Staff Favorites - Bryan Brick

Bryan Brick

Reviews

  
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2014 Ridge "Estate" Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 04-19-2017
So, you like Ridge Vineyards “Monte Bello” Cabernet but you can’t afford it? Fair enough. Luckily they have created just the thing to keep you satiated. The 2014 Ridge Vineyards “Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon is a declassification of numerous lots off the Monte Bello Vineyard, which includes some of the replanted “young vines,” and is treated in the cellar exactly the same way as their flagship bottling. For years now we’ve touted this beautiful, classic California Cabernet to our in-store customers and we feel like it is time to inform a larger group of our customers just how good this wine is before it is gone. Big, powerful aromas of Asian plum, sweet pipe tobacco, boysenberry and warm spice fill the dark yet friendly nose. With a similar concentration to the famed Monte Bello bottling but not as integrated or lengthy, I mean what do you expect for $125 less a bottle, this is superb Cabernet full of the savory components of the Santa Cruz Mountains and with layers of blackberry, clove, toasted marshmallow, fennel and a resonating purple flower note in the finish. There is certainly a reason this is one of the staff’s favorite Cabs year in and year out.
Price: $54.99 Add To Cart

2013 Super Substance "Stoneridge Vineyard" Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 04-17-2017
Super Substance is yet another project from Charles Smith (K Vintners, Sixto, Kung Fu Girl) the famed winemaker and larger than life personality from the state of Washington. Somehow the man and his trusty crew have found time to make yet another fantastic set of wines that deliver massive quality, with pure deliciousness in mind for the consumer. As K Vintners has done for so many years with Syrah and other Rhone Varietals out of Washington State so does Super Substance for Bordeaux Varietals—it puts the best possible wine in to bottle for extremely reasonable prices, in slick packaging, from some of the best vineyards that the state has to offer. We highly suggest that at these special prices you check these wines out.
The “Stoneridge” Cabernet Sauvignon is full of power and concentration while retaining softness and approachability. Aromatics of Amaro, hoisin sauce, star anise and espresso bean dominate the savory and fun nose. Seamless is the word I used in my notes for this wine. There is just great integration and fast switches from piece to piece of this wine. Think chocolate covered blueberries, Black Cherry pie filling, wild berries picked freshly from the vine and a whole lot of mulled spice, this is warm, inviting Cab. Some front pinning tannins play nice with black tea finishing flavors and just to keep things interesting and continue down the path of ripeness, a hallmark trait for all of Charles’s wines, something akin to a black/white cookie tone appears on the fun and energetic finish.

2013 Super Substance "Northridge Vineyard" Wahluke Slope Merlot
Review Date: 04-17-2017
Super Substance is yet another project from Charles Smith (K Vintners, Sixto, Kung Fu Girl) the famed winemaker and larger than life personality from the state of Washington. Somehow the man and his trusty crew have found time to make yet another fantastic set of wines that deliver massive quality, with pure deliciousness in mind for the consumer. As K Vintners has done for so many years with Syrah and other Rhone Varietals out of Washington State so does Super Substance for Bordeaux Varietals—it puts the best possible wine in to bottle for extremely reasonable prices, in slick packaging, from some of the best vineyards that the state has to offer. We highly suggest that at these special prices you check these wines out.
The “Northridge” Merlot was planted in 2003 and this teenage vineyard is in a fun spot still having the exuberance of youth but starting to develop its own personality. Coffee grounds and tea leaf driven aromas lead on the nose with a lovely polish oak, there is 70% new French Oak here, and an undercurrent of broad and expanding Blueberry fruit. Soft as a down pillow and yet still multifaceted with plenty of earth/fruit interplay, tension and overall complexity this wine delivers on both Merlot’s textural and fruit driven sides. Add notes of clay, wild Iris and berry blossom in the finish and this starts becoming serious without ever losing its gulpability.

2014 Artezin "Old Vine" Mendocino County Zinfandel
Review Date: 04-15-2017
Since 2002 the folks who run Hess Family Estates have sneakily released one of the best affordable Mendocino County Zinfandels on the market: Artezin. From a selection of old vines from a few selected vineyards every year, this Zin has always delivered the fruit and lift so commonly found in Mendocino Zinfandel. The 2014 vintage of this wine maybe the best I’ve ever seen, with dark briary berry notes, whole peppercorn spice and a subtle and lengthy finish. Aged all in French oak, this has so much complexity and drive that it is really hard to believe that the winery is making any money here at the ridiculous price point of $12.99.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart
WE 92 VN 91

2014 Sobon Estate "Rocky Top" Amador County Zinfandel
Review Date: 04-14-2017
For over a decade now K&L has touted the Sobon Estate “Rocky Top” Zinfandel as one of the great hidden values in California wine. This inexpensive Zin has it all: power, extraction, spice and fruit and has somehow remained under $15. Year in and year out myself and the staff of K&L is amazed at how serious, yet drinkable, this wine is. Add the fact that this is a Zin with versatility, going with burgers and BBQ as easily as it can cozy up to a red sauce and you have a great candidate for an house red that won’t break the bank.
Price: $13.99 Add To Cart
WE 90

2014 Provenance Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 04-06-2017
One of the top selling wines of 2016 at K&L was the 2013 Provenance Rutherford Cabernet. It was a wine that perfectly nailed the mix of value, quality, drinkability and label recognition. That combination led us to sell out of hundreds of cases in a matter of days. Needless to say we were very excited about the release of the 2014 vintage from Provenance, we bugged our distributor relentlessly to get the wine in front of us as soon as it was released, and we love what is in the bottle! Where the 2013 vintage of this wine really pushed the boundaries of ripeness, weight and polish the 2014 takes a much more classic approach. In fact this reminded me much more of some of the great wines of historic Napa producers like Heitz, Freemark Abbey or Duckhorn, which makes sense being that long term and founding Duckhorn winemaker Tom Rinaldi founded Provenance back in 1999.
With a pretty brick-ish ruby color and aromatic hues of red currant, chaparral, sage brush and sweet tobacco this is more an exercise in subtlety without sacrificing concentration. With a sappy and round entry and smoothly sanded edges this has all the texture of the 2013 just none of the glycerin driven bombast. Add fully formed flavors of sandalwood, Rainier cherry, hallmark “Rutherford Dust” and pipe tobacco and this is one classic Napa Cabernet that will not break the bank.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart

2014 Foley "Rancho Santa Rosa" Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
Review Date: 03-22-2017
Coming from Foley’s beautiful estate vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills, Rancho Santa Rosa, this 230 acre vineyard is home to some of the most affordable bottlings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir the region has to offer. The Chardonnays are known for their density, richness and weight while still flaunting the acidity of the cool, windy climate of the Santa Rita Hills. Aromas of Fuji apple, marshmallow and vanilla bean may lead you to believe that this is a bit cumbersome at first, a sprinter trying to run a marathon; it would be far from the truth. Bright, modern flavors of Key lime pie, apple preserves and mango keep this humming along at a nice steady pace allowing the pretty finish of clover, smoke and apple skin to make a push at the finish line.
Price: $22.99 Add To Cart
WE 93 W&S 91

2013 Thomas Fogarty Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
Review Date: 03-22-2017
The 2013 Thomas Fogarty Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay is 99% Estate fruit and 100% delicious. From all five Estate blocks this emanates from the glass with blanched almond meat, husked wheat, whole hazelnuts and fried polenta. Bright and energetic with a plush core of golden fruits and Shitake mushroom this shows both the power and savory intensity so often though of from SCM Chardonnay. Add Macadamia nut flesh, some forest floor flavors and fresh green herbs to the long and resonating finish and you really have a special Chardonnay that is not just built on texture and wine making but on the amazing raw material that Fogarty has to pull from. This really reminded me of a top flight St. Aubin at its very best but with Corton structure. Wouldn’t that be something?

2014 Maison L'Envoyé "The Attaché" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 03-22-2017
Made from some of the best vineyards throughout the Willamette Valley: Croft, Hyland, Eola Springs, Bishop Creek, amongst others this Pinot is about as close to a “can’t miss” for not only Oregon Pinot Noir lovers but for any pinotfile out there. It probably doesn’t hurt that Louis-Michel Liger-Belair is the consulting winemaker here either. Blue fruited and with a pretty this has the aromas reminiscent of the forests of the Valley in the morning, wet/warm earth, evergreen and wild mushrooms with blackberry and fresh fennel. The complexity here is off the charts and is only rivaled by the equally interesting and irresistible palate. Slick and high toned, plush and sexy this wine has it all with flavors of fresh blueberry, loganberry, Chanterelles mushroom and a subtle but lasting oak spice. The best thing about this wine is that it is so drinkable, so approachable that it will be equally loved by your wine snob friends as it will be by your, well let’s just call them your less discerning friends.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
VN 93 WS 92

2013 Joseph Swan "Saralee's Vineyard" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 03-16-2017
One of our staff’s favorite Pinots every year, the 2013 Joseph Swan “Saralee’s Vineyard” is sublime. Incredibly floral with wild iris and wisteria tones, backed by warm spice and energetic and lip-smacking red fruits, this is one complex Pinot Noir. What really separates it from so many others we sampled is its almost complete weightlessness. This is somehow packed with flavor yet never bogs down in pitchy weight or unnecessary ripeness. My final note on this wine is not suitable for print—it included a lot of exclamatory excitement and maybe a few joyous curse words!
Price: $38.99 Add To Cart

2014 Martinelli "Bella Vigna" Russian River Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 03-16-2017
One of the biggest surprises on our recent trip to Sonoma was just how fresh and lovely the wines of Martinelli are. Gone are the days of super-extracted, high-alcohol Pinot and Chardonnay (don’t worry, the Zins are still as monstrous as ever), as we found there to be a lot more restraint and overall balance to the wines. A perfect example is the 2014 Martinelli “Bella Vigna” Chardonnay. Pretty, integrated oak plays nicely with milled corn and peach flesh on the nose with good lifting notes of lemon curd at its edges. Weighty but far from dull, this has just the right amounts of butterscotch, orange marmalade and dry honey that snowball and dovetail nicely into the soaring finish.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart

2014 Husch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 03-09-2017
Husch, founded in 1967, is the oldest winery in the Anderson Valley appellation which over the last decade has become one of the hotbeds of American Pinot Noir. Sadly though, most people still don’t know about the amazing values that the winery puts out year after year. Maybe that is because they don’t shout it from every billboard or trade magazine, or maybe it is because they use a little, old horse shed as their tasting bar but you’d be missing a gem of a winery and a myriad of great wines that they continue to produce year after year. This affordably gulpable 2014 Pinot Noir is a perfect example of why we love the wines of Husch as much as we do.
From 6 separate sites in the Anderson Valley this Pinot is a testament to the incredibly quality of the region, but what makes it really shine is the incredible value that is found here. Snappy and red fruited on the nose this is also studded with warm spice notes aromatically from the 25% whole cluster fermentation with aromas of nutmeg, gingerbread and juniper dancing over pure cherry/cranberry fruit. Light and lively this is not only a Pinot Noir that you can see through but also one that does not bog your palate down. A bottle of this would go down incredibly quick with its friendly red berry flavors, blood orange tang and silky fine tannin structure. A great $20 Pinot Noir is difficult to find but we really think that this is a “slam dunk” bottle for the varietal and price range.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
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2013 Lincourt "Steel" Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
Review Date: 03-09-2017
Ten bucks. That is all. Just $10 gets you this tasty little non-oaked Chardonnay from one of the premiere appellations of the Central Coast of California. Some of you may think it’s too “cheap,” that there is no way that it can be good at that price point. Well I’m here to say that we think that you shouldn’t discriminate based on price because there is some serious substance in this Chardonnay. Don’t overlook the little guys, the underdogs; if you do you might just be missing out on the best Chardonnay deal of 2017.
Orange blossom and a pure beam of Cantaloupe and Honeydew melon, bolstered by a leesy weight, ride high on the nose of this non-oaked stunner. Broad but that broadness comes from fruit ripeness rather than oak extraction this is packed full of pureed Jonagold apples, orange pith, fried plantains and hints of zestier citrus tones like tangerine and Clementine. Add in the fact that there is 10% Sauvignon Blanc, 3% Gruner Veltliner and 2% Pinot Blanc in this wine and which add fruit complexity, minerality and a spice note to the wine and this is incredibly complex without oak or secondary fermentation. A value not to be missed.
Price: Hidden View Price

2013 Seven Hills Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 03-01-2017
Densely centered on the nose and filled with India ink, charred beef, brooding blackberry fruit and warm spiced oak aromas, this is a rarely found in a wine of this price point. Full bodied with pretty olive, laurel and tarragon flavors on the entry, this has fanned out with sometime in the bottle and has a nice lushness and fruit concentration. Powerful with plenty of hallmark Columbia Valley extraction and sheer fruit power this builds on its typically tannic frame and adds layers of Mexican chocolate and mocha on the packed and young finish. As I tasted this all I could think about is how much more expensive it would be if it came from Napa Valley. Thanks Washington!
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
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2014 Gary Farrell "Russian River Selection" Russian River Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 02-09-2017
“Russian River Selection,” just what exactly does that mean? Well in the new 2014 Gary Farrell bottling it means that they have used fruit from some of the best vineyard sites in the valley. Bacigalupi, Olivet Lane, Rochioli, Allen, Martinelli and Westside Farms are all vineyards that make up this stunning value in the world of Chardonnay. These cream of the crop sites have led to a full bodied, juicy and aromatic wine that is more about the fruit than the winemaking, which these days is less and less common not only in Chardonnay but in the world of wine.
Golden fruited with edges of clover honey and white flowers this is lifted and complex on the nose. Bursting on entry with Fuji apple, nectarine and white pineapple this slowly builds on the palate adding layer after layer of flavor and a subtle, non-toasty, oaken heft on the back end all the while being incredibly agile on the palate. The balance here is superb and at $30 is head and shoulders above 99% of the Chardonnays in this price point. This is simply one of the best Chards we have in the shop for under $50.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
WE 95 WS 90

2012 Iron Horse "Wedding Cuvée" Green Valley of Russian River Valley Brut Sparkling Wine
Review Date: 02-08-2017
The sparkling wines from Iron Horse have long been staples in the Domestic Sparkling wine section at K&L. Year after year they knock out shockingly good sparkling wine from their estate in the Green Valley sub-appellation of Russian River Valley. Entirely made in the methode champenoise style these wines rival entry level Champagne in both quality and value, the 2012 Wedding Cuvee bottling being a perfect example of how good these wines can be.
A nutty lead of cashew and filbert are backed by muddled apple flesh and touches of chalk and toasted challah on the nose. Made from 78% Pinot Noir and 22% Chardonnay and with three years tirage this comes off incredibly vinous and richly hued. Considerable Pinot Noir weight and richness dominates the wine with mouthfilling cherry skin, Rainier Cherry, vanilla custard and meringue tones swirling between the firm and fine carbonation. While this toasty, and slightly yeasty sparkler is a great toast/cocktail wine it will also be surprisingly versatile on the table as well. You may even find yourself opening this for exactly no special reason at all…
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
WE 96 WS 91

2014 Jax "Estate" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 01-30-2017
We’ve been talking internally here at K&L a lot recently about what constitutes value these days in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. That conversation has become more and more difficult over the last few years as the pricing on wines from the most prestigious region of California for this varietal have continued to skyrocket. The bottom line is that there really are not any “cheap” wines left in the Valley. Instead we have to look for more comparative value out of the region and the base line for wines now starts at about $40 for true Napa character from any Cab based wine. I know the truth hurts. After tasting the 2014 Jax “Estate” Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon we agreed here at K&L that this was the kind of wine that we were speaking of. Sure this wine if made a decade or more ago would have been $30 but those days are long over and there is no return in site. Therefore we look forward and have to realize, whether we like it or not, that this is the new Napa. The good news is that it is every bit as good as it has always been.
The 2014 Jax Estate comes from their Estate vineyard in Northern Calistoga that was purchased in 1996 and has gone through extensive replanting over the last 10-12 years. The result is some fantastic, youthful, pitchy wines that really do over deliver on their respective pricing. The wine adds 5% Cabernet Franc, also from the estate and is aged for 21 months in 70% new French Oak. Lots of finely hued green spices soar out of the glass here like olive, bay leaf and tarragon with a base of deeper warm spices like allspice and mace ride over snappy black currant and blueberry fruitiness on the nose. Stuffed to the hit and fully of fleshy, extracted flavors of espresso, hard candy, cola, boysenberry and spice cake this really has plenty to offer and keep even the pickiest of Cabernet drinkers engaged and involved in the wine. Certainly leaning to the modern side in its flashy oak and extract this still has the soul and focus of a classic Napa Valley Cab.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart
RP 93 WE 90

2014 Jax "Y3 Taureau" Napa Valley Red Blend
Review Date: 01-30-2017
Last year the 2013 Jax “Y3-Taureau” set the store on fire. It was one of those K&L E-mail wines that sold out instantly and we were left in full scramble mode to gobble up as many cases as we could get our hands on. Customers couldn’t get enough of the wildly drinkable and easy going wine. So this year we were much more prepared for the release of the 2014 vintage. This year’s blend is similar to last year’s with 45% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah and 10% Zin in the mix. Made by Kirk Venge, who has made such highly sought after wines as Hunnicut, Igneous, Macauley, Bacio Divino, B Cellars and Trespass to mention just a few and has all the hallmarks of his lush, fruit driven style.
Wild, dark, sauvage notes of ink, sweet black tea and dried berry blast through on the nose. Forward and precocious this wine has a myriad of flavors and spice components to offer for such a paltry price. At different points you pick up each of the varietals in the blend. Merlot for pure black fruited mid-palate weight, Cabernet aromatics and tannin, Syrah spice and meatiness and Zinfandel briary juiciness. Certainly more than the sum of its parts this wine has come together with a slick, creamy frame and plenty of intensity. I can’t over play how outstanding this is for $20.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
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2012 Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 01-28-2017
The 2012 Napa Valley bottling has been wildly anticipated for the last few months. Hot off of the fall release of the stunning 2012 Alexander Valley bottling, The Napa bottling has finally arrived. The first in a string of three outstanding Napa Cabernet vintages it is wildly apparent from the nose that this is a hallmark 2012. Known for its generosity and ripeness 2012 has charmed people over the last couple of years but its wines like the Silver Oak that vintages like these are really judged on.
Dark but with a juicy core of blue/black fruit highlighted by espresso and sweetened cocoa powder the nose here resonates and has plenty of weight and concentration. This enters velvety and full bodied and shines as it rolls along to the mid-palate. Full of swirling and complex flavors of brambly wild berry, chopped green olives, blueberry angel cake, pipe tobacco, and homemade chocolate brownies this is gulp-able and yet serious at the same time. Finishing with its signature oaky pinning and considerable tannin, fruit rather than oak, this is one stunner of a wine and easily the best Silver Oak Napa Valley bottling since 2007 or 2009. In a word: Tremendous.
Price: $114.99 Add To Cart

2014 Hess Collection Napa Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 01-20-2017
The 2014 Hess Collection Napa Valley Chardonnay is a perfect example of this re-dedication to quality. From only their estate vineyard, Su’skol , this is focused, powerful and rich all while clocking in at under $20. Fermented in stainless steel and new and used French oak, allowed to partially go through malolactic fermentation (28%) and aged for 10 months in French oak, 20% of which was new, this wine has shocking balance for a wine of considerable heft. A swirl of French oak spice, melon and crème brûlée build on the nose. With vibrant fruit flavors of honeydew melon, spiced pear and a hint of crystallized ginger there is plenty of fruit complexity to go with broad oaken swath in the mid-palate of vanilla custard and creamed corn, this is one full-bodied Chard for a shockingly reasonable price.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart
WE 90

2015 Charles Smith "Kung Fu Girl" Columbia Valley Riesling
Review Date: 01-18-2017
With typical varietal aromas of subtle petrol tones layered over with mounds of fresh white peach, apricot and picked wild flowers this is about as good as Riesling gets in this price range. Never cloying and full of zesty and mouth watering acidity this is a long way away from anything like a dessert wine. Snappy and zingy with just enough residual sugar (1.4% Residual Sugar g/100mL) to put it into something like the classic Kabinett range of Germany this is more at home for the main course with thinks like Spicy Thai, Indian or even Mexican food. Dry clover honey, lemongrass, grilled peaches and honeydew melon flavors all drizzled in Meyer lemon juice, this is one guzzle-able wine whose value can’t be matched on today’s market. So if you love Riesling or you just need a tangy refreshing white around the house this is something you may want to grab in quantity.

2015 Averaen (Banshee) Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 01-18-2017
Averaen: [AY-vuh-rain]
Noun
1: The new and wildly exciting Pinot Noir project from the men that brought you Banshee
2: The men from Banshee’s loose translation of “Bird Queen” from the Latin word “avis” for bird and French word “reine” for queen (Latin root regina)
Since the very first bottling of Banshee, K&L was their second customer ever, the three amigos: Baron, Steve and Noah, have made some of the best affordable Pinot Noir in California not to mention great Chardonnay and some other fun things as well. So when they told me in secret a little over two years ago that they were thinking about making Willamette Valley Pinot Noir I was obviously very excited. The result is Averaen and it is a wonderful example of why Banshee became so popular in the first place: the quality for value just can’t be beat. At $19.99 this was instantly in the argument for one of the best wines from the still youthful but very good 2015 vintage at this price point. Made from some vineyards well know to insiders and Oregon Pinot files like Meredith Mitchell, Deux Vert, Eola Springs and Valin among others this is top flight raw materials wedged into an entry level price point. Also an added bonus for the 2015 vintage bottling is that every grape harvested in 2015 went into this bottling where as in years upcoming they will also make single vineyard bottlings, so this really is the best foot forward with their inaugural release.
Made from a mix of Volcanic and Sedimentary soils and a blend of Pommard and Dijon clones this takes all the best parts of Oregon Pinot Noir and dovetails them in to one seamless and drinkable wine. Aromas of freshly picked cherries, clove and wet, warm earth dominate the nose backed by typical forest-y notes and hints of darker berry fruits. The first thing that struck me about this wine is just how serious it is in terms of balance and structure. Everything is in its place and while this is eminently drinkable it is also quite serious and complex. Lush loganberry at the edges with a pitchy red fruited core this Pinot has plenty of fruit intensity and lift but it also has the darker side of the Pinot spectrum as well with finishing mushroom, fern and purple flower notes. Add a subtle oaky quality, but no toastiness-this is all done in neutral oak foudre and stainless steel-and this really becomes one of the best Pinot Noir values, regardless of place, in K&L today.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
VN 91

2013 Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend
Review Date: 01-13-2017
For as long as I’ve been in the wine biz Pahlmeyer has been one of the most reliable producers of high end Napa Valley wine. Their efforts, year in and year out, are rarely matched in terms of sheer deliciousness, elegance, poise and relative value whether it is their rich, oak laden Chards, the texturally impressive Merlots or the refined Proprietary Red Wine. The combination of the outrageous 2013 vintage and the long term dedication to quality from Pahlmeyer makes these wines some of the easiest choices on the market for their respective price points. We know not everyone can afford these wines on a regular basis but we also can’t recommend them highly enough for that special dinner/moment/gift that we all find ourselves needing from time to time.
The 2013 Proprietary Red Wine from Pahlmeyer, a blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 6% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot , is one of the best Bordeaux blends of the year from Napa at $150. Some of you may ask, “Well why are you so jazzed on a $150 wine from Napa?” Great question! The reality of Napa Cabs/Bordeaux blends is that $150 is no longer a high end wine; in fact $150 has sort of become the middle ground for that category. When all the major critical publications are saying things like “this is the value of the vintage” or this is a “sleeper” of the vintage and the wines they are speaking of are $70-$90 all of a sudden a blue chip wine like Pahlmeyer at $150 is not looking so out of reach.
This stunning wine is full of fancy oak lacing, wild berry, cassis, tobacco and loamy earth on the nose. Refined and almost patient in its delivery with a layered oak frame, fine hued tannin and laser etched acid the structure here is something that gives plenty of instant gratification but also is built to age for the next 8-15 years. Plenty of blue/black fruit is present but any Cab can do that, what separates this wine from so many others is that it is not the strongman that Cab is so often is but more the sneakily strong gymnast, flexible and full of stamina. Finishing with a continuation of the flat out delicious fruit and adding a broad beam of savory earth and fresh herbs this is a wine that I would happily put in a blind tasting with any modern Bordeaux or Cult Domestic wine at twice its price, or just drink at any luxurious occasion.

2014 Mayacamas Mt. Veeder Chardonnay
Review Date: 01-06-2017
So many wineries have been releasing 30th and 40th anniversary bottlings recently that it has gotten a little out of hand. Sure those wines have been incredibly good, and the producers of the wines are some of the standard bearers of Napa Valley, but it’s started to feel like everyone is listening to the same marketing team, but a little gimmick can carry a quality product a long way. So when I saw the new 2014 Mayacamas Chardonnay was labeled to celebrate the winery’s 125th anniversary I kind of laughed out loud. I mean they had to have had enough with these measly 40-50 year anniversaries. They threw down the gauntlet and threw it down in a big way.
Mayacamas has long been one of my personal favorite wineries-full stop. Their wines are some of the most age worthy and historic that the North Coast of California has ever produced and not much has changed 125 over 125 years. Sure the winery was sold a few years back to Charles Banks and the Terroir Group but they really didn’t change much as far as the winemaking is concerned, they did bring in superstar winemaker Andy Erickson but he knows enough not to mess with a great thing. The old oak is still there, the enamel lined rectangular tanks are still there and the quality is still certainly there. (Most of the money that is going to refurbishing the winery is going into replanting the old and dying estate vineyard, hence the very little amount of wine they’ve produced in recent years.)
The nose of this Chardonnay is enough to stop you mid-sentence. It is a wild combination of traditional White Burgundy/Chablis notes like wet rock, lime and crushed cashew with a counterweight of Mount Veeder terrior, full of spearmint, chaparral and white sage. Linear and focused with a great wealth of character this is full of flavors of lemon verbena, prickly pear, more spearmint and a mouth feel that is at the same time oily rich and delicately lacy. This is so delicious right now that it will be hard not to chug all these bottles right away but I implore you to hold on to one or two of these wines for a number of years, anything up to 15-20 years, and watch them grow into something even more special. To say that this is one of the top Chardonnays that Napa has to offer is quite an understatement indeed.
Price: $47.99 Add To Cart
VN 96 JS 94

2014 Olema Sonoma County Chardonnay
Review Date: 01-04-2017
The 2014 Olema Chardonnay is something special like a comet that blasts through our atmosphere once every 75 years, or the ever elusive Quadruple Double. Something that is so rare that when you taste it you can’t help but be bowled over by its combination of incredible quality and sheer value. Packed full of butterscotch, quince paste and cantaloupe on the nose this also expresses unparalleled balance: richly hued but bright rather than heavy or hefty. The oak here is mostly up front and acts as a warm blanket that encapsulates the wealth of melon, baked pear, lime flesh, wet stone and custard. Long and surprisingly complex in the finish with subtle salted caramel over granite and lychee this is just simply a wine that is not made in California for this price point any longer. Lucky us in that we all get to benefit in being lucky enough to be around to be able to drink it in.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
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2013 Chardenet "Coteau Blanc" Carneros Chardonnay
Review Date: 12-12-2016
The Coteau Blanc is from the wineries estate vineyard in Carneros. Close to the San Pablo Bay this cool climate region has long been know for producing some of the best Chards in the business. Sand based soils dominate the region but Coteau Blanc is actually planted on a rare deposit of limestone. Nutty with a Mersault-like crushed cashew and almond skin tone over a subtle rosewater floral quality this is alluring and pretty on the nose. Fleshy and with a continuation of floral intensity this has good mid-weighted flesh and precise, pinpoint balance. Bright, tangy and with a considerable amount of crushed stone/rock this is not unlike an AC Chablis in its cutting finish. Stunning and just an amazing value for this price point.

2013 Sinor-LaVallee San Luis Obispo County Chardonnay
Review Date: 11-30-2016
Butterscotch, kettle corn, and notes of grilled peach and vanilla bean fill the intense and fleshy nose. But as soon as you taste this one has to also be impressed with how balanced it is. Freshening up a touch on the entry with lovely lemon meringue and key lime pie flavors that ride over more oak laden tones of stone fruit, shortbread and peach cobbler this is impressively rich and somehow lifting as well. With just enough acid to keep it moving along briskly, plenty of weight to impress the “big” Chardonnay crowd and intense tropicality with lychee, mango and nutmeg flavors in the finish this is a pleasing wine for just about any Chard fan out there.
Price: $21.99 Add To Cart
WE 93 VN 90

2013 Love & Squalor Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 11-30-2016
The main thing that has struck me over the last couple of years with the Love and Squalor wines is just how epically drinkable they are. Sure they are cerebral, sure there is a tremendous acid/fruit structure to the wines, yes they are precise and focused but the thing you always come back to is just how much fun they are to drink. Clove, mace and cinnamon highlights hover over pure loganberry and wild blackberry fruit on the nose. Medium weight and full of layered black fruits with lush cassis and cola notes this is also bolstered by touches of pastilles and sweet fennel on the palate. Dry and mineral driven the finish portrays an overall prettiness and refinement that is just not found often from Pinot Noir at this price point all adding up to a wine that is urging you, pleading with you almost, to drink it not think about it, although both could be done with ease.

2014 Louis M. Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 11-30-2016
K&L has long been incredibly high on the Louis M. Martini Sonoma County Cabernet bottling. Year after year it delivers some of the best value not only for Cabernet coming out of Sonoma but out of all the US. Even the veritable Robert Parker himself called it, “One of the best values in Cabernet Sauvignon anywhere in the world,” high praise indeed. From fruit from Martini’s Frei Ranch Vineyards and Barrelli Creek Vineyard this wine takes the ripeness of Dry Creek and meshes it with the refinement and chiseled fruit of Alexander Valley. Pomegranate, Bing cherry, fresh tobacco, tar and a dollop of spearmint and roasting coffee beans fill the high toned and refreshing nose. Having considerable ripeness and extract is certainly a plus at this paltry price point and it has plenty of it with fleshy, easy going texture and a velvety soft feel but this also has a likable mélange of wild berry, eucalyptus, cedar and sweetened dark chocolate to add a note of precision and focus to the overall ripe feel. Then the finish kicks in and takes this to a whole other level with explosive flavors of black cherry, pipe tobacco and chaparral that wines in this price point rarely have. It’s certainly hard to debate Mr. Parker’s sentiments above after trying this.
Price: $13.99 Add To Cart
RP 90

2013 Domaine Eden Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
Review Date: 11-30-2016
One of my personal favorite wineries in California is Mount Eden. It is a truly special vineyard and the folks behind the scenes couldn’t be more dedicated to their craft and to the quality of the wines if they wanted to be. For decades Mount Eden has made some of the best Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon all from the same vineyard-is there another vineyard anywhere in the world that pulls this off?-all for supremely reasonable prices. So a few years back I was even more excited when they told me they were going to make a new sister wine called Domaine Eden and bottle all 3 varietals they have become known for. This took place in about 2007, right around the time that they purchased a second, noncontiguous estate just a few minutes down the road. This old estate was fully planted with some top notch, mature vines and had a reputation in its own right as the old Cinnabar Estate Vineyard. 10+ years later the Domaine Eden label has become known at K&L for incredibly serious wines for amazing values, in fact a big secret is that quite often a big amount of the original Mount Eden Estate fruit makes it into these bottlings.
The 2013 Domaine Eden Chardonnay is flat out stunning and probably the best young Domaine Eden Chardonnay I’ve ever tasted. The pretty nose is layered impeccably with notes of vanilla, caramel, grilled white corn and edges of honeysuckle brightness. Lifting and vibrant there is a fun interplay between the zesty tangerine and Clementine high tones and the more rich, dense flavors of toasted brioche, drop biscuits and a continuation of the vanilla found in the nose. Slick and fleshy this is about as good as it gets for Chardonnay under $30 and is a testament to just how great a job the team at Domaine/Mount Eden does with Chardonnay.

Sean Thackrey "Pleiades XXIV Old Vines" California Red Blend
Review Date: 11-17-2016
Sean Thackrey has long been the champion of wild blends, out of the way or forgotten about sites and fully old school winemaking. His wines are never simply laid out with precise numbers and percentages rather there is always some mystery about what is exactly going on and that mystery creates intrigue and charm more times than not. Never “clean” or “polished” his wines more often than not bring up the descriptors like “rustic” or “old world.” The Pleiades bottling has long been the door into the wild, magical world of Sean Thackery and this cuvee, the twenty fourth, is no exception. A blend with both red and white varietals this is at once delicious, odd, cerebral and loveable all at once and that is something that is quite hard to pull off with regularity in the world of wine.
Resonating aromas of street tar, caraway, tobacco, cherry jam and blackberry cobbler please on the nose carrying a surprising amount of density and weight for such a vibrant, energetic wine. Savory but fruity, ripe but balanced, spicy but soft this is a wine built around pleasant contradictions. A wine where every sip shows something new and exciting. A wine that challenges you and pushes you to pay attention, to listen throughout to what it’s trying to say. Pomegranate, white cherry, blueberry, coffee grounds, black tea and a return of the tar found on the nose, old leather and dried berry fruits are all flavors that swirl around in your mouth as you drink this. There is just so much going on here that you can't help but like this odd, slightly magical, but overall fun and delicious wine.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2012 Au Bon Climat "Historic Vineyards Collection-Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 11-16-2016
Toasted pecans and walnuts over grilled white corn and lush apricot preserves with just a touch of lime zest-these aromas alone are worth the price of admission here. As this is a 2012 there is also just a touch of bottle age starting to creep in on the nose as well with a ribbon of caramel and an edge of torched sugar. However the palate is fresh as can be, dare I say even electric at this point with superb entering flavors of lemon meringue, Clementine, marzipan and a wealth of floral material that reminds me of white roses and carnations. Soft and lush on the finish with vigor at its edges and a delicious white peach fruit that sings on this is a lovely, complex and serious Chardonnay that is one of the best values of the year in Chardonnay and one of my top 5 Chardonnays of the year.

2015 Au Bon Climat/K&L Wine Merchants "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 11-15-2016
This year we incorporated the same blocks as previous vintages, Block 11 and Block 2 from Bien Nacido, but in different proportions and with a different clonal selection. Block 2 dominates this year, making up 90% of the blend, and within that are equal percentages of three parcels: one a mixture of clones 113 and 103—this was the nose and structure of the wine—and another is all clone 115, which added texture and power, while the other equal parcel was all clone 113, which made the finish of this wine something special. The other 10% came from Block 11 and is a mix of Swan and clone 115 that was whole-cluster fermented. This is the glue that holds the wine together, with snappy red fruits, warm spice, and a juicy feel that we think is wildly enjoyable. This is a plush, fresh and rich Pinot that has a little bit of something for everyone: Meaty spice—check. Ample, delicious fruit—check. Earthy savor—check. But possibly the best thing about it is the price. For $30 it is just an insane value—there is simply no other Bien Nacido-based Pinot Noir on the market for this price, or anywhere near it, honestly. As this was bottled in July 2016 I'd dump this in a decanter for an hour or two to really let it open up if you were going to drink it over the next 6 months to a year and I think this is going to be great 5-7 years down the road.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart

2014 Forman "Château la Grande Roche" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 11-10-2016
“Super Seconds” is a term we here at K&L throw around quite often to describe some of the best second wines from great Chateaus in Bordeaux. Wines like Clos du Marquis, Pavillon Rouge and Les Forts de Latour come to mind. Tremendous, and at one point at least, all incredibly affordable counterparts to their world famous big brothers. Forman’s "Château la Grande Roche" has long been one of the best “Super Seconds” California has to offer. From the same sites, made in the same way as Forman’s top wine, just with a little less time in oak, this is wonderful Cabernet-based wine that is wildly age-worthy and delicious in its youth, too, with just a touch of patience.
Dark and intense, this wine is brooding and powerful. If you just pop the cork and go, we think if you are going to drink this right away, certainly a decant is in order. Once this opens, with about an hour to an hour and a half in a decanter, it is pure old-school Napa Cab. From a few vineyards spread though out the valley, this displays some of the great dusty, graphite-laden, sandalwood and black currant aromas that Napa Cab has been know for historically. Black fruited and slowly unraveling, this has plenty of savory Cab flavors of dried sage, chaparral flowers and olive tapenade, and then underlying notes of sweet, roadside blackberries. Powerful and firm with long tannin intensity and slightly exotic spices in the finish this is something that should give you amazing return on investment in your cellar or a great wine to ruminate on over a long holiday/special occasion meal.
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart

2014 Ancient Peaks/K&L Wine Merchants Paso Robles Zinfandel
Review Date: 11-08-2016
Ancient Peaks burst on the scene about a decade ago with one of the highest rated, inexpensive, Zinfandels to ever come out of California by Wine Spectator’s standards. I was intrigued by the winery wondering if they were just a tank farm somewhere down in Paso, or a legitimate producer that we needed to watch out for. In visiting them the following year I realized that they couldn’t be more in the latter camp. Their sizable estate vineyard has to be seen to be believed, with it impeccable vineyard management, incredible diversity of soil types and singular microclimate that betrays the notion of Paso Robles’s intense heat. Since that visit I have touted their wares and we’ve have sung the wineries praises to anyone that will listen.
A few years back, on our initial round of co-branded wines with specific producers, we blended a delicious Zinfandel from Ancient Peaks. Many customers since then have asked us to make another so we obliged this year and we think this will bring back pleasant memories of that wine with its delicate juiciness and wealth of spice. This year this was the most difficult blend we put together. The winemaker and I kept fine tuning the wine trying to get the balance of fruit, ripeness, spice and mouth feel just right but I really believe that our hard work paid off. Blended from numerous different blocks aged in both neutral, newer (2nd & 3rd use barrels) and new oak this has already really integrated incredibly well. Intense and powerful on the nose this screams “I am ZIN!!!” with its mix of briary berry fruits and cracked black peppercorn. On the palate this turns a touch coating and creamy, but never feels heavy or has any residual sugar, and rides a high line of resonating boysenberry, cassis and dried sage flavors all coated in a fine dust of white pepper. The finish has some typical chewy tannins and adds a ton of power, and ultimately longevity, with additions of cocoa powder, black cherry and flowering lavender. If you weren’t a believer before this just might turn the tide, if you were a believer then be ready to become a fanatic.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

2014 Concannon Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 10-24-2016
Black currant, loam and wet clay aromas swirl in the pitchy and surprisingly high-toned nose with good amounts of polish and varietal complexity. That resonating bright edge always rides slightly above the creamy, weighted palate full of berry fruit, sandalwood and soft flexible tannins. The overall impression here is one of juicy freshness but the wine is far from flabby and it certainly firms up as it goes with complex notes of unsweetened cocoa powder and freshly grated nutmeg. Solid in every department, the only thing that is holding this wine back is the possible negative association with this being more of a “supermarket brand.” Trust me when I say that if all wine were this good in supermarkets we’d all be out of a job!
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart
WE 91

2013 Brassfield "Eruption - Volcano Ridge Vineyard" High Valley Red Blend
Review Date: 10-21-2016
Big, loamy and full of massive and bursting flavors, this wine is packed to the brim with aromas of India ink, pastilles, blackberry candy and a slight bloody character. Entering juicy and broad, the name Eruption is a bit literal—this impresses with black cherry, anisette, wild berry preserves and has quite a bit of umami savor. Ramey’s touch on the finish shows with a classical dryness and spice rather than what so many wines of this ilk do, which is pack in the sugar. This is certainly not a classic claret, or Cabernet -styled blend, but it could certainly take the place of one on a dinner table without much argument from most.
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart
WE 92

2013 Dunn Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 10-14-2016
Dunn Vineyards has long been a personal favorite wine for me. From the first time I tasted the wine about 15 years ago I was wildly intrigued by how a wine could be so hardly tannic yet so enjoyable at the same time. How you could have a bushel of earthy, foresty, mushroomy intensity but still a wealth of ripe, rich fruit. How a wine could be so monolithic, yet so captivating while it was in its youth. All of this still applies to Dunn to this day, and the 2013 vintage is no exception. In fact, this may be the most enjoyable young Dunn wine I’ve had since the 2008. The first time I had this was at the winery, back in May, on a larger Napa Valley trip where we visited some of the greats (Dominus, Heitz, Spottswoode, to name a few) and if it were not for the supernova of a wine that is the 2013 Dominus, this would be right up there in the top two or three Cabernets we tasted--along with Dunn’s 2013 Trailer Vineyard Cab, which we can talk about some other time. A stunning wine for your cellar that will reward all the patience you are able to pay into it.

2015 Kalinda Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 10-12-2016
Black cherry, bergamot, spiced plum and a touch of cola combine in the compact yet slowly unraveling nose. Medium weight and yet with a sprightly feel this is a young Pinot that is already quite delicious but will grow in leaps in bounds over the next 2-6 months and then slowly develop over the next 3-7 years. With warm red clay notes, cranberry tang, velvety boysenberry preserves and a candied licorice note the palate comes off as inviting and bordering on plush. Finishing with a nice lifting red fruited crunch surrounded by earthy/foresty richness this is one special Pinot Noir and we couldn’t thank the crew at Chehalem for making us such a great wine.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

2013 Walter Hansel "Cahill Lane" Russian River Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 09-15-2016
It seems like we e-mail you a few times every year expounding on just how good the wines of Walter Hansel are. You may be getting sick of these e-mails by now. You may be wondering if we owe them some great debt, or if they own a part of K&L, or if they give us a free Volkswagen every time we sell a pallet of their wine. The answer to all of these, of course, is no. The reason why we send these emails to you is that there are very, very few producers in the US right now that make wines that are this consistently crowd pleasing, affordable (the winery has raised prices only once in the last decade), critically acclaimed and just downright tasty.
The 2013 Walter Hansel “Cahill Lane” Russian River Valley Chardonnay is the latest offering that puts emphatic checkmarks by all the above criteria. Full of toasted brioche, almond butter, quince and torched orange peel the nose here has both lifting and weighty qualities that echo throughout the wine. On the palate I was surprised to see a bit more lift and energy than in the last few vintages with distinct citrus and floral intensity. At the same time this is unmistakably Hansel with its oily, mouth-filling richness, toasted corn, almond skin, vanilla and cream flavors. I’d have to say that if the rest of the 2013 vintage is going to be this good from Hansel you should expect a few more e-mail in your inbox over the next 12 months.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart
VN 93 RP 91

2013 Beckmen "Cuvée Le Bec" Santa Ynez Rhône Blend (375ml)
Review Date: 09-09-2016
As soon as I tasted the 2013 Beckmen “Cuvee Le Bec” I declared it the best Rhone Blend we had in the shop under $20, including wines from the Rhone. With the internationalization of the wines from the south of Rhone and the rising costs of wine all over the world, somehow this sneaks in at a tremendous value and still remains completely true to its parent varietals. Outrageous aromatics of whole black peppercorns, anisette, fennel, cured pork and wild berry fill the alluring nose. Juicy and full in the mouth, this is a ton of wine and is completely accessible currently. Full of blueberry, white pepper, crispy bacon, sage, chaparral and crushed stone the ripeness here is perfectly suited to keep the gamier, earthier flavors in check. I think I found my new go-to value wine!
Price: $9.99 Add To Cart
RP 90

2014 Terra Valentine Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 08-10-2016
The 2014 Terra Valentine Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is one of Sam’s first new forays, and we couldn’t be more excited about it. First of all it is true Napa Valley Cab that is $29.99. Just that alone should catch people’s attention. With heady aromas of spice cake, pipe tobacco, boysenberry preserves and Oolong tea, the nose here is packed with personality and class found in much more expensive Cabs. Sweet fruited and with good lift, this is a wildly drinkable Cab that opens with ease. Packed with baker’s chocolate, wild berry, black tea, chaparral and spiced plum, there is as much complexity here as found in most Napa Cabs twice this price. This is certainly something to stock the cellar with as it could easily be drunk now and should continue to get better over the next 7-12 years.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
WS 91

2014 Chappellet "Signature" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 08-02-2016
Very few Domestic Cabernets have outperformed the Chappellet Signature bottling over the last few years. Both the 2012 and 2013 were gigantic hits with both our customers and staff, selling out quickly and having both asking for more. So when the 2014 was released a few days back, we rushed at the opportunity to try the wine and get it out in front of you before everyone catches on to just how good this wine is again.
From 2014, the third in a series of tremendous and plentiful vintages in Napa, this deeply set, richly hued Cabernet Sauvignon is packed with character and youthful exuberance. Pastilles, spiced plum, figgy pudding, lavender fields and a sweet-hued black currant fruit pack the overt nose. Shockingly seamless for a wine of this ilk and age, this has a long and wide palate of blackberry cobbler, cocoa nibs, cured black olives, white pepper, sweet black tea and nicely positioned tannins towards the back of the mid-palate. I loved the tension here between the sizeable grip and the mass of sweet, exotic fruit that drives the wine forward. There are going to be a lot of $60 Cabs that can’t hold a candle to this released over the next few months, probably with plenty of high scores. We’d recommend grabbing one of the best while you can before the press, or the groundswell of interest, catches up with it.

2014 Casa Smith "Cervo-Northridge Vineyard" Wahluke Slope Barbera
Review Date: 07-10-2016
Some of you maybe wondering why in the hell are we emailing you about a Washington State Barbera? My answer to that is because it is just that delicious and needs to be tried to be believed. This brand new label, Casa Smith, which focuses solely on Italian varieties, is the newest in an ever-expanding series of wines from Charles Smith. The man with the crazy hair that brought some of the best wines Washington State can produce to market, both at value prices (Wines of Substance, Charles & Charles, Kung Fu Girl) and at the pinnacle of quality (K Vintners, Royal City).
Cervo is a single vineyard Barbera from the Wahluke Slope, a veritable hotbed of amazing vineyards, and while not Asti or Alba, it could be the next best place for the varietal if this wine is any indication. This wine has all the vigor and snap Barbera has to offer, with a bit more punch. Bing cherry, sassafras, blueberry and a touch of milk chocolate combine in the nose. Fresh and full of lifted blue fruits, this is a wine that will be certain to wake your mouth up no matter what you are, or are not eating. Adding a layer of tobacco and tar to the energetic fruit adds ballast and dimension and keeps the wine from becoming too linear in its approach, but this wine will surely cut through the richest of foods and help shepherd other high acid tomato based foods along easily and without issue. This should be your new table wine, full stop.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
RP 93

2014 Taken Wine Co. "Complicated" Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Review Date: 07-08-2016
Anytime you can find $15 Pinot Noir that actually tastes like Pinot Noir it is a major victory and a huge find, something akin to the wine Holy Grail. That is exactly what we found with this Complicated PN. I love the name of this wine because at $15 it should be anything but complicated but I’m happy that it actually is. Delicate blueberry fruit, pliable and perfectly ripe, dictates the nose and rides over subtle sage and mushroom tones and a touch of understated French oak. Surprisingly full and complex on the palate this completely over-delivers with serious notes of ash, chaparral, old leather, red currant and cranberry all while presenting itself in a seamless and complete way. Tangy but not sharp, ripe but never jammy, flavorful but with out excess, this is a great accomplishment in the world of inexpensive Pinot Noir and is instantly one of the best values in the shop.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
WE 91

2014 Martin Ray "Coast Grade Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
Review Date: 07-08-2016
In recent years we’ve seen the resurgence of the Martin Ray name in the California wine industry. Having no real connection to the historic figure that Martin Ray was this brand has quickly become one of the best negociants in the Domestic market. Starting with affordable wines, like their second label Angeline and their myriad of Cabernets through out the state, we’ve quickly become fond of these wines and thing they are near, or at the top of the heap for large production, purchased fruit wines from California.
In the last year or two they’ve added a more “reserve” tier to their line up with great sub-appellation wines and single vineyard bottlings that have been very impressive. One of these that really caught our eye was the 2014 Coast Grade Vineyard Pinot Noir which knocked our socks off. Naming this one of my Top 10 Pinot Noirs of the year is high praise but this is firmly entrenched on that list already. Crunchy red and black berry fruits ride a high line with exotic undertones of cardamom and star anise aromatically. Full of life and vibrant this is what Pinot should be but more and more rarely is: a perfect combination of earth, fruit, herbal complexity and subtle spice with acid dictating its pace and focus. Long savory and floral in the finish this lingers on the palate long after it is gone for hauntingly pleasing effect.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart
WE 95

2013 Mercer "Sharp Sisters" Horse Heaven Hills Red Blend
Review Date: 07-08-2016
Mercer first popped up my radar screen about five years ago when I toured their vast operation in the Horse Heaven Hills of Washington State while on a trade junket. I had tasted a few of their wines before and was impressed with their quality/value ratio but I had no idea how massive and historic their farming operation is. The Mercer family dates back to 1886 in what then would become Washington State. They were the first to plant grapes in the Horse Heaven Hills 1972 and that block became the famed Champoux Vineyard, they are one of the main growers for the Chateau St. Michelle empire, and have started quite an empire of their own with numerous labels under the Mercer moniker.. They also have one of the largest miniature carrot processing plants in the US and farm something like a few thousand acres total.
This Sharp Sisters blend which consists of 47% Merlot, 41% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Sangiovese and 1% Petit Verdot is a perfect example of that aforementioned quality/value ratio. As a somewhat unusual blend this is a crowd pleasing wine that is fully of ruddy, honest charm and plenty of fruit to spread around. Spiced cherry, 60% chocolate, black raspberry and café con leche combine on the dark and lightly spiced nose. Sappy and ripe on entry this opens to show fun red berry fruit laden with more serious black pepper, pipe tobacco and clove notes. This is a versatile and easy going wine that would be a great foil to BBQ fare, burgers or tomato based pasta sauces.
Price: Hidden View Price
WS 92

2013 Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 07-02-2016
Always one of our favorite, dare I say, “overlooked” Cabs, this wine always delivers and does so for a relative value. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this wine is one of the best Napa Cab bottlings I can currently think of for $90 in the store, and will be a sure-fire bet to go 15–20 years in the cellar. Textural without heft or excess, this is poised Cabernet, not bogged down by oak char, high sugar or high alcohol. Classic black fruits intertwined with sage, tobacco and sandalwood make for a classic and classy wine that I would love to see develop over time.

2013 Amici "Reserve" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 07-02-2016
The 2013 Amici “Reserve” Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($79.99) is a perfect example of why we have long touted the wines of this comparatively under-the-radar producer and its sister label, Olema (out of Sonoma), for years. Basically, everything they touch turns to gold, and does so for a discount. And gold, or in this case wine, at a discount is something we can all get behind. We’ve sold past vintages of this reserve wine in small quantities, but this vintage is going to be huge for us all the way through the end of the year. It easily outperforms about 95% of the Cab coming out of Napa at this price point, which is a boatload of wine. Powerful but engaging, ripe but balanced, fruity but well sculpted, this wine has amazing complexity and tension that will serve it well over the next 6–12 years. Boysenberry, sweet tobacco, dried lavender, black olives and a touch of tar all combine for a complete wine. This is fun enough to drink with your friends at a simple dinner at home, or serious enough to take to that power dinner you have with work bigwigs.

2014 Varner "Amphitheater Block-Spring Ridge Vineyard" Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
Review Date: 06-24-2016
I’m not scared to say it, and I have many times, out loud, to real people: I think the Varner Chardonnays are some of the best, if not the best, Chardonnays made in the United States. These wines are still way under the radar for most wine fans, due to their small production, out-of-the-way location--high in the hills above Portola Valley in the Santa Cruz Mountains--and stylistic choices. But for all of us lucky enough to have tasted these wines vintage after vintage, we can’t help but feel this way. The wines are just too good, with pinpoint precision, amazing complexity, and little “winemaking” to get in the way of the amazing raw materials they put into each and every bottle they make. The bad news, however, is that the 2014 vintage will be the last vintage for these wines from the Spring Ridge Vineyard, as the Varners couldn’t come to an agreement with the owner of the vineyard on and extension of the lease for the vineyard. So get them before they are gone forever.
The 2014 "Amphitheater Block” is much friendlier than in previous vintages. Historically, this wine has been the most linear and hard-lined of the trio, but not this year. Crushed minerals with notes of crimson clover, persimmon and a touch of caramelized corn swirl in the nose and lead in to the much more round and fleshy set of flavors. Pear, apricot, peach and a honeyed lace dominate the flavors but these rich, lush flavors never tip into overbearing territory. Rather, there is a broad beam of acid that cuts through this pitch like a hot knife through butter. This is the vineyard that intrigues me most every year with its changes and development. I’ll be sad to not to see it continue to grow up.
Price: $47.99 Add To Cart
VN 93 RP 91

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