Staff Favorites - Brian Fogarty

Brian Fogarty


2014 Leeuwin Estate "Art Series" Chardonnay Margaret River Western Australia
Review Date: 03-28-2018
Truly one of the giants of great wine from Oz, the 2014 Art Series Chardonnay lives up to the hype. The Leeuwin peninsula in Margret River is renowned for its Cabernets, but the small amount of Chardonnay that is produced by the founding family is spectacular! The bouquet opens up in the glass with a balance of white summer peach, quartz-y minerality and a whisp of oak. Tangerine zest, white pepper, lavender and sage build in the distance as you mind tries to wrestle together words that describe the beautiful nuance musing behind the obvious. On the palate the outcome is the same; a striking beauty poised with harmony and a striking presence. Clean, mouth filling and balanced the stone fruit is on center stage with the support of savory Meyer lemon, crème brulee and a lasting hazelnut tone. The wine has an eternal finish that still persists into the end of this review…

2013 Fable Mountain "Tulbagh Estate" Syrah Western Cape
Review Date: 03-23-2018
This wine's remarkability starts with the terroir footprint they have in the Western Cape region of Talbagh (adjacent to Swartland and 2 hours from Cape Town); thin soils sitting on top of ancient, vertical shale. Of course the talented people who organically farm and craft their wines in the cellar should receive some of the credit too. Their property is literally in the shadow of the Witzenberg Mountains (looking like 3 sleeping giants on the label) so every morning these high elevation vineyards do not see direct sunlight till mid-day keeping them cool and abbreviating their growing season. This unique geographical feature allows them to have a slow ripening in the summer and maintain fresh acidity for an elegant fruit profile. To further amplify what nature has given them the team cultivates the land with biodynamic practices using animals in the vineyard to mow, aerate and fertilize the fields naturally in the winter months. However, every night the cows, sheep and “one ugly pig” have to be herded back into the barn to protect them from the wild things lurking in the adjacent Wilderness Refuge. Partnering so closely with Mother Nature has its risks and its rewards! Rich, bold fruit and a caress of oak on the nose gets serious and structured on the palate. Black cherries, anise, and bramble berries partner with dark chocolate and herbs into a savory finish.
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VN 92 JS 90

2015 Paxton "AAA" Shiraz-Grenache McLaren Vale South Australia
Review Date: 03-22-2018
David Paxton, owner of the Paxton Winery not only believes in the uniqueness of his terroir, he has wants his vineyards to be full of life! “I’m sure biologically active soils provide flavor at lower alcohol levels” he told the press. Mr. Paxton’s biodynamic framing practices promote diverse life on his land by eliminating herbicides and pesticides, encouraging assorted vegetation among the vines and he also looks to nature first for answers when issues arise. Paxton is leading the way in Australia as its largest winery currently observing biodynamics and organic practices on its 80 hectares. Even at a modest $16.99 it is possible to have a robust red blend that is earth friendly, expertly crafted to have modest alcohol and gets rave reviews! The bouquet is not loud like some higher alcohol wines can be but more nuanced and even tempered. On the nose the AAA shows black fruit and dry bramble at first take. Cassis, eucalyptus, and anise build in the glass with more vigorous swirling and now the wine really starts to come to life. The palate is full and giving without being flabby (again modest alcohol helps). A lifted mid palate and the medium tannins allow all of the flavors hinted at on the nose to shine right through for a harmony of fruit, earthiness, and mint. Tasty on its own but with a meal it could really sing.

2016 Thorn-Clarke "Eden Trail" Riesling Eden Valley
Review Date: 03-21-2018
This is certainly my #1 most riveting wine of the quarter! A grippy, racy, mineral-driven dry Riesling that reminds you why this noble grape has the chameleon-like adaptability to adapt based on region and the pedigree to express greatness in unique terroir. Eden Valley is also a very special place on earth and the polar opposite to its neighbor Barossa on the other side of the mountains. The steep slopes of Mount Crawford are some of the coldest recorded spots in South Australia most days. The cooler climate provides optimum conditions for long, slow ripening of the grapes to retain bright acidity and developing complex flavors on the vine and tremendous aging potential. A mix of granite and pink quartz under thin soils delivers distinct mineral character all the way to the glass. A stunning wine well under $20!

2014 Moss Wood "Wilyabrup" Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Western Australia
Review Date: 01-31-2018
Margret River continues to build its status in and among the most famous Cabernet producing regions in the wine world, and it is easy to see why if we compare their geography with the big boys (Napa, Sonoma and Bordeaux): all on the west coast of a continent with a distinct oceanic influence, undulating terrain with depleted soils, and historically dry summers. Margret River may have only passed its 50th birthday last year, but be sure we will continue to hear about the burgeoning rivalry for greatest Cab region well past their centennial. The Mugford family has been key to that rising status of Margret River from their perch in the northern region of Wilyabrup (willy-ab-RUP) since 1979. Situated perfectly on the Indian Ocean and benefiting from the gravel-strewn loamy soils, their property (and of course their efforts) perennially turns out world class Bordeaux varietals. The 2014 “Wilyabrup” is composed of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. The nose is an intense array of black cherry, blackberry, baking spice and a mintiness that leans toward a crushed eucalyptus seed dried in the sun; dusty, brambly and minty all in one. Cassis and vanilla bean develop with time in the glass. On the palate the fruit and spice elements persist as the tannins reveal structure that does not mask the flavor but embraces and prop it up. Surprisingly balanced at its young age, there is no surprise why the critics are already swooning.
Price: $69.99 Add To Cart
JH 97 JS 96

Launois Brut Rose Champagne
Review Date: 01-15-2018
Launois Rose is a pure Pinot Noir derived wine, and the only pink bubbles from this famous Cote du Blanc House. When trying a pink Champagne I always make an oversized, bias creating judgment call right off the bat based on color (it’s not right but I always do it). The darker the pink the deeper my brow furrows assuming it is over extracted bubblegum juice (not fair I know). Launois’ rose I am happy to report is a bright coral pink and so my eyebrows went marching upward and I was proven right when I went in for deeper evaluation (this time). The brioche tones are comforting and greets you right away out of the glass while pairing gracefully with raspberry water and tiny, wild strawberries lightly pressed; all delicate but perfectly positioned. There are also some high toned herbs in the background as well; thyme and tarragon were pushing toward mint but not quite all the way. On the palate the physical presence of the moose is noticeably refined and slowly dissipates to reveal a medium weight wine. The taste is true to the bouquet with a little more presence of red fruits especially on the mid-palate. Who knew such well made rose could be found in the heart of Blanc de blancs country?
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart

2013 Leeuwin "Art Series" Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Western Australia
Review Date: 01-11-2018
Leeuwin Estates is one of Margret River’s founding wineries, and the grapes classified by the winemaker as “Art Series” worthy are only selected from the pinnacle of the estate fruit. The sandy, loamy soils of these vineyards force the vine roots down into the fractured granite below insuring vine stress and true mineral expressions. This terroir can only produce profound wines when paired with persistent cold winds like the ones howling off the Indian Ocean through these same Leeuwin vineyards. The 2013 Art Series Cab greets you with boysenberry, blueberry, and eucalyptus that is decorated with the clear aromas of broken rock and thin, dusty soils. Secondary notes of twiggy bay leaf, raspberry, and coffee percolate as you return for sniff after revealing sniff. The palate is well structured with mid-weight tannins and an even presence through the mid palate and the ample finish. Beautiful on its own, but I can see this wine being even more enjoyable as a partner with a meal and several glasses!

2016 TWR (Te Whare Ra) "Toru" White Field Blend Marlborough
Review Date: 01-03-2018
As I am also the new German and Alsatian buyer at K&L I may have geeked-out a little while trying this wine for the first time, but the wine certainly delivered with a clean, refined, yet uniquely expressive voice that I was hoping to find. This wine is a true field blend (harvested and fermented together; rare in the modern era) with three Alsatian varietals: 80% Gewurztraminer, 10% Riesling, and 10% Pinot Gris; thus the name TORU or “three” in the Maori language. Initially I told myself I would hunt for all three varietals on the nose but what I found was much more. In the glass it started with white and yellow honeysuckle flowers, lime blossom, honeycomb and a briny essence that leaned toward Mediterranean sea salt. The quartz minerality that developed was a welcome surprise after a few swirls in the glass. The wine has real “tension” and precision; high praise if used to describe German wines to a German! On the palate I found a gripping wine that is beautifully confounding and amazingly harmonious. Trying to pull the tree varietals apart was a fool’s errand and I was better served understanding the precision and style intended by a master winemaker. Fresh not sweet, and at 13.5% alcohol most would probably define the wine as dry – I would. This wine came home with me and Thai was its happy partner!

2014 Clairault Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Western Australia (White Label)
Review Date: 01-03-2018
Margret River Cabernet is the gold standard on the continent for refined expressions and Clairault is a champion of that superior style. The white label wines are a good entry point into the Clairault lineup of wines and the 2014 cab delivers on their promise. Blackberries and spice pour out of the glass and the bouquet develops clarity with each inviting sniff: dried cherry, bay leaf, potpourri, hints of tar and a dusty earthiness all jockey for attention. On the palate the wine continues its bold features with a round yet balanced presence that includes medium weight tannins and the introduction of cassis in the fruit profile.

2012 Clairault "Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Western Australia (Black Label)
Review Date: 01-03-2018
A pretty, well structured wine that showcases both the perfection of the 2012 vintage and the oldest vines on the Clairault Estate. The bouquet opens first as warm cherry and raspberry pie and then quickly builds in darker secondary aromas of blackberry and black cherry. Tertiary notes abound with herbaceous spearmint, fresh bay leaf, vanilla bean and white pepper. The complexity of the bouquet and continuous evolution were playful and brilliant in the glass. On the palate the wine is round and full bodied. Dark chocolate and cassis now enter the picture with vanilla playing a bigger role and the herbs certainly persist. There is a clear harmony from the winemaker’s skill to balance fruit richness and acidity, expose medium ripe tannins and leave you with a persistent finish. Side note: the wine is under a new modern style screw cap that is heftier than those I’ve seen is the past; a more serious closure for a refined wine.

2016 Raised By Wolves "Newlands" Meunier Stellenbosch
Review Date: 12-22-2017
Wine professionals and those who are working really hard to improve their wine knowledge would love to find bottles like this. For those with a little less serious and determined intentions, you will be pleasantly surprised at the quality and precision in a Raised by Wolves wine. So why is it such a special bottle? Pinot Meunier (famously the 3rd grape used in Champagne and also red), pressed whole cluster so a little skin contact happens between the pressed juice and the red colored pigment under the grape’s skin turning the wine just the palest, copper-salmon color, and last we introduce the terroir of South Africa; amazing combination wine nerds! The nose starts out with ripe melon, roses, and yellow pear. The finer, secondary notes start to build on the second sniff with hints of herb (thyme and sage), a chalky, dusty minerality and some carmel tones can be found. The first sip on the palate exposes a viscous body with a small amount of tannin to add structure to this delicate frame. Rosewater, cantaloupe and watermelon work in concert with thyme and jasmine as the caramel from the nose moves to echoes of butterscotch on the palate. Fun stuff and well made; I can’t wait to see it again in 2017.
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2014 Oakridge "Over the Shoulder" Cabernet Sauvignon Yarra Valley Victoria
Review Date: 12-21-2017
Pioneers in the upper Yarra Valley, Oakridge Winey built an oasis of food and wine for the locals of Melbourne to enjoy a beautiful atmosphere paired with locally sourced food and wine (much like Napa is to San Francisco and Sacramento). The balance they struck follows through in the wine we are able to enjoy from them stateside. The “Over the Shoulder” wines are pleasant, well structured wines focused first on the quality of the fruit harvested from the cool ridges of Yarra. This Cab-Merlot blend is expressive right away with blackberry pie and muddled wild raspberries in the glass and is complemented by cypress and bay forest notes. On the palate the berry tones are partnered with cassis and mulberry. The soft tannins give a structural platform for smoky bramble and the piney herbs you found on the nose drifting into a persistent finish.
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2014 Kumeu River "Coddington Vineyard" Chardonnay Kumeu
Review Date: 12-14-2017
Situated between the Tasman Sea to the west (12 miles away) and the Pacific Ocean to the east (19 miles away) the Coddington vineyard stays moderate to very cool all season long, and it rarely ever gets past the mid eighties. This long, slow ripening of the grapes combined with deep rooted vineyards that see no irrigation is the real secret behind Kumeu’s clean, elegant, and famously precise wine style. In the glass you’ll find freshly baked lime tart, breakfast toast, citrus blossom, and an undercurrent of mineral water packaged together harmoniously. On the palate the balanced acidity carries a clean translation of bouquet’s notes with some white peach and bolder citrus blossom. This bright, elegant wine has a lasting finish that you may never see the end of as you regularly return for follow up sips…

2015 Alheit Vineyards "Cartology" Chenin Blanc Western Cape
Review Date: 12-14-2017
Cartology “maps” out the most significant and favored old vines this dynamic husband and wife winemaking team (Chris and Suzaan Alheit) own or have access to from their neighbors. This bottling brings those plots together in a meaningful cuvee that is the picture of South African’s finest expressions. A full dense nose alerts you immediately that this will be a full bodied wine ready for deep thoughts and lots of return sips to watch the wine graduate through many beautiful cycles. Lemon curd and mineral tones start the procession as yellow plumb and a variety of dry field herbs start to file into place. The first viscous sip confirms the nose’s intuition as the palate fills with briny lemon, ripe plum that is carried by the acid balance you hoped would structure the wine. The finish is long and almost unending…

Jansz "Premium" Brut Rosé Tasmania
Review Date: 12-14-2017
Personally I cannot wait to show up to my next party with friends and bring a bottle Tasmanian Sparkling Rose; conversation starter in a bottle (and only $20!) Champagne is grown at the far northern reaches of where grapes can ripen due to cold temperatures and a short growing window. The same is true at the far southern reaches of our planet where Tasmania takes wine growing to the extreme producing a strikingly similar tart, small berried production of extraordinary grape juice. Jansz’s Brut Rose is a soft pale pink (not over extracted) and greets you in the glass with the chalky, bready nose you hoped for with raspberries and rosewater adding to the bouquet. As you sip the wine you find tight bubbles and the fruit broadens to introduce white satellite peach to the persistent red berries. Cheers Mate!

Launois "Veuve Clemence" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Review Date: 12-12-2017
Champagne is always a welcome choice and not just for special occasions, but when you open a bottle of single village Grand Cru Champagne that is an occasion all unto itself. Mesnil sur Oger is a quant hamlet in southern half of the Cote du Blanc with many famous parcels, and the Launois family captures that specific essence perfectly. The toasty, brioche nose opens up quickly to reveal yellow fig, Golden Delicious apple, fields of jasmine, a walnut nuttiness and then you find the hints of chalk you were looking for. On the palate the apple gets firmer and a little more Granny Smith, pear and white pepper can be found, and the chalk is easily detected. The wine has firm acidity but leaves plenty of room to experience the softer elements.
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart

2015 Vasse Felix Chardonnay Margaret River Western Australia
Review Date: 12-07-2017
Vasse Felix’s Premier class of wines are known for their harmony and precision. The 2015 chardonnay is a reminder of how the cold influence of an ocean on the hilly coast of a western shore can provide consistently beautiful, balanced and refined wines. The vibrant lemon blossom and ripe white peach notes in the glass start a parade of an ever evolving nose that moves to jasmine and hints tight grained French oak. On the palate the summer peach holds on tight with a racy acidity refreshing the palate and revealing the citrus notes and savory finish.

2016 Franck Millet "Insolite" Sancerre
Review Date: 11-28-2017
Located just 2 hours south of Paris in the village of Bué, 3rd generation vigneron Franck Millet and his wife Betty cultivate 22 hectares of beautiful, rolling vineyards together with a focus on Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Their premium Sancerre bottling “Insolite” (translated unusual or uncommon) brings together the most expressive old vines Sauvignon Blanc from the Domaine growing on clay-limestone soil. In the glass the wine’s bouquet develops with yellow flowers and a bold expression of citrus cream. A firm vein of wet stone minerality is accented by notes of fresh field herbs like thyme, bee-balm and dried grasses. A refreshing wine on its own, yet not delicate at all and would love being paired with seafood, white meats or of course local goat cheese is classic; Chevre.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart