 2011 Grenache/Syrah is at first look a bruiser of a wine, but if one looks closely I think there is more than meets the eye here. Packed with bold aromatics of pepper bacon, chaparral, wild blackberries and fresh asphalt this is not shy on the instant the cork is pulled. On the palate it lightens up a bit with the fresh red fruited nature of the Grenache adding a counter weight to the hefty Syrah spice and meatiness. Add some pleasing structural tannins and a slick, polished nature and this is about as good as modern Rhone Blends get in California.
2011 Limerick Lane Russian River Valley Zinfandel
Review Date: 2-26-2014
Limerick Lane was always one of the great mysteries of the Russian River Valley. I think however that mystery has finally been solved. Let me explain. For years this winery had zero consistency. Some years the wines would just floor you with their rare mix of finesse and complexity, the next they’d be undrinkable. It always seemed that the raw materials were exceptional; they were just not being molded in the right way. Then the Bilbro Brothers, previously working at their family’s winery Marietta, bought the winery in 2011 and everything changed. The wines, even the early ones that they didn’t make from front to back were of the level that I’d expect. The 2011 vintage is the first that they made in its entirety and the wines are absolutely stunning. As one of my favorite wines at this year’s ZAP tasting the 2011 Russian River Zinfandel is a must-try for any Zin fan. This is that perfect tightrope of a Zin that pulls off having both ripe, luscious fruitiness and deep penetrating spiciness. Brambly and bold the nose here portrays the rustic vines of the vineyard which date back to 1910. Full of flavors of peppery spice, dried beef, sweet sun drenched wild berries and some underlying black tea flavors this is a compact Zin that wants to unravel with air or time in the cellar. Give this a decant and sit back and enjoy the ride.
2011 Hendry "Block 7 & 22" Napa Valley Zinfandel
Review Date: 2-26-2014
Hendry long has flown under the radar in the world of Zinfandel except with maybe the most ardent fans of the varietal. They don't do a lot self promotion and they don’t have a big flashy building on Highway 29 or the Silverado Trail in Napa. All they do is quietly make amazing wines, their Zinfandels long my favorites from their bench land vineyards. This Block 7&22 Zin is one of the best I've seen in the past few years with alluring aromas of warm soil, blackberry, pastilles and subtle pepper notes. This is the rarest kind of Zin in my book, one of refinement and poise rather than hammering weight and extraction. Lithe and friendly from the moment it hits the palate this is full of black currant, bittersweet chocolate and a pleasing undercurrent of savory herbs and iron rich soil. Long and lasting with great finishing acidity this Zin is going to be much more appropriate on your dinner table than as a cocktail wine, even with its balanced 15.5% ABV. This makes me want roast pork with crispy skin really bad!
2012 Kalinda "Cuvée Reserve" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 2-25-2014
For the last two years we’ve been lucky enough to be able to work with one of the best, relatively new producers, in the Willamette Valley to produce our Kalinda Cuvée Reserve Pinot Noir. This producer, Trisaetum, has been in the spotlight many times over the last few years for the amazing work they do with both Pinot Noir and Riesling. Coming from a blend of 8 barrels we really believe that this is even better than last year’s bottle. Part of that is the 2012 vintage is just superb with solid yields of amazing fruit not completely unlike the recent 2008 vintage. The final blend, which we fine tuned a bit this year with the help of James Frey the owner and winemaker at Trisaetum, is a blend of their two estate vineyards, one in the Ribbon Ridge AVA (37.5%) and the other out on the foothills of the Coast Range (62.5%) from clones 777, 667, 114, Pommard and Wadensvil and aged in mostly neutral French oak. Bright and vibrant on the nose this is reminiscent of fresh strawberries, passion fruit, cranberry and the typical Oregonian earthen qualities. Full of energy and just coming into its own this Pinot has shocking depth and concentration given its light color and medium weight. Full of red plum, currant, sage, lilac and rhubarb this has plenty to contemplate but is drinkable enough that it doesn’t need to be a mental exercise to be enjoyed. We love what Trisaetum is doing in the valley right now and we hope that you’ll love them as much as we do after drinking a bottle or two of this stunner.
2010 Sequana Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 375ml
Review Date: 2-25-2014
You have to love half bottles. I believe that they are a completely underappreciated tool in the world of wine. They are the perfect size if you are drinking alone and don’t want to feel like you were hit by a sledgehammer the night before. They allow people to try wines without much of a financial commitment, most of the time. Plus they are amazing at restaurants, I’m much more willing to order half bottles than glasses of wine from almost every establishment I can think of that offers both. The 2010 Sequana Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir is a perfect example of how enjoyable a half bottle can be. Certainly on the more masculine side of Pinot this has a powerful nose of plum, cassis and bacon with an undercurrent of wet, forest-like earth. Pitchy and full of sappy red fruits this is for the bigger is better side of the Pinot scale but still maintains good finishing acidity and lift throughout the wine. Flavors of raw roast beef, roasted beets, black cherry and a return of a smoky bacon note should be pleasing if you need a little bottle to keep you company for the night.
2012 Sante Arcangeli "Split Rail Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
Review Date: 2-13-2014
One of the most exciting things that happens in this job is when new wines come across your desk that come out of nowhere to knock your socks off. The 2012 Sante Arcangeli "Split Rail Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir ($32.99) was exactly that, a wine that floored me. The delicacy of this pinot is something that is rarely seen these days. With a color lighter than most Rosés these days, this packs a myriad of complex flavors and aromas into a wine that looks like it is Vin Gris. Orange peel, rose hips and lemon blossom combine in the fresh and overtly floral nose. That same freshness is transposed on to the palate with tons of flavors like cranberry, wild strawberry, fern fronds and white cherry. Juicy and plush yet weightless this is truly a wine that has to be tasted to be believed.
2011 Clos Pegase "Mitsuko's Vineyard" Carneros Chardonnay
Review Date: 1-23-2014
The Mitsuko’s Vineyard Chardonnay from Clos Pegase may be one of the first Chardonnays I remember drinking, certainly one of the first I remember enjoying. This was back in the late 90’s/early aughts but the wine really hasn’t changed that much over all these years. The wine is still predicated on the one thing that it can’t escape: acidity. The coolness of Carneros seems to always keep this wine from going overboard and gives the apple flesh and graham cracker flavors lift and “pop.” That being said this is not one of those lean Chards, quite the contrary. There is always texture and richness here with a sort of expanse feel. The wine has incredibly integrated oak and a hefty amount of leesy richness but the flavors never feel anything but fresh. Tangerine, brioche, baked pears, honeysuckle and blood orange combine for one fully flavored, yet supremely balanced Chard.
2011 Seven Hills Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 1-22-2014
Has there been a more consistent Cabernet Sauvignon at the $20 price point than the Seven Hills Columbia Valley bottling? Pretty much every year for the last decade this bottling has been top notch, rivaling bottles that are twice its cost. In 2011 a cold growing season, maybe the coldest on record in Eastern Washington, many wineries decided to not produce their top wines. This is exactly what Seven Hills did, funneling all of their best fruit into the lower tier bottlings. This Columbia Valley Cabernet comes from fruit throughout the massive appellation focusing on fruit from Wahluke Slope, Yakima Valley, Red Mountain and Walla Walla Valley, mostly from great declassified lots. This blend of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Carmenere, 4% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec, and it over-delivers greatly for $20. It's showing just how fantastic Cabernet can still be in this price point. Exciting and vital on the nose, this has alluring aromatics of crushed violet, old leather, Bing cherry, bay leaf and black olive. On entry the wine is lithe and accepting, it sort of waves you in with its cocoa powder, black raspberry, Oolong tea and crème brulee flavors. Softly tannic this is a wine that you can drink instantly but will also continue to develop over the next 3-7 years. I would be hard pressed to find a better Cab for $20 from Washington or anywhere else for that matter.
2011 Evening Land "Spanish Springs" Edna Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 1-21-2014
The wines of Evening Land have been on our radar for some time, working with a few wines over the last few years. We’ve always been impressed, as have many critics, with the purity, varietal correctness and energy of the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the winery. Plus they have access to some of the best sites in Oregon and California. One of these sites is the Spanish Springs vineyard in Edna Valley which sits at 900 feet elevation 2 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Sadly this will be the last wine Evening Land makes from this site. Pretty and delicate the nose is full of wild flowers, blueberry pie, sassafras and a lacing of shale like earth. A bit tight currently I found that the wine really blossoms with about an hour or so of decanting. The wine stretches out on the palate after this amount of time and shows lovely layers of mushroom, pork jus, more blueberry fruit, sage and a touch of lavender. Always on the prettier, reserved side of Pinot Noir we loved this wine with simple roast chicken. We believes this wildly over delivers for $20, we hope you feel the same.
2010 Marietta "Angeli Cuvee" Alexander Valley Red Blend
Review Date: 1-15-2014
Marietta has long been on our radar as one of the best producers of a non-vintage field blend for pennies on the dollar. Their “Old Vine Red” has graced our shelves continuously for the past 7-8 years, if not longer, and is always one of the best Domestic values in the store. Sadly however we’ve not found a permanent home for too many of their other wines for reasons that I can not honestly explain. That is until now. Their Angeli Cuvee, which is their top wine, is named after the owners of the ranch that became the current estate that the Bilbro family purchased in 1991. This blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane and Syrah is a tremendous wine showing the balance and poise that a blend like this rarely has. Maybe that is because of the overall coolness of the 2010 Vintage or maybe it is because it is just put together with a bit more attention and care, bottom line is this is smoking wine. Big and boisterous from the onset this is packed with aromas of black cherry, tar, sweet licorice ropes and cracked peppercorns. Ripe and full on the entry this shows pleasing texture and heft without turning jammy or coating and has plenty of countering spice and brightness of fruit. Flavors of boysenberry, allspice, mocha and unsweetened chocolate bounce around the palate and would work wonderfully with some braised short ribs or hearty meat packed chili.
2012 Rancho Zabaco "Heritage Vines" Sonoma County Zinfandel
Review Date: 1-8-2014
We all need a wine for the little times. Things like the month of January, Monday nights, or those friends that pour their wine glasses up to the top. This Rancho Zabaco Zin is one of those kinds of wines: simple, drinkable and kind of unassuming but fully enjoyable. The thing I like most about this wine is that it has become very hard to find a fully dry Zin at this price range and this is dry in spades. It also has much more stuffing than I expected with a nice peppery streak to the dusty blackberry fruit. If you’re looking for an everyday red you certainly could do a ton worse for the value.
2008 York Creek "MXB" Spring Mountain District Red Blend
Review Date: 12-11-2013
I think by now everyone has gotten the back story on the wines from York Creek and why they have been so successful for us here at K&L. If not, or if you just need a reminder, the short version is that we are working with the winery directly to exclusively bring you their incredible wines for insanely affordable prices. Up until now we’ve focused on the Cabernet based blends from the winery but we’ve always loved the other varietals they produce as well and we are not the only ones, Ridge Vineyards has made Petite Sirah since 1971 and Zinfandel since 1975 from this vineyard. This “MXB” bottling is from a field blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Barbera and Grenache and is just delicious. Big fruit driven aromatics of boysenberry are countered by spicier notes of licorice and white pepper on the nose. Juicy and broad with plenty of fruit this wine is super versatile with round blueberry, vanilla, mocha, sage, cola and black raspberry flavors. If you’re looking for a great mid-week/party/table red that over delivers and is of the utmost quality for well under $20 look no further. (As a side note, we bought all the cases left at the winery so once this is gone, which shouldn’t be long, it will be gone for good!)
2012 Au Bon Climat/K&L Wine Merchants "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 12-5-2013
Back in February when we approached Bob Lindquist at Qupé about making a wine for us we also spoke to Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, after all they share the same facility on the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard. We thought that there would be few winemakers in the world of Pinot Noir that we’d like to work with more and few that have made as consistently good Pinot as Jim has over the last 30+ years. To our surprise Jim was interested and told us to keep in touch. Come May I was sitting down at a table having lunch with Jim and his General Manager Jim Adelman putting together this fantastic blend. We tasted 14 components that afternoon from both Le Bon Climat and Bien Nacido Vineyards. What we ended up with in our bottling was 100% Bien Nacido Vineyard fruit from 2 blocks: Block 11 and Block 2. More specifically the wine is a blend of 50% Swan Clone from Block 11 planted in 1997, 20% Mount Eden Clone from Block 2 planted in 1996, 20% a mixture of all Clones on Block 11 planted between 1997-1998 and 10% 115 Clone from Block 11 planted in 1998 40% of which was whole cluster fermented. The bright red cherry, cassis, pastille, fresh lavender and subtle mint aromatics came together wonderfully that day with a juicy core of green spiced, blue fruits on the palate from the whole cluster portion of the wine. The earthen spice and black tea notes from the mid palate on were brought by the Mount Eden clone which also added lovely weight and a bit of scope. I think that all three of us left the table that day happy with what we agreed on and now that it is in bottle I couldn’t be more excited about it. Bottled in early August this can use a vigorous decanting until around New Years and after that I believe it will open up and become something that will continue to get better over the next 6-7 years at least. Thanks Jim and Jim for making this dream become a reality.
2010 Au Bon Climat "Historic Vineyards Collection Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 12-5-2013
By now it is certainly no secret how much we like the wines from Au Bon Climat. We’ve been inundating you with classy, structured, energetic wines from them for some time now including a wine that we made earlier this year with them. This wine, one in a series of wines that Jim Clendenen makes to highlight the older, “historic” vineyards in Santa Barbara County is from the same vineyard the ABC/K&L wine is from but couldn’t be more different. The fruit for this wine is all Clone 115 from Block 2 with 60% of the fruit going through Whole Cluster fermentation and is aged in 80% new Francois Freres barrels for 20 months. Ruddy and meaty on the nose this Pinot is very dark and almost brooding with aromas of beef jerky, beets, cola, raspberry and violet, yet has an overall prettiness that can’t be missed. Weighty and broad on entry this rich, full weight Pinot shows off the darker, more bombastic side of the Bien Nacido Vineyard. A continuation of the savory-ness on the nose is also found on the palate with exotic flavors of plum, sandalwood, amaro, licorice and bitter orange peel. My suggestion is to either stash this one away for a while in your cellar or aggressively decant it to really see the wines full complexity and personality.
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