Staff Favorites - Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith
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Tom Smith


2019 Coal Pit "Tiwha" Pinot Noir Gibbston Central Otago
Review Date: 11-08-2023
The 2019 Coal Pit Tiwha (Pronounced “Tee-Fa”) hits Central Otago, and more specifically the region of Gibbston right on the nose. The aroma has a rusty, irony edge with savory undertones below a classic Gibbston floral perfume. The body here is bold and full; there’s an abundance of black cherry and black berry with a restrained acidity that lets the fruit resonate on the palate. Produced entirely from a small, Maori owned single vineyard, every aspect of quality-driven craft Pinot Noir production is here: wild ferments, 35% whole cluster a just under ⅓ in well executed New French Oak. Most certainly a Central Otago producer to watch.

2021 Coal Pit "Proprietor's Reserve" Sauvignon Blanc Gibbston Central Otago
Review Date: 11-08-2023
Central Otago Sauvignon Blanc isn’t necessarily “a thing”. Most winemakers in the region have put all their eggs in the Pinot Noir basket, which is the signature grape variety of Central Otago. But there are a handful of producers crafting excellent examples of the variety–and doing so in a way that is totally different from their Northerly neighbors in Marlborough. Barrel aged, lees contact, and longer elevage are the common line through these wines, unlike Marlborough where most producers use massive stainless steel tanks and work speedily to rush their wines to market as quickly as possible. With that said, the Coal Pit Sauvignon Blanc is easily the best Central Otago Sauvignon Blanc I have ever tasted. Incredibly distinctive, and still absolutely delicious this wine was an absolute stunner. From a single vineyard in Gibbston planted in 1994, this Sauvignon blanc displays a unique honeyed nose with supporting notes of spice and white pepper. Its weight and substantiveness makes it feel almost like a Chardonnay in terms of its body, and the palate follows up with green melon and citrus before a Marzipan laden finish. A hint of RS curbs its powerful acidity, bringing the entire glass together. This was an absolute “wow” bottle of wine for me.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart

2021 AXR Napa Valley Proprietary Red
Review Date: 11-08-2023
Over the past two years, things have been changing significantly in Napa. It used to be that there were numerous options for the savvy consumer looking for great wines under $40. Unfortunately for us all, that time has passed. There are fewer and fewer wines at this price that have the quality we expect from Napa. Enter the AXR Bordeaux Blend. Over the years this has been a consistent, excellent value. But with the state of Napa pricing today, I think this wine is on a whole different level. Despite this being listed as a Bordeaux blend, AXR would be within their rights to simply designated it as a Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes up 75% of the blend. And it feels more like a well-balanced Cabernet than the typical Napa Bordeaux Blend or Meritage. I love the note of crushed stone and subtle bell pepper edge of aromas here. But the palate is fully shrouded in black cassis and blackberry with subtle notes of nutmeg and baking spice. Easily full bodied, but not overwhelming in weight, the tannin and acid are in lock step with one another–leading to a dry, zesty finish. One of the best deals coming out of Napa this year.

2019 Martin Woods "Havlin Vineyard" Van Duzer Corridor Chardonnay
Review Date: 11-08-2023
After tasting the 2019 Martin Woods Chardonnay for the first time–I am extremely impressed. Its aromatic start with a honeyed citrus note, expressing a resonance of purity and depth. The medium weight on the palate is graced by a subtle hint of fresh cut herbs, which, far from imparting a green note, amplifies the wine's freshness. A creamy mid-palate note exhibits a deft touch with lees contact, adding a unique weight for this style of Chardonnay. While not imitating Chablis, it leans decisively towards a leaner style of Chardonnay, brimming with refinement and elegance. At the back palate, a swing of acidity sweeps across the palate, leading into a prolonged finish. Since my introduction to Walter Scott wines a few years ago, this is easily the best Oregon Chardonnay I've tasted. Any comparison to the reigning master of Oregon Chardonnay is no light praise and a sign that you need to put Martin Woods on your radar.
Price: Hidden View Price

2021 STiRM "Benitoite" San Benito Country Red Blend
Review Date: 10-05-2023
I was almost dumbstruck by the 2021 Bentoite Red Blend by Stirm. First and foremost, I think Stirm is easily on my top 5 California wineries to watch right now, and this wine is exactly the reason. Their Cabernet Pfeiffer-driven red is feral and wild. Elements of iron and black fruits and on display in this extremely unique but well-executed bottling. I love the rugged, but mild tannin profile and its rustic, charming edges. This is the kind of wine I wish we had more of here in California. It calls to mind the regional table wines of France in Italy served in roadside bistros well off the beaten path. There’s an authenticity here that is impossible to fake and backed up by its quality. This is the kind of wine that gets me going.
Price: Hidden View Price

2018 Ragtag Wine Co. Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 10-05-2023
As much as I love both California Cabernet and the wines of Paso Robles, these days I’m finding it harder to make the case for Paso Cabernet. They’ve alway represented good quality, but particularly in the last ten years or so, I’ve seen a lot of producers increasing their usage of Oak influence to an almost hyperbolic level. Yes, the level of ripeness you get from Cab in Paso can take a bit more of it, but I feel there’s a number of producers who have jumped the shark on the level of oak, overshadowing the fruit expression and balance of the final wine. That’s what is excellent about this bottling of Ragtag Cabernet. This is a totally new producer to me, and what I love about this wine is that it definitely has Paso Robles soul, but without crossing the line on Oak. The concentration of fruit here is deep and velvety, with sweet cherry fruit, fig preserves and blackberry coulis. The profile is smooth and sleek, accented with just enough Oak to add spice and complexity without overwhelming the fruit. This is the best executed wine I’ve had from Paso in a long, long time.
Price: Hidden View Price

Smoke Wagon "Uncut - Unfiltered" Batch #173 Indiana Straight Bourbon Whiskey (750ml)
Review Date: 09-27-2023
If you have a second, take a look at my tasting profile. I don't review many Bourbons for K&L. Not that I don't love bourbon, I'm just more outfitted to write about wine than spirits. But every once in awhile a spirit will come across my desk that is so good, I can't help but write up, and boy, this smoke wagon is one of them. Absolutely slammin' good. Plenty of gorgeous fruit expression on the nose, but the palate is where it's at. I love that there's plenty of weight and sweetness, but it holds back from going to far in that direction. There's balance here, with just enough spicy character to give it some teeth. This is easily a top-shelf Bourbon that would make any serious Bourbon-head happy.
Price: $64.99 Add To Cart

2019 Cal Besso "lo Cirerer" Montsant
Review Date: 09-27-2023
I love Montsant. It's one of those off-shoot regional wines that may not be the first thing that comes to mind when entering a wine shop, but a wine that is incredibly consistent, high-value and totally delicious. I was lucky enough to have our Spanish buyer hand me a glass of the Lo Cirerer the other day and was remarkably impressed. There's a clear, powerful note of tobacco leaf that cuts through the dark fruit flavors of black cherry and blackberry that surrounds it. On the palate, there's a fullness and richness that has no business being in an under-$20 wine, while there's just enough tannin to give support to the fruit, but without dominating the palate or adding astringency. Delicious, full-bodied and a perfect choice for anyone who might find themselve in a drinking rut.
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart

2019 Voyager Estate Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon Margaret River Western Australia
Review Date: 09-26-2023
Another incredible deal from Margaret River’s Voyager Estate. While the Voyager Girt by Sea is inspired by the wines of Bordeaux’s Left Bank, their Estate Sauv/Sem is a love letter to the Bordeaux Blanc. A barrel aged blend of 68% Sauvignon Blanc with 32% Semillon, this is another great example of an old-world style wine with new-world fruit expression. The nose of this wine kicks off a bright complex nose of, crackling citrus zest, hints of yogurt, marzipan and almond butter. The palate was more weighted than I had expected, with beautiful notes of poached pears, and riper citrus tones. A good crack of citrus on the palate counters the weight, giving a nice overall balance to the wine before a long saline finish. There’s plenty of bold fruit expression throughout, but with the elegance and poise that lends a sophistication nowhere near this price point. A phenomenal wine at its price that makes this an easy case-buy for your new house white.

2017 Voyager Estate "Girt by Sea" Cabernet Merlot Margaret River Western Australia
Review Date: 09-26-2023
Buckle up everybody, because this is the best deal I’ve come across in my career. Voyager Estate is a top-five producer in Margaret River and has been since the earliest days of wine production in the region. Founded in 1978, they are one of the Pioneers of “Australia’s Napa” a growing region so similar in climate to the Napa Valley that Robert Mondavi was an early investor and catalyst for its wines. These days, Margaret River is center-stage for Australian fine wine, earning 30% of the country’s awards while making up less than 2% of the country’s production. The Voyager “Girt by the Sea” is a serious, substantial blend of 62% Cabernet, 35% Merlot and a splash of 3% Petite Verdot, all aged in French Oak. Right off the bat the aromatics call to mind Bordeaux, but with an all-around riper and brighter fruit profile provided by Margaret River’s warmer climate. Cassis and graphite dominate the nose while the palate is brims with sweet, black cherry fruit, cola notes, and soft touches of vanilla. Leaning toward the medium side of full body, the tannin here is soft and gentle while a great line of acidity lights up the palate. A few years ago I bought ten or so cases of this exact wine which we retailed for $25. So why the massive discount? Unfortunately after an importer went out of business a massive parcel of this wine was left stuck in New Jersey with no one to sell it. With K&L’s knowledge of the producer and their excellent wines we happily agreed to pick it up at fire-sale prices and pass those along to our customers. This is a stone-cold $25 wine worth every penny. And at $9.99, this one of the best deals of the year.

2020 Dominique Portet "Fontaine" Cabernet Sauvignon Yarra Valley Victoria
Review Date: 09-17-2023
Of all the wines I discovered on my trip to Victoria in June of this year, the Dominique Portet Fontaine might be the best. Ben Portet, the current winemaker, is wine industry royalty. His grandfather helmed Lafite Rosthchild decades, his uncle founded Clos du Val in Napa, and his father was one of the original flying winemakers, a group of Bordeaux winemakers that consulted for wineries across the globe. Despite the fact that the Yarra Valley is principally known for producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, its cold and marine-influenced climate is actually highly similar to Bordeaux. In fact, the wineries entire line-up of wines is made exactly the same way as Bordeaux, yielding a wine that has many old-world sensibilities, but superimposed onto bright, ripened, new-world fruit. Even as an entry level wine, I think the Fontaine is one of the best values in Cabernet in the whole store. The nose is all about pure, unadulterated cassis fruit. Aromatically driven, this has well integrated pyrazine character along with an oak profile that stands evenly with the the fruit. Spicy and textured on the palate, with fine tannins and an unexpected whip of acidity that strikes the mid palate. I poured this for our owner and Bordeaux buyer Clyde who remarked, “it’s pretty good,” which is the highest praise I’ve ever heard from him for a wine outside Bordeaux. At $20, you’ll be shocked at how good this wine is.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2020 Fromm "The Curation" Pinot Noir Marlborough
Review Date: 09-17-2023
We love the wines from Fromm here at K&L. Known for being Marlborough’s best producer of Pinot Noir, they craft some of the finest artisanal Pinot Noir in the country from a small handful of the absolute best certified organic vineyards in Marlborough. We've been importing Fromm's "Cuvee H" Pinot Noir for nearly a decade because it's one of the best wines they produce. However, this year, the Cuvee H is now being bottled under a new name: The Curation. It's still the exact same wine as the H, which is essentially a selection of the best barrels from each of their organic vineyard sites with a slight emphasis on first-use barrels. The Curation embodies Fromm at its best, offering pure, darkly fruited Pinot Noir with the spicy influence of French Oak. The 2020 vintage has produced a tremendous rendition of this wine, with aromas of clove, blackberry, and Asian plum. On the palate, it delivers intense concentration and serious weight, featuring an abundance of sweet fruit that envelops the entire palate before leading to a notably dry finish that lingers. One of New Zealand's best Pinot Noirs, suitable for both experienced connoisseurs and newcomers, this wine offers extraordinary quality for the price.
Top Value!

2022 Fromm "Pinot Naturel" Pinot Noir Marlborough
Review Date: 09-17-2023
Fromm is one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed producers of Pinot Noir. Based in the heart of New Zealand's Marlborough region, Fromm sources its fruit from the absolute best, organically farmed vineyards in the Southern Valleys—the best subregion for Marlborough Pinot Noir. The Naturel is sourced from Churton, Wrekin, and Fromm’s Estate vineyards, all certified organic. It is fermented with wild yeast, utilizing 25% whole bunches and partial carbonic maceration, akin to Beaujolais, to enhance its bright, fresh, and fruity character. Aged in old Burgundian barrels to avoid oak flavors, this wine is neither fined nor filtered. On the palate, it exudes bright, poppy, and juicy fruit. In some ways, this strikes me as a Pinot-Noir rendition of top-tier Cru Beaujolais producers. Further exploration of the glass reveals meaty, smoky, feral, and wild aspects in this incredibly distinctive Pinot Noir. It exhibits more concentration on the palate than one would expect, with abundant blue fruit and a snarling tannin structure that grips the mid-palate and lingers through the finish. Overall, it is a truly exceptional wine executed exceedingly well, offering an interesting point of view and perspective.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

2020 Akitu "A1" Pinot Noir Central Otago
Review Date: 09-17-2023
Andrew Donaldson is the founder and owner of Akitu winery in the Wanaka subregion of Central Otago. Unlike most other producers in Central Otago, Andrew is dedicated to growing and making only one thing: Pinot Noir. By persistently experimenting with various clones, rootstocks, and soil types within the microblocks of his vineyard, Donaldson is on a relentless pursuit to enhance the quality of his wine. His entry-level A2 wine is an absolute delight, but the A1 Pinot Noir is in a league of its own. Predominantly made from the Abel clone and featuring a higher percentage of whole cluster and New French Oak than the A2, the A1 represents a significant leap in both quality and seriousness. The palate begins with dark fruit notes of black cherry and black raspberry, underscored by forest floor, accented by subtle nuances of clove and nutmeg, The wine's aromatic intensity is laser-sharp, and it boasts a finish with extraordinary length and verve. An extraordinary value, rivaling classic American Pinot Noirs that cost two to three times as much.

2020 Fromm Pinot Noir Marlborough
Review Date: 09-14-2023
The 2020 vintage sees Fromm continuing its reputation as the absolute best producer of Pinot Noir Marlborough. That’s a bit of an odd claim to fame considering this region is known primarily for Sauvignon Blanc. However, Fromm was a pioneering producer in the region and saw the potential for excellent Pinot Noir in many sites early on. Fromm concentrates its efforts on the Southern Valleys subregion of Marlborough, a region characterized by steep valleys abundant in clay, a critical element for cultivating Pinot Noir here. Currently, Fromm sources Pinot Noir from select top-quality blocks situated in Marlborough's premier Pinot Noir vineyards. The winery is committed to using only organically grown fruit, and every stage of the wine production process is carried out by hand. Yet, what stands out about Fromm is, unmistakably, the wines themselves. Pinot Noir at this price point generally leans towards excessive sweetness and a soft texture for immediate consumption. This is not the case with Fromm. Their entry-level Pinot Noir is crafted with the same meticulous attention to detail as their top-tier wines. These are impressively well-made, age-worthy Pinot Noirs, boasting robust structure and exquisite aromatics. The 2020 vintage introduces aromas of red fruits, notably strawberry and cherry, underlined by a wet-cobblestone minerality. Dark fruits emerge on a broad, textured palate that is full-bodied yet not overly heavy. A vibrant line of acidity streaks through the center of the palate, harmonizing the fruit and tannins to perfection. Exceptionally good value for its price, this is a remarkably refined Pinot Noir available at a remarkably accessible price.
Top Value!

2020 Akitu "A2" Pinot Noir Central Otago
Review Date: 09-11-2023
Andrew Donaldson is one of only three winemakers situated in the remote northern reaches of Central Otago, specifically in the subregion of Wanaka. His winery, named Akitu, means 'Zenith' in Maori, a clever nod to the nearby peak of Mount Barker, as well as Andrew’s aspirations in the Pinot World. Andrew is an obsessive devotee of Pinot Noir—it's the only grape variety he grows and the only wine he makes. Remarkably, he possesses some of the most diverse Pinot Noir clonal material in New Zealand with which he is constantly adjusting, experimenting with the microblocks of his vineyard. Constantly replanting tiny sections of his vineyards, looking for the best combination of clone, rootstock, and soil type, he’s always pushing the envelope to enhance the quality of his wine. What astounds me is that even after twenty years, his wines continue to improve year after year, every single year. I risk sounding like a broken record, but the 2020 Akitu A2 is the most irresistible vintage of this wine ever produced. This is the type of wine that any Pinot drinker will understand, and I challenge not love. It possesses an incredible sense of drive and focus, with vibrant notes of black cherry dominate, with sweet tomato compote, dried flower petals, and wild thyme playing supporting roles. On the palate, a savory, almost wild element strikes at the onset, before generously fruited, dark berry flavors sweep across the mid-palate and into the finish. In terms of deliciousness, Andrew has gone straight for the jugular with this one, hitting the nail on the head in the process. Absolutely stellar.
Top Value!

2021 TED by Mount Edward Pinot Noir Central Otago
Review Date: 09-11-2023
I often get asked to recommend Pinot Noir at K&L, which is one of my absolute favorite questions. Unfortunately, this question is often amended by the request to keep it under $20 or less, which suddenly makes the question much more tricky. Here’s why: Pinot Noir is an incredibly expensive grape to grow and wine to make. Incredibly susceptible to all kinds of adverse weather, pests and molds, growing Pinot Noir is a constant struggle and labor of love for the winemakers who commit to it. Which means in California, $20 doesn’t get you a whole lot of Pinot Noir. There’s a few examples here and there, but most are usually multi-regional mass produced wines that don't really have much in the way of sense of place or the people that make them. And Burgundy under $20? You can’t even buy a bad Burgundy at that price, much less a good one. That’s why I always encourage those who are value oriented to look for wines from unexpected places–this is where you are going to find those hidden gem wines we’re all constantly searching for. And for me, there isn’t a Pinot Noir in the store that even holds a candle to the TED Pinot for under $20. Made by one of Central Otago’s premier producers, Mount Edward, all the fruit is sourced from their fully organic and biodynamic vineyards in Central Otago. This is honest, genuine Pinot Noir made by a leading producer that nails Central Otago on the head. With bright crackling cranberry fruit above darker notes of brambly Blackberry, there’s a subtle note of dried thyme–a signature of Central Otago Pinot Noir. It has all the lift and drive that I expect from top wines in the region. Dry and composed on the pallet, there is a beautiful trill of fine, softened tannin. A thrilling wine that delivers everything you would expect from a handcrafted Pinot Noir, except the price.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2022 Fromm Riesling Spätlese Marlborough
Review Date: 09-11-2023
I've stated it previously, and I'll say it again: the Fromm Spatlese is my favorite wine at K&L. It's incredibly delicious, impeccably clean, a versatile pairing option, and priced perfectly for weeknight takeout. To be fair, this is not what Fromm is known for. In fact, Fromm is widely celebrated across New Zealand as Marlborough's premier Pinot Noir producer, first and foremost. Really, the Spatlese is a bit of an afterthought. But I honestly believe it’s the best thing they do. I love their commitment to this style of sweet Riesling, even as sweet wines have rapidly dropped out of favor in the past decade.. This is my go-to wine for pairing with Thai, Indian, and Szechuan cuisine. It creates a stunning complement for all three, especially the 2022 vintage. I found this wine incredibly fresh and juicy, with tart Fiji apple notes, lime juice, and a robust red cherry note that lands right in the center of the palate. There's a surge of acidity, but the approximately 80g/L of residual sugar tempers it, preventing it from becoming too aggressive. This wine is absolutely outstanding. I purchase this wine ten times more frequently than any other wine in the store.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2019 Tarrawatta "Ambervale" Shiraz Eden Valley
Review Date: 09-11-2023
Though Tarrawatta was established as recently as 2017, it is far from being a "new producer" in the traditional sense. Firstly, Tarrawatta was founded by the same group that established the renowned Sloan Estate in Napa and Chateau Le Bon Pasteur in Pomerol, Bordeaux. Secondly, Tarrawatta sources its fruit from the historic Ambervale vineyard in the northern end of the Eden Valley. A grape-growing site since the 1800s, its current vines date back to 1968 and are entirely dry-grown. While Eden Valley wines tend to be more medium-bodied and acid-driven compared to their Barossa Valley counterparts, the Tarrawatta Shiraz is a powerhouse in terms of concentration and intensity. Indeed, the hallmarks of Eden Valley are present—the bright acidity slices through the weight of the palate like a hot knife through butter, and ample yet soft tannins provide structure and a framework for the velvety fruit. Decadent and nearly brimming with classic Shiraz black fruits, this wine is balanced by intriguing notes of eucalyptus and anisette. This is a big, classically styled Shiraz but with unique touches and details rarely found in wines under the $100 price point. It's a bold calling card from a new arrival in South Australia determined to make their mark.

2019 Tarrawatta "Ambervale" Cabernet Sauvignon Eden Valley
Review Date: 09-11-2023
If you're a fan of the classic, robust style of South Australian Reds, the 2019 Tarrawatta "Ambervale" Cabernet is among the best I've encountered. Tarrawatta acquired the historic Ambervale vineyard in 2017. And since its inaugural release, the wines have garnered significant acclaim throughout Australia. The vineyard itself dates back to the 1800s, but the current vines were planted in 1968. Nestled in the cooler, northern end of the Eden Valley, this hilltop vineyard boasts red loam soils over deep gravelly clay. The resulting wine is inky black and incredibly viscous as it swirls around the glass. This Cabernet masterfully balances the intensity of both fruit and oak, presenting a palate brimming with ripe fig, sour plum, and cassis, juxtaposed with vanilla and clove notes from the 20% new French oak. Beneath these two dominant flavors, there's an array of intriguing undertones: graphite, wet gravel, and the faintest hint of iodide. However, the real star of the show is the mouth-coating concentration and ripeness—it's absolutely unparalleled. Despite its rich, purple fruit, the wine doesn't lack acidity in the slightest. This is a big, rich, powerful wine, impeccably crafted from a venerable old-vine source. It embodies what Barossa is all about.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart

2019 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir Martinborough
Review Date: 09-04-2023
As much as I loved the tension and aromatic elegance of the 2018 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, the 2019 Ata Rangi demonstrates the power, drive and exceptional composition that earned this winery their legendary reputation. Recently, their head winemaker Helen Master’s explained that Ata Rangi’s wines fall into two categories: vintages that express more aromatics and taut acidity, and vintages that flex power and fruit character. The 2019 is of the later, and like its predecessors the 17, 16, and 13, this is an incredibly focused and exceptionally crafted wine that is not only delicious now, but will continue to develop beautifully over the next 10-15 years. One of only two wines given “Grand Cru” status by New Zealand wine growers, Ata Rangi is the country’s best producer and one of the top Pinot Noir producers worldwide. Which is shocking when you compare its price to its peers in the United States and France. Ata Rangi’s flagship Pinot Noir consistently delivers at a world-class level, and I believe it’s one of the best kept secrets in Pinot Noir. The 2019 has all the hallmarks of classic Martinborough Pinot Noir. Deep, dark color, intense concentration and a backbone of savory character that rides from the first sip to the long, resonating finish. The power here reminds me of the 2017, but unlike the 2017 there’s a touch less overt Oak influence, leaving the window open for more delicate nuances of white pepper, floral notes, and dried orange peel while on the palate there’s fresh cranberry, tart cherry, and asian sour plum notes that make this extremely accessible now. Regardless, there’s a good base of tannin that sits on the backplate like a coiled spring–give this a few years in the cellar, and it will continue to improve for up to the next 15 years. This is a stellar vintage from Ata Rangi, and the first of a three-year run of exceptional vintages from New Zealand’s top producer. We were only able to secure half of our normal allocation for this exceptional vintage and these wines can only be found at K&L, so don’t miss out!
Top Value!

2022 Akitu Pinot Noir Blanc Central Otago
Review Date: 08-23-2023
Andrew Donaldson, the owner and winemaker of Akitu Wines, has a profound passion for Pinot Noir. This is why he began to feel frustrated when visitors to his Central Otago tasting room expressed disappointment over the absence of white wine options. To rectify this, Andrew introduced a white wine to his collection three vintages ago: the Akitu Pinot Noir Blanc. This white wine is uniquely crafted entirely from the black Pinot Noir grape. While it may be produced similarly to a rosé, it is decidedly not a rosé. The art of rosé revolves around perfecting the color and skin extraction, whereas the Akitu Pinot Noir Blanc is created with minimal skin contact. They've even upgraded their equipment to press the grapes off the skins directly in the middle of the vineyard, basket-by-basket, ensuring that the grapes transform straight from the vine into juice in the tank. The 2022 vintage is the finest rendition of this wine that Andrew has ever produced. The nose is graced with a beautiful blend of poached pear, lemon juice, and honey crisp apple, underpinned by subtle aromas of dried thyme, red cherry, and hazelnut. On the palate, this wine is round and full, with texture and weight taking center stage, complemented by a pleasing hint of acidity just before the finish. This is a remarkably small, yet growing, wine style that is gaining recognition worldwide. Whether it's the Pinot Noir Blanc from Waits-Mast in Mendocino or the Pinot Nero Bianco from Torti in Italy, an increasing number of customers are discovering this style. However, no one crafts it better than Akitu.

2022 TWR (Te Whare Ra) "Toru" White Blend Marlborough
Review Date: 08-23-2023
Te Whare Ra (TWR) is renowned for producing K&L's preferred Sauvignon Blanc. However, it may be surprising to learn that they primarily identify themselves as makers of Alsatian wines. When owners Anna and Jason Flowerday bought their historic vineyard in 2001, the majority of the vineyard was dedicated not to Sauvignon Blanc, but to Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer—grapes traditionally grown in the French wine region of Alsace. Over time, the Flowerdays fostered relationships with their French counterparts, relationships they continue to maintain and rely on to this day. The Toru is a blend of these three grape varieties: 50% Gewurztraminer, 25% Riesling, and 25% Pinot Gris. Its name, meaning "three" in the Maori language, reflects this blend. Modeled after the classic Alsatian blended whites known as "Gentil," the Toru offers a unique take on this traditional old-world wine style. The aroma of this wine is dominated by stone fruit, white nectarine, and hints of citrus zest. The Gewurztraminer is subtly presented, with just a whisper of its characteristic rose/lychee in the background, contributing to the wine's broad aromatic profile. On the palate, it's leaner and more refreshing than its Alsatian counterparts. Despite its relatively low 5g/L of residual sugar, the wine is noticeably dry, with taut acidity and excellent balance. This is a truly unique and distinctive wine. While it certainly nods to the old world, the Flowerdays have crafted a strikingly modern and delicious version that is entirely their own.
Top Value!
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2022 TWR (Te Whare Ra) Rosé Marlborough
Review Date: 07-31-2023
The TWR Rose is back! K&L’s #1 selling Rose from last year has just landed from New Zealand, and this vintage is better than ever. Made by husband-and-wife team Anna and Jason Flowerday, the TWR Rose is an incredibly delicious, all organic, single vineyard rose from Marlborough’s most historic vineyard. Like all of TWR’s wines, their 2022 Rose is elegant, perfectly balanced, and focused on texture to create lift and drive in the resulting wine. There’s beautiful fruit expression here: think fresh cherries, strawberry and raspberry with subtle undertones of rose petals and papaya. Bone-dry, the acid profile here is crisp and refreshing without being aggressive or puckering. This year, they’ve returned to sourcing 100% of their fruit from their original estate vineyard which Jason farms and the quality is absolutely off the charts. After recently staging a tasting for the staff that included examples from across the globe, it was unanimous that the TWR Rose was the winner. Organic, delicious, and a cut-above rest of the rose crowd, the Te Whare Ra rose is an absolute stunner of a wine that you don’t want to miss out on.
Top Value!

2021 Felton Road "Cornish Point" Pinot Noir Central Otago
Review Date: 05-31-2023
The Cornish Point Pinot Noir is crafted from their stunning 20-acre vineyard in Bannockburn. Situated on the Cainmur Peninsula and surrounded on three sides by the waters of lake Dunstan, there is no other vineyard like this in Central Otago. Due to the low elevation and proximity to the lake, the fruit is often among the first to be harvested. The vineyard's unique soil profiles, composed of loess over schist-derived river gravels, accommodate 18 different combinations of variety and rootstock, allowing for separate vinification of each section. The resulting Cornish Point Pinot Noir is notable for its dense, dark fruit flavors and warm, inviting textures. Softer acidities and well-rounded tannins contribute to its appeal, while the intense bouquet features spicy strawberry notes up front.

2021 Felton Road "Calvert Vineyard" Pinot Noir Central Otago
Review Date: 05-31-2023
The Calvert Pinot Noir, originates from the vineyard just two kilometers east of Bannockburn's center, offers a deeper, darker, and more brooding expression. With early and consistent ripening, this wine showcases excellent texture, mouthfeel, floral aromatics, and ripe dark fruits. The fine, focused tannins and distinct minerality make it a standout selection.

2021 Felton Road "Bannockburn" Pinot Noir Central Otago
Review Date: 05-31-2023
Felton Road's Bannockburn Pinot Noir is an exceptional entry-level offering that consistently exceeds expectations. Sourced from the winery's four biodynamic and organic vineyards in Bannockburn, this wine utilizes identical fruit cultivation and winemaking practices as their single-vineyard and single-block wines. Year after year, it sets the benchmark for the region, showcasing Bannockburn's unparalleled potential for producing remarkable Pinot Noir.

2021 Shaw + Smith "M3" Chardonnay Adelaide Hills South Australia
Review Date: 05-17-2023
I’ve been banging the drum regarding Australian Chardonnay for a while now. No where else are you going to find a higher level of quality and range of styles at a better price. From the cool-climate elegance of the Adelaide Hills to the richness and precision of the Yarra Valley, these diverse terroirs have fostered a new generation of winemakers with a keen focus on reinventing Australian Chardonnay. The Shaw + Smith is a perfect example of this. Produced across three vineyards in some of the coolest sites of the Adelaide Hills, Shaw + Smith has been consistently improving with every vintage and earning acclaim for their wines across Australia. Their Chardonnays are crafted with elegance and restraint, resulting in wines that are on par with some of Australia’s most iconic Chardonnays like the Leeuwin Art Series ($90), Penfolds Yattinara ($140), and Tasmanian producer Tolpuddle ($85).The M3 offers a bright and fresh aromas of stone and citrus fruit above honeysuckle. There’s a definite oak presence here, but you can taste the quality and the fineness of it with notes of vanilla and sweet cream integrating beautifully into lemon curd and white peach. At first sip, the wine seems delicate and pristine before a rush of fruit and acidity attack in the mid palate. A resounding finish with serious length and a persistent note of marzipan brings it to a close. An astonishingly good Chardonnay that deserves a seat among the best Chardonnays in Australia.
Top Value!

2020 Escarpment "Kupe" Pinot Noir Martinborough
Review Date: 04-24-2023
The 2020 Escarpment "Kupe" Pinot Noir Martinborough hails from the highly respected Escarpment Vineyard in New Zealand's premier region for Pinot Noir, Martinborough. Founded by Master of Wine Larry McKenna, the vineyard is known for crafting exceptional wines that showcase the hallmarks of the region: dark, savory and powerful Pinot Noir. The acclaimed "Kupe" Pinot Noir is sourced from a single vineyard in Martinborough’s Te Muna subregion, planted on an ancient river terrace with free-draining, gravelly soils and sheltered from the region's harsh winds. The vineyard itself is named for the Maori myth of Kupe, the first explorer to reach the shores of New Zealand. A quick dive into a glass of 2020 "Kupe" Pinot Noir Martinborough and it's clear that this is New Zealand Pinot Noir operating at the highest level. The wine displays a focused and definitive character, with a level of precision that can only be described as a coiled spring. This exceptional Pinot Noir boasts a complex array of vertical tannins, which provide the backbone for the rich, black fruit flavors. Delicate nuances of flower blossoms and light touches of Bing cherry aromas lead to a palate that is full of dark, blackberry fruit, plum and hints of anise and spice box. Easily one of the most cellar-worthy Pinot Noirs from New Zealand I’ve ever tasted. This is a powerful, well-structured wine whose quality is totally apparent and its place among New Zealand’s best wines undeniable.

2018 Meerlust "Rubicon" Bordeaux Blend Stellenbosch South Africa
Review Date: 04-10-2023
The Meerlust Rubicon is always a benchmark when discussion Bordeaux blends from South Africa. The flagship wine from Meerlust, I loved the 2018 vintage from this consummate producer. 2018 was a real drought-pressure year in Stellenbosch, with smaller berries and lower yields across the board. The result is a darkly concentrated, powerful vintage of Rubicon. I actually preferred it to the widely acclaimed '17 and '15. The oak is a strong component here, but matched evenly with the fruit. There's ample richness on the palate and concentration with slivers of vanilla that come through on the mid palate and ride to the finish. Cassis and black cherry are the dominate fruit flavors with a tannin profile that starts smooth as silk and grip hauntingly at the finish. A great vintage from one of South Africa's most consistently excellent producers.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart

2019 Meerlust "Red" Bordeaux Blend Stellenbosch
Review Date: 04-10-2023
The Meerlust Red is one of the most underrated wines in the entire store. At sub-$20, this wine absolutely over-delivers and is an exceptional choice for Bordeaux lovers out there. On the nose, this is dark, pure cassis fruit. Not overly fruity or ripe, but well balanced and stone-cold-dry. A hint of oak comes through on the palate, and a gorgeous tannin profile that bites in the mid-palate and holds on through the finish. In the Bordeaux tradition, this is Meerlust's second wine to their flagship Rubicon and is usually sourced from younger vines on the property. But the 2019 is a little different. When meeting with the cellarmaster Wim Truter, he informed me that this vintage utilized more declassified Rubicon than they've ever put into the blend before. And boy, does it show. Outstanding value.
Top Value!
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart

2022 Sheild (Middle-Earth) Sauvignon Blanc Nelson
Review Date: 03-29-2023
This is the first vintage we’ve offered of Sheild Wines, even though it is not exactly a new winery. Last year, one of our best-selling New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc producers, Middle Earth, was bought by their head winemaker Trudy Sheild. Trudy has been crafting the wines at Middle Earth for the last five years. She grew up the daughter of sheep herders in Hawkes Bay before going on to earn an advanced degree in Microbiology. Fortunately, after falling in love with a bottle of Montana Gewurztraminer, Sheild changed careers to winemaking and after stints in Italy and the Hunter Valley, she returned to New Zealand as head winemaker for Middle Earth. The inaugural vintage of Sheild is an excellent wine and a remarkable value. The wine leads with grapefruit, followed by intense notes of fresh cut pineapple and lime juice. This is a touch more weighted than your average New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and perfectly walks the line between mouth watering acidity and bold, tropical fruit. This has my vote for the best value white in the store.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart

2019 Rippon "Mature Vine" Pinot Noir Lake Wanaka Central Otago
Review Date: 03-28-2023
It’s rare for me to get this excited about a wine. But we were able to secure the absolute, best pricing on one of the best Pinot Noirs being made anywhere. For those that drink New Zealand Pinot Noir, Rippon is at the top of the list of best producers. For three generations the Mills family have been crafting powerful, structured Pinot Noirs from their astoundingly beautiful winery on the shores of Lake Wanaka in Central Otago. The current winemaker, Nick Mills, studied extensively in Burgundy before returning to helm the family's estate. And for all of its power, nuance and delicious character, the 2019 Rippon certainly has Burgundian sensibilities, but is a wonder of its own. What I love about this wine is how it unfurls in the glass. I opened it at ten in the morning and have been going back to it over and over throughout the day. At a first pop, all the classic hallmarks of Rippon are there: intense floral aromas, dried thyme, and a staunch tannin structure. Over time, the tannins soften, still giving the wine grip, but coming into balance with its blackfruited core. Each time I come back to this glass, there’s another layer of depth, and new detail that reveals itself. White pepper, desiccated strawberry, and forest floor. This wine just keeps on giving. There are few Pinot Noirs in the world that reach this level of quality, and even less at this price. This is a fantastic pricing on a world class Pinot Noir that you don’t want to miss.
Top Value!
Price: $54.99 Add To Cart

2022 Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
Review Date: 03-20-2023
In 2020, Allan Scott did the unthinkable–they received the one of highest ever Wine Spectator scores for a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Then in 2021, they did it again. This time time around they were named the #1 best value of the year. As for this year? You already know. Another staggering 93-Point score for what has now become a benchmark Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. I’m here to tell you that all praise Allan Scott has received in the last three vintages is absolutely warranted. What I love about the 2022 Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc is that it is dead-on classic Marlborough. Full of delicious tropical notes in addition to citrus, grapefruit and green apple, this is a bright and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc that is exceptionally executed and beautifully composed. We’re big believers in Allan Scott at K&L, and we worked to secure the best pricing possible on this new classic. I dare anyone to taste this side by side with Kim Crawford and tell me that Allan Scott isn’t twice the wine at a better price. For anyone who loves Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, this is a phenomenal deal on one of the most acclaimed value-wines on the planet.
Top Value!
Price: $13.99 Add To Cart

2022 TWR (Te Whare Ra) Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
Review Date: 02-01-2023
For most of our customers, TWR needs no introduction. This boutique producer creates the best hand-crafted Sauvignon Blanc found anywhere in New Zealand. Made by husband-and-wife team Jason and Anna Flowerday, TWR has been crafting exquisite, nuanced and delicious wines in the heart of Marlborough for over two decades. A true family owned and operated winery, Anna is an award-winning winemaker, while her husband Jason is a Marlborough local and the most in-demand viticulturist in the region. Together, they are pillars of the winegrowing community in Marlborough and champions of organic viticulture. The 2022 is one of their best in recent memory. What I love about his wine is that it’s one of their most aromatic. Lemongrass, jasmine, and citrus seemed to explode out of the bottle and fill the room within moments of opening. The hallmarks of TWR’s style are all here: focus, driving acidity that hits from first taste through the finish; a textured and weighted palate that lends substance and power; and a beautifully clean finish with all elements in perfect balance. In my opinion, there’s no better Sauvignon Blanc being made in Marlborough, or anywhere else for that matter. Whether you’re a long-time fan of TWR or just hearing about them for the first time, be sure to grab a bottle of the 2022 vintage–this is really something special.

2018 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir Martinborough
Review Date: 08-01-2022
It’s been nearly six months, but the next vintage of New Zealand’s best Pinot Noir has finally arrived! Founded in 1979 by Clive Patton, Ata Rangi is one of the pioneering producers of Martinborough and considered the absolute best of New Zealand Pinot Noir. Named “Tipuranga Teitei o Aoteroa” or “Grand Cru of New Zealand” in 2010, Ata Rangi and New Zealand’s other premiere producer, Felton Road, are the only two producers to have achieved this huge accolade. Made from the oldest vines from their organically farmed vineyards, nearly 70% is planted to Abel Clone, a New Zealand suitcase clone that was smuggled into the country from DRC. The 2018 rendition of Ata Rangi is exquisite. This is a dark, powerful and complex Pinot Noir with notes of black cherry, cedar and forest floor above a built and structured palate. Excellent now, this will dramatically improve with 5-10 years of cellaring. Whether you have a soft spot for New Zealand, or just love outstanding quality Pinot Noir, Ata Rangi is a global benchmark you can’t miss.

2018 Ordaz Family Wines "Montecillo Vineyard" Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 05-18-2022
Don’t be dissuaded by the label on the 2018 Ordaz Montecillo. It may not have the style or embossment that you’d find on the labels of other Sonoma producers, but it has something none of those other bottles have: exquisite, old-vine Cabernet fruit from one of Sonoma’s most historic and highest quality vineyards. That’s not just a talking point. What’s in the bottle is jaw-dropping. There’s a beautiful blend of intense cherry liqueur, mushroom and earth on the nose. There is a concentration and drive that’s ridiculous for this price point, and further at four years past the vintage, there are little hints and edges of tertiary age character that bring the whole wine together into an exceptional bottle of wine. If it's any testament to the quality–I bought a bottle the moment after I tasted it.
Price: $49.95 Add To Cart

Giesen "Zero" Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough (Dealcoholized)
Review Date: 12-26-2021
Over the last year, I've been asked more questions about the Giesen "Zero" Sauvignon Blanc than any other in the store. Much of this has to do with the fact that non-alcoholic wine and beer is starting to get more and more popular these days. The Giesen "Zero" is probably the best of the best when it comes to dealcholized wine. It's got bright acidity, real flavor, and comes pretty darn close to the original. Despite it's name, it actually has less than 0.5% abv, which is less than occurs in most fresh squeezed juices. With only 100 calories per bottles, this is a great alternative for anyone who can't have alcohol, but still wants to feel included at dinner.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart

2017 Sisters Ridge (Mt. Beautiful) Pinot Noir North Canterbury
Review Date: 12-26-2021
Let's face it: finding great Pinot Noir at a great price is a tall order. Luckily enough, this gorgeous North Canterbury Pinot Noir spectacularly fits the bill. Made by top New Zealand producer Mt. Beautiful, this is a $15 Pinot Noir that checks all the boxes. With bright, crunchy red fruit and savory undertones complemented by a bright snap of acidity, this is one of the only Pinot Noirs you'll find in its price that actually delivers, and then some.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart

2018 Mt. Beautiful "12 Barrels" Sauvignon Blanc North Canterbury
Review Date: 09-06-2021
I was thrilled when we had the opportunity to bring in this totally unique wine from Mt. Beautiful. The estate is widely known for crafting beautiful, mineral-driven Sauvignon Blanc from the Waipara region of New Zealand's South Island. They are excellent counter-points to the explosive, tropical wines of Marlborough and show the breadth and depth of Sauvignon Blanc styles being made in New Zealand today. But the "12 Barrels" is something particularly special. This reserve bottling from Mt. Beautiful is made from the top blocks in their vineyard, and only the best 12 barrels make the cut. The house style of Mt. Beautiful is definitely on display here in elevated form. What I find particularly wonderful is the inclusion of two new French oak barrels in the blend, resulting in hints of passion fruit, tangerine, and wildflower married to both bright, mineral-driven freshness and Bordeaux blanc-inspired richness. Despite the depth of fruit, it is still light and energetic with bright acidity. This is stone-cold delicious. This was originally made only for restaurants, but with conditions as they are, we were able to secure an unbelievable deal. It's not often that you see a winery's reserve wine at the same price as it's entry level, but when you do, act quick. After all, there were only 12 barrels of this exquisite Sauvignon Blanc made.

Launois "Cuvée Réservée" Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Review Date: 07-15-2021
Every once in a while, customers looking to explore something new will ask us, “What are you guys drinking? What are you excited about?”. It’s so much fun to hear that question, because it gives us a chance to recommend wines that we’re passionate about, wines that we love and want to share with other people. When recently faced with this question, the answer for me was unequivocally Launois. Not only is it one of our best-selling Champagnes at K&L, it also happens to be the bottle of wine that more of our staff buy than anything else in the store. The reasons for this are clear: all Grand-Cru Chardonnay from Mesnil; clean, powerful and focused flavors; and a price that’s affordable enough to enjoy Champagne on a weeknight. I took a bottle home a week ago and can safely reaffirm that this is exactly as good as we all think it is. With lemon, cream, a hint of smoke and biscuit on the nose, it follows up on the palate with aggressive, mouthwatering acidity, an incredibly prominent minerality and a beautiful finish that carries on and on. An outstanding value.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart

Ariston Aspasie "Réserve" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 07-15-2021
For a couple of years now, another Staff member and I have had a tradition where every Friday we have pizza and Champagne. At this point, we’ve had nearly every grower-producer Champagne on the shelf, but when Friday evening rolls around, the Ariston Aspasie Brut Reserve is the one I buy 9/10 times. The quality here is off-the-charts good for its price point. With five years on the lees and a classic cepage of 40% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, and 30% Pinot Meunier this is versatile, exceptionally well crafted Champagne that deserves all its credit and more. The nose is light and citrusy with touches of cream and toast, followed up by a palate that expresses red fruits, minerality and an intense, crisp bite. There’s a ton of detail and fine-touches that keep you returning to the glass, finding something new each time. An excellent and versatile Champagne that dramatically outplays its price.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart

Alvear "1927" Pedro Ximenez Solera Montilla-Moriles (375ml)
Review Date: 10-02-2019
One whiff of the nose on this wine, and I’ve got butterflies in my stomach. You can call it what you want: golden raisins, molasses, candied fruit--but that’s not what’s important. It’s that moment where you tip the glass and just hold on tight. Man, this wine is so good. There’s a purity to this that I don’t often see, along with tons of complex moments: everything from tobacco leaf, to truffle, and concentrated honey. There’s a surprising lightness and agility here that only serve to enhance the pleasure of this. It’s rare that I find a fortified wine, much less a dessert wine, that I could drink through dinner well until the early hours of the next morning--but there you have it.

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