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Staff Favorites - Bryan Brick
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2013 Mercer Canyons Columbia Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 3-20-2015
The Mercer winery was first put on my radar a couple of years back on a field trip to Washington State. We met with the folks behind this large farming operation; they are one of the largest producers of carrots and potatoes in the state, to check out their impressive amount of vineyards. Long one of the main growers for the largest wineries in Washington a number of years ago they decided to start making their own wine off of the better parcels of their sprawling acreage. The ďCanyonsĒ series was debuted in 2012 and already has turned heads nationally with its tremendous quality for value ratio. I was shocked on just how pure and clean these wines were. The Chardonnay is a perfect example of this. Pulpy apple aromas fill the nose with a broad streak of vanilla/butterscotch that meld into a rich golden fruited base. Broad and rich but still with a nice airy feel this has all the toasty flavors and yeasty richness that the classic Domestic Chard fans are going to want but also has a pretty floral component and some mellow citrus tones to keep the wine from being bogged down in excess. The best thing here is that this is only $11.99 a bottle which is a paltry sum for a wine that has this much going for it. I think we just found our best ďcheapĒ Chardonnay.
Marietta "Old Vine Red-Lot #62" Red Blend
Review Date: 2-25-2015
For years the Marietta Old Vine Red has been one of the most underappreciated values coming out of California. This non-vintage, multi-varietal and multi-appellation blend has flown under the radar of most affordable minded customers, but in our experience, one try and youíre hooked. Weíve sold it religiously over the last 7-8 years and every year Iím astonished with just how true the flavors are, how fresh the fruit is and how balanced the wine comes off overall. This blend, Lot 62, is every bit as good as any of the other blends, maybe a bit more, as a new estate vineyard has come more on board in this bottling, with pretty graphite, briary berry and a clove/nutmeg spice to the nose. Pulpy and sun-fresh, the ripe, but bone-dry, berry flavors on entry are sure to please with a persistent, bright energy and an underlying pastille spice. Plum and violet combine with a rich, coating nature on the finish to round out this tremendous value for well under $15. Simply put, this is one of the truly best wines in a category with more filler than killer.
Sherman & Hooker's Shebang "Eighth Cuvťe" California Red Blend
Review Date: 2-4-2015
When customers ask me about Shebang! I always have the same answer that goes something like, ďWeíll itís probably the best inexpensive wine in the shop right now.Ē The impressive thing is that Iíve now said that about 4-5 of the 8 cuvees in a row. Somehow Morgan Twain Peterson just keeps rocking out these amazing blends that are some of the most delicious and serious in the category. From a wealth of old vine material throughout the state of California that Morgan has access to this yearís bottling is predominately Zinfandel with pieces of Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouchet, Grenache, Carignane, Syrah, Mourvedre and Barbera. All of this adds up to a lovely spiced effort full of briary black fruits and an intensity that betrays the $11.99 price point. A wine that you can find new complexities in every time you open a bottle this is as suited for the dinner table as it is for a BBQ rager in someoneís backyard. A canít miss bottle.
2013 Banshee Sonoma County Pinot Noir
Review Date: 1-29-2015
With every new release of Banshee I become more and more impressed with just how dedicated to quality these three young men are. This year theyíve really upped their game adding Winemaker Ross Cobb, of Cobb Vineyards, a little known winery to the masses but to us nerds this means something, and moving production to Copainís new winemaking facility. Both of these moves are apparent to me in this new Sonoma County Pinot Noir. There seems to be a much finer point to the wine this year with better delineation of flavor, more pronounced acidity while still being fully interwoven in the wine and a bit more overall structure. All in all the fruit that most of our customers have come to know and love is still here but there is just a little bit more here than in past vintages. Iíve loved these wines for the value that they offer our customers over the years and I continue to love them for not resting on their laurels but to be in constant pursuit of upping their game.
2013 Alma Rosa Santa Barbara County Chardonnay
Review Date: 1-28-2015
Richard Sanford is a true legend that simply does not receive the credit he deserves. Back in 1971 he planted the first Pinot Noir in the Central Coast at the now famed Sanford & Benedict Vineyard. Just that act alone has him in the history books yet he still continues to make rock solid and affordable wines, first under his Sanford label that was a staple in fine wine shops in the last three decades of the 20th Century. After a shake up at Sanford, which we wonít get into here, Rick once again set off to create something new, this time Alma Rosa where sustainability was paramount to the winery, both in the vineyards and in the business practices of the winery. Taking this model Rick has made many lovely wines from both his self-planted, historic vineyards and new sites as well. This 2013 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay is a perfect example of his craftsmanship. Mostly coming from a 35 year old block of Chardonnay at the White Hills Vineyard this is a powerful wine that betrays its paltry price point. With notes of almond skin, apricot pit, sage and a touch of salinity in the nose there are few rival Chards that can hold a candle to this sort of complexity at this cost. Waves of peach flesh, green apple, sea salt, low toast oak and crushed cashew flavors flow freely on the palate to create a sense of both richness and breadth. If thatís not enough for $15 the finish is long and energetic with lemon zest and a touch of a white floral note. Kudos to Rick and all he has done, for so many years, for all the wine drinkers out there.
2011 Westerly Santa Ynez Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Review Date: 1-22-2015
Sometimes in the profession of Wine Buying you really have to work hard, whether it is tasting and assessing a hundred plus wines in a day, dealing with testy winemakers/winery owners, long boring conversations with marketing people about pricing or a whole myriad of other things, you can really get beat up. Then there are times when everything is simple and just kind of clicks into place. The latter is what happened with this Westerly Sauvignon Blanc. It really just sort of fell into my lap, or my e-mail box, specifically. The winery reached out to see if we were interested in the wine and being that we were they sent us bottles to check out. We tasted the wine and immediately took the rest that they had. This Sauvignon Blanc impressed us with its fresh, persistent orange flesh-like acidity and pretty notes of alfalfa, tangerine and lemon curd on the palate. When we figured out we could sell it to you for a paltry $7.99 we jumped at the opportunity. What we have in stock currently is all we can get; I donít expect this to be around for more that 24-48 hours. Act fast.
2012 Seven Hills Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 1-22-2015
I donít know how they do it, I really donít. Somehow Seven Hills puts out a $20 dollar Cabernet every year that just crushes the competition. Deep and inky, this wine has plenty of complexity to offer on the packed nose. Aromas of pencil lead, sweet licorice, pipe tobacco and black olive swirl freely in the glass. Ripe but structured, this is perfectly positioned to be an everyday drinker for fans of big Cabernet. It has enough fruit to please, but enough structure to be friendly at the table. Black tea, currant, ink, wet stone, subtle olive and dried sage flavors combine here for one shockingly complex wine, especially considering the price tag. Be it the super high quality fruit, the fantastic 2012 vintage in Washington or the open, friendly style of the winery but this wine maybe one of the best Columbia Valley bottling Iíve seen from them in the last 4-5 vintages. Itís surely not a wine to be missed.
2013 Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel
Review Date: 1-7-2015
Back in 2011 there was quite a scare in the world of Zinfandel. That was the year that the Seghesio Family sold their winery to a large company named Crimson Wine Group. This was a bit unsettling at the time being that the Seghesio Family was second only to the Foppianos for the crown as the longest running winemaking family in Sonoma County. We were all a little depressed by it for a while but then nothing really changed. The family still held control of the old vine plots like Cortina and Home Ranch, Pete stayed on as CEO and Ted as winemaker. The quality and branding was the same as it ever was and quite honestly I think most people even forgot that the Winery changed hands. This was great news to all Zin fans, especially when they kept churning out tremendous, affordable Zin like the 2013 Sonoma County. Just released this is a great wine for $20 with all of is warm spice cake, berry cobbler, whole peppercorn and sweet tea aromatics. Big and burly but with wild acidity acting as a counter weight this has a little something for everyone in the Zin world with its briary richness of fruit, bushels of pepper, fresh berry notes and a sweet oak lacing which ties up the substantial finish. I guess change, or the lack thereof, isnít always a bad thing!
2012 Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
Review Date: 12-16-2014
Can you really teach an old dog new tricks? I donít really know but I think that some old dogs are smart enough to pick some new things up as they go along. That is exactly what Chateau St. Jean did with this brand, spanking new Sonoma Coast bottling. (By the way please donít confuse this with the Sonoma County bottling that is everywhere and is completely different.) To say that I was taken by surprise by this new wine would be an understatement. I was blown away by the amount of power and richness it had, all the while keeping true, cool weather Sonoma Coast acidity throughout. With a nose laced with apricots, crème brulee and persimmons, while having an underlying citrus backbone, this was completely appealing and felt really natural. On the palate comes waves of vanilla, baked apples, some crushed stone and a lovely white floral highlight. For the under $20 arena of Chardonnay it certainly does not get much better than this. Iíd scoop this up before the powers that be at CSJ realize just how good this wine really is!
1995 York Creek Spring Mountain District Meritage
Review Date: 12-15-2014
After the last few years I think just about everyone has heard us pontificating about just how good, and how insanely inexpensive, the York Creek wines are. Luckily for us and our thirsty customers, Fritz Maytag kept deep cellars over the years and still has plenty of wine for us to sell. After the rousing success of past vintages we just keep reloading because the wines are that good and you keep asking us for more. Weíve found an extra special treat to roll out this time: The 1995 Meritage. Thatís right... we are wildly excited to sell this wine, which was made when Clinton was president, people went to see Waterworld just because of Costner, and somehow Hootie and the Blowfish sold like seven million copies of a record. Luckily this wine has aged much better than at least those last couple things. Still vibrant and with a lovely bouquet of dried rose petals, new leather and red currants, this is a wine that is a testament to just how well California wines can age over long periods of time. With a solid entry of sweet black tea, fresh tobacco, cocoa powder, spearmint and dried blackberries, this is one complex and likeable wine that is just about perfect for folks that are fans of more mature wines. Fully meshed and with little to no desiccation of fruit, this is just great old wine for a silly price. Think Toy Story rather than Jumanji and Radioheadís The Bends over anything from Silverchair.
2012 Michael & David "6th Sense" Lodi Syrah
Review Date: 12-9-2014
Incredibly surprising or surprisingly incredible, either way I think those two statements describe the new releases from the Michael & David winery. Always known for their amusing labels and marketing I think the most recent batch of wines will make people take notice for just how much quality is in the bottle for such little cash. The style of wine is still full throttle, fruit driven and bold, as the wines always have been but there is much better balance in the wines overall and most importantly I found there to be no discernible residual sugar in the wines. These are a must try for fans of exuberant Domestic Wines for reasonable prices. The 2012 6th Sense Syrah was really eye opening for me. Iíve tried this wine for years and itís always been a bit clumsy in regards to its ripeness levels, not so much this year! Now donít get me wrong this is not Northern Rhone Syrah but it is a wildly pleasurable fruit driven Syrah for a measly $12.99 and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Aromas of chocolate ganache, wet black top and white pepper are very alluring leading to a exuberant palate of raspberry coulis, sweet licorice, pipe tobacco and wild berry cobbler with fine tannins and a stealthy long finish of toasted coconut and black pepper. A complete steal for fans of ďbigĒ wines.
2012 Michael & David "Freakshow" Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 12-9-2014
Incredibly surprising or surprisingly incredible, either way I think those two statements describe the new releases from the Michael & David winery. Always known for their amusing labels and marketing I think the most recent batch of wines will make people take notice for just how much quality is in the bottle for such little cash. The style of wine is still full throttle, fruit driven and bold, as the wines always have been but there is much better balance in the wines overall and most importantly I found there to be no discernible residual sugar in the wines. These are a must try for fans of exuberant Domestic Wines for reasonable prices. Iím a big fan of party rock. Think Rick Springfieldís Working Class Dog album or any of the great Power Pop Albums of the late 70ís early 80ís like The Beatís Self Titled album. These are certainly not the most critically acclaimed albums but when you hear them, especially at a party they really make everyone feel good, loosen up and start moving around the room. I sort of felt this way about the Freakshow Cab. Not the most critically amazing wine but damn if it doesnít taste great and wonít please everyone in the room. Under $20 this is like a record that has 3 hits on it that youíll never get tired of and is in the dollar bin, pure magic. Deep, with silky black fruits and a nice waft of tobacco this is palate coating and intense wine that really brings some fun to the Cabernet game. Blackberry, spice cake, toffee and café con leche flavors are all apparent here and are meshed nicely. Itís going to be hard to beat this cab for this price.
2013 Au Bon Climat/K&L Wine Merchants "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 12-2-2014
Last yearís Co-Branded Pinot Noir from Au Bon Climat was such a hit we couldnít help but to make it again! Once again we think Jim Clendenen and his wildly talented crew at Au Bon Climat has out done themselves with the quality of the components that they allowed us to make this wine from. Just like last year this wine is 100% fruit from the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard, with both components coming from Block 2, which was planted in 1994. Made from 50% Clone 113 and 50% Clone 115, of which 50% was whole-cluster fermented, this was actually the first blend we put together once we ran through all of the components we had available to us. Thatís right; we nailed this blend on the first go around! We certainly tried to improve it but it always lingered on our palates as the best of the bunch. Instantly drinkable this is packed with boisterous red fruits on the nose of Bing cherry and muddled raspberry with a hint of sassafras, tarragon and finely ground white pepper. Mouthfilling and with no roughness, which is impressive in its youth, this is one easily gulpable wine but itís so much more serious than what youíd first expect. With velvety fine tannins and a persistent mouthwatering acidity this wine has plenty of structure to get better over the next 4-8 years. However if you drink it now youíll be able to experience plenty of delicious flavors like red plum, dragonfruit, cola, violets and Rainier cherries. Long and lasting on the palate with a likeable plush texture we think this Pinot has a little something to please everyone. Go ahead prove us wrong.
2011 Obsidian Ridge "Obsidian Ridge Vineyard" Red Hills Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 11-18-2014
Do any of you remember the story about the little train that could? Maybe you read it to your kids/grandkids or maybe you remember having it read to you when you were young like I do. The way I recall this story, not having heard it in a couple of decades, is there was this little, forgotten, overlooked train that had great pluck and determination. He kept with it always knowing that he could pull with the best of them. One day he got his chance and wouldnít you know it he saved the day! In my mind thatís a perfect metaphor for the 2011 Obsidian Ridge "Obsidian Ridge Vineyard" Red Hills Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.99). Weíve always kept this wine around in corners of the store that sometimes just get passed by too quickly. The staff has always loved the wine but maybe it slips their minds when someone asks them for a recommendation. This yearís wine is just too good to forget. Simply put it may be their best effort yet and it certainly is one of the best Cabernets weíve seen from the much, yet sometimes unfairly, maligned 2011 vintage at it respective price point. There is just so much wine in this bottle; the scope and largesse here is pretty spectacular with bold, rich flavors of tar, ink, blackberry, ash, fried sage and lavender. Add a ton of spicy, exotic oak notes in the nose and a rock solid tannic structure and this is a wine that will be mistaken often for a wine twice its cost. Come on; give the little train a chance.
2013 Bethel Heights/K&L Wine Merchants Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir
Review Date: 11-12-2014
On our recent trip to Oregon this summer we certainly found plenty of great wines and met with a multitude of amazingly talented people. Many of the wines we found on that trip have already come in and sold out mostly due to our sheer excitement about the quality of wines we found. One of the most exciting opportunities from that trip was to work closely with our friends at Bethel Heights to put together a Pinot Noir exclusive to K&L as part of our burgeoning Co-Branded project. This 2013 Bethel Heights/K&L Wine Merchants Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir ($24.99) is a blend of the young vibrant fruit of the bordering Bjornson Vineyard, a vineyard planted in 1996, and the more nuanced, ethereal fruit from the old Wädenswil block at Bethel Heights Estate, planted in 1977. Ben Casteel (winemaker for BH), the K&L staff and I came up with and tasted numerous blends before we enthusiastically chose the one in the bottle here. We thought it was a perfect middle ground between the sappy, rich black fruits of Bjornson and the more earthen, sage and subtle red fruits from the Estate. We loved how the nose really spoke of classic Oregon Pinot focusing on earthen, sous bois and floral tones rather than chunky fruit. The wine is seamless in texture at this point with a feminine frame and well integrated acid/tannin interplay. A bit of aeration, either by untwisting the convenient Stelvin closure or popping this into a decanter, will really help to heighten the lovely tones of loganberry, evergreen, black currant, white sage, new leather and lavender found here. Thanks to the entire Casteel Family for helping make this wonderful wine that we couldnít be prouder to have our name on!
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