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Staff Favorites - James Knight

James Knight

Reviews

2017 Brooks Willamette Valley Riesling
Review Date: 05-31-2020
This is an alluring and rich Riesling that just might be a crossover wine that will appeal to Chardonnay lovers — not that there's too much "buttery" or "toasty" about this fairly dry (14 grams per liter) Riesling wine, but, along with very far-off petrol notes, this wine's hints of honeyed raisin and pineapple juice, with a touch of caramel, add interest to its otherwise lean and austere, "cue the Wagner" Riesling highlights. Makes me want to dive deeper into the Brooks Riesling portfolio!
Price: $17.95 Add To Cart

2018 Dönnhoff Estate Riesling Nahe
Review Date: 05-26-2020
Lockdown. Heatwave. Dönnhoff. In these times, I'll take one out of three for a winning late Spring evening. The basic, fairly light and crisp 2018 Dönnhoff does have a green apple note, as James Suckling noted in his review above, but it's really green, not like some blowsily malic "unoaked" Chardonnay, and plays quite nicely with the hints of lime and lemon zest, and a far-off reminder of Riesling's sometimes lanolin aromatic bent, although this is not like a fleece in the face, but rather, the tinkling of bells in a pasture far up in cool alpine meadows...Doch, this wine is from the Rhine region, not the Alps, but still, it just goes to show how it cools and inspires the mind as well as the palate. Good Riesling does that.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2018 Pewsey Vale Riesling Dry Eden Valley South Australia
Review Date: 05-23-2020
Double plus yum, thank you—the Pewsey Vale 2018 exceeded my expectations for a fairly young Aussie Riesling. It's got every South Australian Riesling highlight in a crisp, measured dose: lime blossom, yes; hint of lanolin, that too; hard-to-describe thirst-quenching yet regal and palate-coating, "Rieslingness"...? Check. This is like a preview of the Pewsey Vale "Museum Reserve" Riesling, which is released after aging in bottle. You want an Old World analogue, I would say it's in the territory of Wittmann's excellent Rheinhessen Riesling. Domestic? That's tough, but in some years, the Kung Fu Girl Washington State Riesling comes close, and Smith-Madrone in their drier vintages. In any case, this Eden Valley Aussie Riesling is a benchmark that you simply must try, if you like Riesling—or any delicious white wine in general!

2013 Pewsey Vale "Contours" Riesling Eden Valley South Australia
Review Date: 05-23-2020
Frankly, I view my review of the 2013 Pewsey Vale Contours Riesling, as well as any vintage of the Pewsey Vale Contours Riesling, as a gift to the K&L shopper and the wine drinking community in general, since I would very much rather order all of our current stock for myself, and drink it at my leisure. I wish I could. Because, with a white wine such as this, time is no object at this point. It's developed some secondary notes of honeycomb and sheep's wool (lanolin), what the critics call "toast," although there's no toasted wood in this wine, but the lime blossom and fresh citrus-leaning Riesling fruit notes are still in the fore. It is, again, a dry wine, folks, with no residual sugar to speak of. Yet, you may become stuck on it, as I have.

2018 Guy Farge "Bouquet de Syrah" Ardeche
Review Date: 05-23-2020
Decant an under-$20 value Rhône wine? Yes, and I highly recommend it in this case, or at least, enjoy some today and more tomorrow, as I did. OK, I enjoyed 4/5 of the bottle the first day and a glass the next, but that just demonstrates what a great-tasting Syrah this is, even given the note of "reduction" upon opening. It's a smoky, smoked plum aroma, sorta 4-EG-ish if you wanna get geeky about it, but it's perfectly suited to this medium-weight Syrah. The next day, the smoke is almost gone, and black olive takes over. The wine is not tired, but smooth and more complex. Pretty good for one more, well priced step into the Rhône!
Price: $16.99 Add To Cart

2016 Ramey "Woolsey Road Vineyard" Russian River Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 04-06-2020
Ramey is a master of California Chardonnay, but you can forget about the cliché of "oaky, buttery" Chardonnay here. Nor are they simply dressed-down, malic apple juice cocktails, like all too many "unoaked" Chards of the genre. The Woolsey is less forward that the Rochioli in 2016, showing a kind of hazy, lessy nose at first, with a subtle note of, say, "wood-fired apple tart," and the palate is, dare I say, dry Riesling-like with its tantalizing richness carried along with a wave of juicy, golden apple crisp-inflected acidity. It's hard to say exactly what it is, that distinguishes this from other, subtle Chardonnays that I've sipped, and set aside, but it's there, to the core; and I take another sip, again.

2016 Ramey "Rochioli Vineyard" Russian River Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 04-06-2020
Look, I'm just not the biggest Chardonnay fan, alright? I prefer an unoaked, dry, but rich Clare or Eden Valley Riesling. So, I might not be the optimal first (and only so far, it looks like) staff reviewer for this Ramey Rochioli Chard. But on the other hand, I've tasted a fair number of Chardonnay samples forwarded to me, in another time, and I have to say that the Ramey Chards are among the only that I have gone on to drink half the bottle—or all of it, in this case! This is richer than the 2016 Woolsey, showing that candied caramel, oak, and apple pie note that's irresistible in a Chardonnay when it isn't really any one of those flavors alone, but a medley that's balanced with compelling, not sharp, acidity. I appreciate Chardonnay that's not running away from barrels, or malolactic fermentation, yet doesn't fall into that "oaky, buttery" cliché that's too easily dismissed. This is the real deal, a transformation of a grape with strong malic character into a toasty, tasty treat.

2018 Turley "Juvenile" California Zinfandel
Review Date: 02-29-2020
The old timers of California wine used to call this type of wine a "claret," for good reason. I'm not talking about the "old timers," for you younger folks, of the 1990s, or even of the 1970s wine boom, and rediscovery of quality, varietally labeled California Zinfandel. Back in the late 1800s, Zinfandel was big in California, and those who knew their claret (and they did know their Bordeaux blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and related grapes) often referred to the better Zinfandel wines as like "claret." That is, a medium-plus red wine having an aroma not unlike a classic Bordeaux blend: some graphite, some stones, a pleasing tease of raspberry perfume and a juicy body that's checked, good and firm, with a just-so tannic grip on the finish. And so is this wine today. These days, people say a lot of strange things about California Zinfandel that sound more like the kind of political bias and griping that grips these times—a sip of this wine should settle the mind and enliven an interest in this classic, heritage grape of the Golden State.
Price: $24.95 Add To Cart

2018 Trefethen "Estate" Napa Valley Dry Riesling
Review Date: 01-04-2020
This is a floral, herbal Riesling with flavors of kiwi and melon. Very typical of the Trefethen Rieslings, if a little leaner this year, and no "petrol" not thus far. Get the Smith-Madrone Riesling from Napa Valley, too, and compare! Pick up a Wittmann from Rheinhessen and have even more fun! I love Riesling Night. It's my favorite night of the week.
Price: $19.95 Add To Cart

Laphroaig "Quarter Cask" Islay Single Malt Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 10-22-2015
My journey back to Laphroaig has been long, but it's got a well-earned place in my short list of single malt favorites. The Quarter Cask is kind of like an elaboration on that rich, vanilla oak note that I retrieved from my first smoky, leathery bottle of Laphroaig 10. It's less rich and opulent than the Triple Wood, to be sure, but I enjoyed every pour of this--it even held up to a little ice, over the summer, purists be darned. I'm a Talisker fan, and love the Ardbeg Corryvreckan, but this well-priced Laphroaig shows, with just a bit of extra barrel treatment, the quality of the spirit that's coming out of the distillery.
Price: $46.99 Add To Cart

Laphroaig "Triple Wood" Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 10-20-2015
Holy lovely peaty sherry goodness. My earlier review of Laphroaig 10 Year, as in, "Caution! And good news!" might be easily ignored at this point: it was an early Scotch for me, and on the outer boundaries of what I appreciated at the time. However: this single malt fulfills everything that I eventually love about a Laphroaig without having to wait a minute extra. It's got that vanilla and peat and that delicious malty, grainy note, and it's just delicious.
Price: $57.99 Add To Cart

Bowmore 12 Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 03-05-2015
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I'm pretty pleased with the standard Bowmore 12, in fact, just a little beyond expectations, for the price. I have to agree with Enthusiast's mention of the cookie dough in the background, but there's also a bit of wet plaster, rancio and roasted walnut lurking--a hint of some of the older, single barrel expressions. It's drier and less "maritime" than Talisker 10, and the peat is more ashy like an Ardmore Traditional Cask or Lagavulin 16. A nice cabinet standby, or at least a reference point.
Price: $45.99 Add To Cart

Highland Park 12 Year Old Isle of Orkney Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 02-24-2015
The malty, soft, cereal grain and butterscotch aroma of the Highland Park 12 is imbued with a whisper of peat that draws one in to a deeper place. For me, it's the long-ago memory of an oceanside cottage--opening the door, the cupboards, the aroma was always familiar and comforting yet distant, salty, and of the sea. That's Highland Park, to me: a straightforward butter cookie of a whisky, but the window's open just a crack, and you can smell the sea and heather coming in.
Price: $46.99 Add To Cart

Glendronach 12 Year Old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 01-04-2015
This whisky just keeps getting better, in my estimation. Rich and sherried, reminiscent of summer and winter treats: caramel apples and roasted, candied nuts. The Glendronach 12 has spicy, rum-raisin aromas, roasted nuts--filberts, Brazil nuts--and baked apple and pear notes, which repeat on the palate, so cotton-candy smooth, and the fruit flavors deepen toward the dry, smoky finish. Similar to: Aberlour 16. More flavor than: Glenlivet 12. Fiercer, less smooth than: Macallan 12 or Glenmorangie 10. More easygoing but in a somewhat similar profile to: Glendronach Allardice, Aberlour A'Bunadh. A standby, a classic. UPDATE: I have tried the Glendronach 15 Year Port-finished edition, a really svelte, nice dram, for sure, but I STILL prefer the 12 Year. If you like rich, nutty, sherried single malt, you really ought to try the Glendronach 12.
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart

Ardbeg "Corryvreckan" Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 12-05-2014
For sure, the next time I have enough spare change to be able to decide between purchasing a Talisker 18 or the Corry, I am likely to experience some cognitive dissonance--and I mean before I have had any whisky! UPDATE: After first sampling the Corryvreckan, I was able to purchase a bottle and am very happy with it. This whisky presents luxe aromas of vanilla, caramel, and a hint of chocolate liqueur, haunted by a roasted seaweed, smoked fish and bacon sort of peatiness. If you've tried the Ardbeg 10 but felt it was just somewhat too aggressively peaty for you, at least for now, check out this one. It's got all the soft, lovely smoky beauty of a Talisker Distiller's, say, but with a spicier, cinnamon mint finish--like a younger Islay, like our Kilchoman single barrels, for instance. If you don't mind a hot finish, and love a single malt that tantalizes your nose with seductive, smoky and sweet aromas, this is it.
Price: $74.99 Add To Cart

Balcones Single Malt Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 07-11-2014
I would seriously never have considered a Texas single malt whisky unless it was sitting in front of me, nearly daring me, saying, hey, I dare ya. What a surprise. A surprisingly developed aroma of roasted walnut, with a deep, darkly sherried palate that reminds me a little of, say, the Cragganmore 23, but with cinnamon spice, too--not in a bourbony way. This rich, dark single malt may be not quite as complex of some of our older, nutty Scotch single malts, but it is a really great effort from the single star, I mean the Lone Star state.
Price: $69.99 Add To Cart

Isle Of Skye 12 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 06-25-2014
Yes, this really does have a bit of the Talisker character. With a hint of orange rind over slightly smoky, bacon scone-y sweet characteristics, it's a fine Scotch on the rocks that retains some of its grain alcohol character while offering something more interesting than a lot of blended Scotches. But it's not a substitute for single malt Talisker: while I may enjoy it as a Scotch on ice from time to time, I follow it up, when I can, with a nice Talisker 10 or Distiller's Edition--neat!
Price: $36.99 Add To Cart

Lagavulin 16 Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 06-17-2014
Earthy, smoky, ashy, and underneath it all, sweet and chewy. I waited nearly a month and a half after opening the Lagavulin 16 to review it; I figured it would reveal itself over time, that this lion would lamb out a bit. Well. I agree that it is defiantly smoky (as Dave Broom says), like a hearth, with some caramel candy and smoked meats like, say, the Talisker 10 (aka the Precious...in my regard) on the tongue. Nosing is hot and spicy, and the finish is like hot smoke. Richer, with less thin, iodine character than some Islay single malts--maybe a hint of singed seaweed. A serious Islay at a whacky good price.

Ardbeg "Uigeadail" Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 06-05-2014
Recommended for those with a love for--or a tolerance that may blossom at some time in the indeterminate future--peaty, sherry-influenced single malt. After I had tasted a sample of the Ardbeg Uigeadail and sort of gave it thumbs down in my personal notes, later I purchased a whole bottle and followed it over a while. Why? There's just something about it. There's dried seaweed, some plaster from a seaside cottage renovation, perhaps, some dried fish on a grill fired by beach brush. And mid to high-toned sherry underneath. But there's more, and whatever that more is, it keeps me coming back from time to time.
Price: $59.99 Add To Cart

Aberlour 16 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 05-05-2014
Apple pie is right--or more like hot apple cider, for me. Warm, spicy holiday punch, with ginger and cinnamon and delicious, caramel and apple flavor. Not as hot and spicy as the A'Bunadh, the dignified Aberlour 16 is a rich, smooth, and delightful companion to, say, a good book; to be sipped and savored.
Price: $74.99 Add To Cart

Talisker 10 Year Old Isle of Skye Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 04-29-2014
Goodness, I love the Talisker 10. It hits just about every note that I want to hear, when a single malt sings to me. To get an idea of whether it will sing for you, here's the way I came about it: After ignoring whisky for a decade-plus in favor of wine, I rediscovered scotch. I set about finding out what I liked, what I didn't, and what grew on me. I like sweet, sherried single malts, but I also like smoky peat--not too much--and most importantly, a sea shore, briny sense of place. This is Talisker 10, in a nutshell, a light amber, buttery, butterscotchy single malt smelling of scones baked with smoked ham, somewhere near the sea shore. Finishes hot and spicy, but like they say about Talisker, more like nice, spicy "chili pepper" than just plain alcohol heat. It's always a fun dram.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart

Springbank 15 Year Old Distillery Bottling Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 04-28-2014
Richer and more mellow than: Port Charlotte Peat. Much less peaty than: Talisker 10. Kinda maybe like: Cragganmore 12. I got butterscotch candy and salty, nutty notes a little like a Jura whisky from a sample of this dram; it's got nice lemony, butterscotchy notes that are appealing.

Bowmore 15 Year Old Sherry Cask Finish Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 04-28-2014
"Amber. Whoa. Campfire...peaty fire...suede jacket (nice, not Laphroaig shoe); smoked ham. Some old deli memory, 70s, 80s?" That was my first impression of the Bowmore 15 "Darkest" from a 30cl sample. Later I purchased a full bottle. Initial impressions were consistent: It's a meaty, dry, savory single malt. There's a strong, sherried, rum-raisin component, for sure. There's intensity, but don't expect peatiness like an Ardbeg or Laphroaig. To put it in perspective, I'd say: Dryer and meatier than Talisker 10; may appeal to fans of Glendronach 15 Revival, though smoky; maybe, maybe somewhere in the neighborhood of Lagavulin 16. The last of my notes read, "Have to revisit!"
Price: $74.99 Add To Cart

Talisker 18 Year Old Isle of Skye Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 04-28-2014
Medium-light amber, and the smoked fish, the salty caramel, the chili pepper, it's all there...but does it seem a bit more subdued that the Distillers Edition? It does seem a bit more ashy on the palate; there's definitely a nice bit of heat on the back-end. As a fairly recent but hopelessly enthralled recruit to the Talisker regimen, I recommend the 18, for a one-time try-out at the least.

Laphroaig 10 Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml)
Review Date: 04-25-2014
Caution! And good news! True, we're trying to sell some single malt here, but to those customers who have not delved into peaty single malts much, I would counsel caution and/or patience, and here's why: I purchased the classic Laphroaig 10 early in my single malt rediscovery series...probably after the mellow Balvenie 12. Holy burning shoe leather! The level, and character of the peat is so serious, it almost made my eyes sting. So I left it alone for a long time, revisiting it from time to time. And eventually, I noticed the richness underneath. The sweet caramel. The seaweed. The beauty...of that burning shoe. By the last few drams, I was almost telling the Laphroaig 10 how sorry I was that I had misunderstood it...but I didn't have that many drams.