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Staff Favorites - Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith


2014 Site Wines "Stolpman Vineyard" Roussanne Santa Barbara County
Review Date: 02-12-2019
Site continues to produce my favorite domestic Roussanne. Mellow and full of characteristic honey tones, this is a soft, wide-shouldered white with plenty of papaya and tropical fruit notes. A different and distinctive take on Roussanne that fans of Rhone Wines are sure to love.

2014 Site Wines "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Syrah Santa Maria Valley
Review Date: 02-12-2019
After the Larner Red Wine and the Grenache, i was really excited to taste the Syrah from Site Wines. This one delivers, and then some. There’s tons of focus here. The dynamics, wind up like a coiled spring and explode on the palate. Tons of complexity and points of interest: a hint of savory, underlying reductive tones, well-integrated spice, cured meats, vanilla espresso. Not too tannic, but nicely structured. As with the other wines, there’s an excellent balance between bright acid and rich fruit. An incredibly well-made, bold Syrah that is sure to impress.

2014 Site Wines "Larner Vineyard" Grenache Ballard Canyon Santa Barbara
Review Date: 02-12-2019
The 20% Syrah here is key. It’s whole-cluster and provides not only depth and darkness to this Grenache, but texture, tannin, and a beautiful, reductive meaty quality. The grenache on the other hand has richness, levity and brightness. The balance between these two distinctive elements is absolutely phenomenal. Mouth coating and delicious this is a wonderfully dark and broody take on grenache, full of rich black fruits offset by smoked bacon and a hint of sweetness. More than anything, this reminds of the wines Paso Robles cult producer Saxum, which if you can get them, usually go for at least three times the price. This was my favorite of the recent offerings from Site, and sits at the top of my list for domestic grenache.

2014 Site Wines "Larner Vineyard" Red Blend Ballard Canyon Santa Barbara
Review Date: 02-12-2019
The quality on these wines is absolutely crazy; it's hard to believe that they keep getting better with every vintage--but they do. The 2014 Larner is a total stunner: dark, and meaty, hints of smoke and leather above a solid core of dark fruits: boysenberry, blackberry and caramelized cherry. For a big wine, the balance on this is just seamless. Despite nearly 70% of the blend being Syrah, the striking similarity to top shelf, modern styled Châteauneuf-du-pape is undeniable. This is a breakthrough wine that deserves serious attention.

2015 Deovlet "Sanford & Benedict Vineyard" Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
Review Date: 01-30-2019
For me, Sanford and Benedict is without a doubt an American Grand Cru Pinot Noir Vineyard. What has been really inspiring over the past several years is their growing commitment to sell fruit to smaller and up-and-coming producers. It has elevated the wines coming out of the Santa Rita Hills across the board. Deovlet is one of those smaller producers that has used the fruit from this vineyard to craft absolutely stunning wines. The Deovlet Sanford and Benedict displays incredible aromas of beautiful, elegant fruit. It gently walks the line between feminine floral tones and more masculine savory elements. The palate is layered with savory notes, iron, and black fruit. Yet the body and texture of the wine ethereal and soft. A complex and intriguing wine that deserves a place at the table of any serious Pinot Noir lover.

2016 Leviathan California Red Blend
Review Date: 01-28-2019
For anyone who loves red blends, the Leviathan is the most consistent, high quality, knock-it-out-of-the-park wine in the store. I first discovered this wine back in 2006, and was gobsmacked at the level of rich, bold fruit that this wine delivers. It has continued to perform well every year since, but the 2016 was a particular stand out. Ripe notes of black cherry, blackberry, and mocha along with hints of smoke and spice, this is one of those wines that you can’t stop drinking. A head-turning wine that stands out from the crowd at its price point, it’s definitely earned its high praise.
Price: $39.95 Add To Cart
RP 94 VN 92

2015 Sixto "Roza Hills Vineyard" Columbia Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 01-15-2019
Fans of full-bodied, richly textured Chardonnay take note: Washington is now a spot on the map. Personally, I’ve found that most of the Chardonnay coming out of Washington to be cheap, boring plonk. The Sixto Roza shows what can happen when you source from a best-of-the-best vineyard and use spare-no-expense winemaking in one of the most rapidly growing wine regions in the world. Butter right off the bat, brioche, butterscotch--this is like pineapple upside down cake in a glass. Tons of richness, but without being weighed-down, it keeps poppy acid and lifts the palate, creating a bright and agile wine that is still full of brilliant flavor. For anyone who loves Napa Chardonnay: believe me, this is worth checking out.

2015 Bee Hunter "Docker Hill Vineyard" Mendocino Pinot Noir
Review Date: 01-14-2019
This is a super-unique wine from one of the up-and-coming Mendocino producers. More than anything, this brings to mind Melville in the Sta Rita Hills: a producer making bigger, more fruit-forward wines in cooler climates. And boy, does this one deliver. Lush, and richly layered, it hits that classic kirsch note you find throughout Mendocino Pinot Noir, but with so much more weight, breadth and texture. I found it strikingly similar to the Kosta Browne Cerise, which WAY more than twice the price. Full of blackberry, ripened strawberries and a touch of orange zest this is a wine not to be missed by anyone who loves Mendocino Pinot Noir.
Price: Hidden View Price
WE 96

2016 Bethel Heights "Estate" Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir
Review Date: 01-14-2019
There's a strong reason why Eola-Amity Hills AVA is pulling away from the rest of the Willamette Valley and soaring in quality. It is head-turning wines like this that are under-valued and over-delivering time and time again. The 2016 Bethel Heights displays beautiful finesse on the nose while delivering incredible intensity on the palate. With plenty of focused minerality hints of raspberry, blackberry and dried herbs it draws immediate parallels to a fruit-expressive Burgundy. Deeper and darker than Cote de Beaune, but brighter and flashier than the Cote de Nuits, it strikes an earnest chord somewhere between the two. This is a hell of a statement for an entry-level wine.
Price: $29.95 Add To Cart
JS 93 WS 93

Dérot-Delugny "Cuvée Fondateurs" Brut
Review Date: 01-09-2019
This is the champagne for champagne drinkers who have had everything. Beautifully elegant aromas of anjou pear and a dusting of lemon zest that pull you into the glass. On the palate, it is delicately textured with a totally unique umami note that I had yet to experience until this bottle came along. It delivers in balance, quality, while being totally unique. This champagne has had the staff running to buy bottles for ourselves. Loved it.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart

2016 Margerum "M5" Santa Barbara County Rhône Blend
Review Date: 01-02-2019
Despite being named for the five different grape varieties in the blend, the 2016 M5 is really all about the Grenache and Syrah. Together they make up 80% of the blend, and do most of the heavy lifting for this wine. The nose is supple and soft with cherry liquor, a touch of black pepper, and sour plums. On the palate there’s a ton of lively energy; it's fresh and zippy with a nice pinch of tannin, and solid, red fruit. It manages to stay fruit-forward, but keeps its brightness. I definitely group this into the category of fresh, acid-driven Southern Rhone style blends which hail from central coast and still pair wonderfully with food. Outstanding Quality-Price ratio here.

2015 Avennia "Gravura" Columbia Valley Bordeaux Blend
Review Date: 12-11-2018
I was so impressed by this wine. Avennia has been on my radar for a while, but this really affirms that Washington State is one of the most exciting regions in the country for quality-driven wines. The Gravura hits all those perfect notes for me. Well-structured with an excellent balance of tannin, fruit and and acid. On the nose I found spice notes with candied cherry and plum, leading to a palate, that is broad and textured, hitting every single corner of the palate. Summing up the taste is a beautiful, slow finish with resonating red fruit tones. A level of quality that is absolutely worth checking out.

2015 Avennia "Valery" Columbia Valley Bordeaux Blend
Review Date: 12-11-2018
A touch more focused and concentrated than the Gravura, and the nose here is definitely St. Emilion-inspired. On the palate this wine is incredibly balanced with tons of graphite and cassis. There is an abundant minerality to this wine that I absolutely love. For me, this wine neatly fits into the category of exceptional Bordeaux blends from unexpected places--not unlike the Rustenberg from South Africa. There is a touch more fruit than you would otherwise find in most Bordeaux, but the level of quality is stunning. You can’t find Bordeaux this well made at this price point. This is well worth the effort of buying a case to stow away in the cellar.

2016 Passopisciaro "Passorosso" Etna Rosso Sicilia
Review Date: 12-10-2018
One word for this wine: wow. Just when I thought I had a hand on Etna wines, this wine came along and blew what I thought I knew out of the water. This is beautiful expression of layered strawberry and cranberry red-fruit notes, accented by crushed black pepper and garrigue. Textured with full, bright acidity and the faintest touches of crackly tannin it can feel like dark, earthy Pinot Noir at one moment and brilliant, cool-climate Syrah at the next. Totally accessible and utterly delicious I can’t even tell you how much I loved this wine. It’s seriously unbelievable.
Price: $31.99 Add To Cart
RP 91 WE 91

2012 Roederer Estate "L'Ermitage" Anderson Valley Brut Sparkling Wine
Review Date: 12-05-2018
Here’s the problem with iconic wines: you know they’re great, you recommend them to friends, and then over time they tend to get overlooked as trendier wines comes and go. Then you taste them again, and are shocked by how good it is. It was far better than you recalled, and suddenly you remember why this wine is the best in its class. Take, for instance, the 2012 Roederer Estate l’Ermitage. I recommend this domestic sparkling wine to customers all the time. Why? Because in my opinion, it is the most superior sparkling wine produced in California. Yet, when our buyer opened a bottle of this the other day, I had forgotten how stunning this bottle really is. Intense, focused it is a case-study in precision and power. Plenty of crisp citrus tones, fading to crystallized cherry on the finish. Impeccably balanced with bright and clear flavors.Unbelievable. A perfect reminder right before the holidays that domestic sparkling wines can stand up to some of the best wines out there, and a classic wine should never, never be taken for granted.

2015 Domaine Gourt de Mautens Vaucluse Rouge
Review Date: 07-23-2018
Wow. This wine totally lives up to the hype. The nose is full of garrigue, violets, and gamey fruit--there must be plenty of Mourvedre in the blend. On the palate, the tannin structure was tuned perfectly, present and complimentary, not nearly as rough and extracted as other Southern Rhones I've tasted recently. The fruit expression is totally gorgeous. Medium weight with plenty of acid, this wine is spicy and focused with intense, pure fruit. Hell of a wine.
Price: $54.99 Add To Cart
JD 97

2015 Graci "Arcuria" Etna Bianco
Review Date: 06-17-2018
In a recent tasting of wines from Etna, this wine was a total stunner. I don't think I've ever had an Etna Bianco like this, much less an Italian wine. Despite the fact that it still showcased all the gorgeous elements of minerality and focus you tend to associate with Etna Bianco, the Graci Arcuria has the added element of flintiness--in the glass it was reminiscent of white Burgundy. Agile, light, intensely powerful with an almost vicious acidity, this wine absolutely blew me away. It's time for me to move the needle on what I thought these wines are capable of.

2015 Xavier Vignon Vacqueyras
Review Date: 06-04-2018
The 2015 Xavier Vignon Vacqueyras is just another reason why you should be drinking 2015 Southern Rhones. The nose is full of smoke and earth, above a floor of dark fruit. Nice and rich, it leans toward a more opulent style. It is mouthcoating with dark fruits and raspberries with a spicy finish. The best thing about this wine is it goes to this perfect place with plenty of fruit, without becoming a jammy fruit bomb. This is wine is an absolute killer value.

2015 Xavier Vignon Cairanne
Review Date: 06-04-2018
I was pleasantly surprised by the entire 2015 line-up from Xavier Vignon. The Cairanne has a striking aromatic profile, with blackberry fruit aromas beneath a slightly perfumed note of lavender and garrigue. Nice, light, and fresh with poppy acidity this is Southern Rhone easy-drinking at its best. If you have loved wines like the Delas Cotes-du-Rhone in the past, you should definitely check this out. It is a big step up that is still at a great, everyday price.
Price: $16.99 Add To Cart
RP 91 - 93

2016 Moulin de la Gardette "Tradition" Gigondas
Review Date: 05-14-2018
I am so excited to see that the 2016 Moulin de la Gardette “Tradition” back at K&L. This is a legendary customer and staff favorite around here, and coming right off the back of exceptionally good 2015 vintage, I am thrilled to report that the 2016 is even better. I have a soft spot for the “Tradition”. Of the two wines of Moulin de la Gardette, it is a little more wild, rustic, and true to place. This is exactly what Gigondas should taste like. And it is delicious. The nose in unbelievably aromatic: earthy as all get-out with perfumed elements of garrigue and broody dark fruit tones. On the palate, the richness of this wine is absolutely full-throttle. Densely structured with plenty of tannin, the quality of the 2016 vintage has really pushed what is normally a charming and rustic wine to become a serious wine of extraordinary high quality, and I have no doubt will be even better in the years to come.

2015 Guy Farge "Harmonie" Cornas
Review Date: 05-14-2018
The Guy Farge “Harmonie” is a perfect example of how extraordinary vineyard sites, when treated with care and thoughtfulness, always produce superior wine. The “Harmonie:” is sourced from one of the great vineyards in Cornas, La Reynarde. Sandwiched in between the plots of Allemand and Clape, the two of the most sought-after and hard-to-find wines in the region. In the glass, the Farge is classic Cornas. There arerich, densely layered, dark fruits with elements of bacon fat and leather. Structured and well-defined, there is plenty of tannin, yet it is finely-textured, making the wine totally approachable. I was really shocked out how well the wine showed right out of the bottle. This has definitely secured the spot as my go-to Cornas.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart
JD 94 RP 91

2014 Château de Montfaucon "Baron Louis" Lirac
Review Date: 05-11-2018
I love the deep, black color of this wine. Hailing from the older vines on the property, the “Baron Louis” is classic Lirac. Brawny, and powerful with hints of smoke, depth and richness. Fruit on fruit, but with tons of earthy and herbal components to accompany, this is a wine for anyone who loves big Chateauneuf. This is dead-serious Southern Rhone, expressing all the hallmarks of some of the greatest wines in the region. It is absolutely nuts this wine costs $20.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
WS 91 RP 90

2015 Château de Montfaucon Lirac
Review Date: 05-11-2018
You can definitely taste the slightly elevated level of Syrah in the Montfaucon Lirac. There’s a burst of black pepper on the nose, and on the palate it leans towards black-fruited over red. The wine has a great acid line, that seems to run parallel to the fruit, giving the wine energy and verve without taking over the show. The tannins are just rustic enough to be charming, but soft enough to be accessible. This delivers just a touch more oomph than the Cotes-du-Rhone.
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart

2015 Château de Montfaucon Côtes du Rhône
Review Date: 05-11-2018
I’ve tasted and reviewed a lot of Cotes-du-Rhone, far too many to count. Yet, the Montfaucon, without doubt, is my year-in-year-out winner without any question. Super-dependable and always delicious, it over-delivers every single time I pop a bottle. Beautifully aromatic with notes of strawberry and a hint of garrigue. Bright on the palate with warm fruit and just a hint of tannin texture on the tail end. There is no question you will love this wine. It is really just that charming. I’ve never taken home a mixed case of reds without it.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart
RP 90

2014 Domaine de la Begude Bandol Rouge
Review Date: 05-08-2018
This is one of those wines that I knew I would fall head over heels for within moments of pouring a glass. Unbelievably explosive aromas of red fruits, black fruits with meaty undertones and an abundance of raw power. On the palate, the acidity and the fruit interplay beautifully with structure creating a seamless character on the wine. After tasting, I was surprised how well this walks the line between upfront fruit and old world style and character. It checks all the boxes for me: fruit, character, balance and sense of place. Anyone who feels like they are in a rut with their same old wine choices needs to try one of these bottles. It is absolutely outstanding.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
WE 94

2015 Yves Cuilleron "Cavanos" Saint-Joseph Vieilles Vignes
Review Date: 03-12-2018
I’ve been obsessive about St. Joseph recently. It’s one of the largest appellations in the Northern Rhone with 26 different villages and a plurality of different climates, soils, and sites. There’s plenty of good St. Joseph out there, but also plenty that isn’t good—so it’s important to make your selections judiciously. The ‘Cavanos’ uses the ancient name for the commune of Charvanay, the most Northern in St. Joseph and one of top sites within the St. Joseph AOC. It has gorgeous aromas of black pepper spice. On the palate there is dark fruit with a hint of oak as well as lighter red fruits. Stunning acidity really brightens the fruit, and all the elements hit you exactly where you want them to. This is St. Joseph does Cote-Rotie. One of my favorite wines on the shelf right now.

2013 Site Wines "Larner Vineyard" Grenache Ballard Canyon Santa Barbara
Review Date: 03-05-2018
This is a wine that Grenache drinkers absolutely need to check out. Actually, this is a wine for anyone that loves dark, rich, fruit-forward wines. At times, with its thin skins, Grenache can turn out light and flimsy, but with enough extraction and great fruit sources, it can be deftly powerful while still maintaining balance. The Site Wines Grenache is definitely in the later category, with rich, black berry and black cherry fruits delivered on silky tannins. This is definitely closer kin to Priorat than the Southern Rhone and is easily the best California Grenache I've had in the last year.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart
RP 94 VN 91

2014 Domaine de Montbourgeau "En Banode" l'Etoile
Review Date: 03-02-2018
This is the perfect entry-point for those of you who are interested in wines from the Jura. A blend of Chardonnay and Savanign, this wine is lean, and backed by powerful acidity that would make it an incredible food wine. There is a ton of lime and floral notes, neatly framed by just the slightest notes of nutty, oxidative character. Light and breathy, but focused and powerful this is exactly the type of wine I'm drawn to from the region. This is a crowd-pleasing Jura wine that anyone would find delicious.
Price: $31.99 Add To Cart
RP 93

2015 Danjean-Berthoux Bourgogne Rouge "Chaume Ronde"
Review Date: 02-26-2018
Where have you been all my life? Super aromatic with spice, cranberry, and a gorgeous purity of fruit. Big acid. Wild, fresh, and fruity. I'm always a bit skeptical of recommending wines at the price range for cellaring, but I'm confident that the structural elements on this wine will actually improve if you want to case-down and forget it for a few years. But with that said, it's totally delicious now.
Price: $16.99 Add To Cart

2015 Domaine des Bosquets Gigondas
Review Date: 02-25-2018
I love Gigondas. While it's sister appellation Chateauneuf-du-pape typically steals most of the spotlight, I've continually been shocked by the quality and sheer beauty of these wines--at usually half the price. The Domaine des Bosquets comes from a single, 26 hectare vineyard at the top of the appellation, overlooking Rhone. Full of black fruits on the nose, with touches of vanilla and molasses, it follows up with lifted fruit, tons of blueberry tones and nice, crispy tannins. Rustic and lifted enough to be Gigondas, but sleek and polished enough for anyone to enjoy. I can't recommend these wines enough.

2015 Chante Cigale "l'Extrait" Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc
Review Date: 02-25-2018
The Chante Cigale "l'Extrait" is a blend 60% Roussanne, 40% Grenache blanc, and a step up from the classic Chante Cigale Chateauneuf-du-pape Blanc that is a year-in-year-out staff and customer favorite. Fermented in concrete eggs with nine months of sur-lees aging, the l'Extrait is a gorgeous new take from a classic producer. The roussanne expression really punches through on the nose, full of pears, citrus apricot and floral notes. On the palate, there's that Southern Rhone big weight, and thick texture. But what I love most about this wine is the zippy acid profile, which surges through the wine, accentuating the fruit, and leading to a resonating finish.

2016 Domaine des Rémizières Crozes-Hermitage
Review Date: 01-26-2018
This is a tremendous follow-up to the epic Remizieres 2015 Crozes-Hermitage we offered last year. If what we as the staff buy at K&L is any indication of quality, I bought more of Remizieres Crozes-Hermitage than any other wine, ever. Currently, I’m on track to beat that with the 2016. For lovers of Syrah, this is an absolute must-buy. Where you going to find a $16 Syrah anywhere that has the focus on quality and the hand-made production you find here? It’s upfront and fruity with all of that black pepper and spice goodness that you’re looking for, along with zesty acid and black fruits. It’s broad and full without going over the top, and retains that balance you’re only going to find in the northern Rhone. I can’t say enough about the staggering quality for the price of this wine.
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart
WS 90

2014 Domaine Lafage "Tessellae" Carignan Côtes Catalanes Vieilles Vignes
Review Date: 04-03-2017
Don't wear a hat when drinking this one. Raspberry, plum, and sour cherries with just a touch of garrigue. On the palate, the acidity just grabs on and takes you for a ride. Backed up with just a whisper of accessible tannin, this is a high-octane thrill of a wine. Soaring red fruit all over the place. A citrusy and warm finish leaves you huffing and puffing, asking, "What the heck just happened?". This is a big, intense, and powerful wine, and one that's unbelievable for the price.
Price: Hidden View Price
RP 92