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Château de Brézé has a long and storied history, first being mentioned in texts in 1068, lauded by King René of Anjou in the 15th century and served at all the royal courts. In 1957, when the AOC of Saumur Champigny was established, the owner of Château de Brézé refused to be part of the appellation, saying that his estate's vineyards were the best and deserved an appellation all their own. And he was probably right. Unfortunately, the wines from those exceptional vineyards were terrible. Lucky for us, the winery sold in 2009 to Le Comte de Colbert, who recruited Arnaud Lambert from nearby Domaine de Saint Just to make the wine. He changed the vineyards over to organic farming and began producing truly stellar wines worthy of their source. The 2012 Château de Brézé Clos David is all estate-grown Chenin Blanc raised in stainless steel to preserve freshness. It has the slightly-oxidized note of a great White Burgundy and a lovely richness that allows it to pair with a variety of foods.

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We host regular weekly and Saturday wine tastings in each K&L location.

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Archives
Sunday
Aug232015

Champagne Standards Back In Stock

It's that time of year again! The big players of K&L's direct import Champagne program are back in stock and ready for your Fall celebratory needs. The labels we've spent the last decade building into recognizable names—Bonville and Launois—are in the store, stacked at the ends of the aisle, just waiting to be tossed into your basket. I didn't waste any time this week. I grabbed a bottle of the Launois Grand Cuvee and the Bonville Blanc de Blanc, threw them into the ice bucket, and camped out on the couch this weekend. It was time to get my bubble action on.

If you're new to K&L and you've never heard of Launois or Bonville, I'll give you the ten second spiel. Big house Champagnes like Veuve Cliquot or Dom Perignon are made by blending together many different wines; purchased from growers small and large throughout the Champagne region. Some growers don't even make their own namesake cuvee, foresaking the actual winemaking for the ease of selling their precious grapes in one fell swoop. Many producers sell part of their harvest, but keep some of it back to make their own Champagne. We call these folks grower/producers. Bonville and Launois are two of our most popular grower/producers here at K&L and in both cases we are able to purchase the Champagne directly; meaning we cut down on middleman fees (and that means cheaper prices for you!). You won't find two better Champagnes for the money at our stores:

Franck Bonville Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne $34.99 - Perhaps the most exciting value in the store right now! This wine is based on the 2011 harvest, which was a difficult one for Olivier Bonville. He took extreme measures to ensure the quality of his entry-level wine, and made the best non-vintage that he has ever released. His entire 2011 high-end production was declassified into this wine; he will make no Belles Voyes, Vintage, or Prestige and has instead put all of his top-class, mid-slope, old-vine production into the regular bottling and the base for the rosé. It is composed of entirely estate-grown, grand cru Chardonnay including 50% reserve wines from 2010 and 2009. The nose is effusive, with baguette, white flowers and a nice salinity, while the flavors have a fine balance of white fruit, cream and precise Avize chalk. It is dosed at 8.3 grams per liter and is very, very long finishing. Don't miss this. The Underground Wine Letter also rates this wine Outstanding Plus: "This is a terrific Champagne with great balance, flavor and style and it is a real value. Pale yellow in color the wine has a lovely perfume with hints of peach and citrus and faint floral nuances accented by a kiss of vanilla. Creamy and very flavorful, this is a Champagne that is very harmonious showing subtle hints of peach, citrus, and spice. Elegant and long on the finish this is gorgeous to drink now or keep for many years."

Launois "Cuvée Reserve" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne $34.99 - This spectacular Champagne is one of the most sought-after in France, and Launois' cult status made it very difficult for us to make a purchase. We lucked out, and now we buy it directly, passing massive savings on to you. This house is from Mesnil, the southernmost Grand Cru in Champagne and home to Salon and Krug's Clos de Mesnil. This Champagne is all Chardonnay and all Grand Cru from the villages of Mesnil, Oger, Cramant and Avize--a roll call of the finest crus for Chardonnay in all of Champagne and all Veritas-certified for sustainable agriculture. It is aged for more than three years on the lees after an iron vat vinification. The aromatics of this Champagne are like polished white Burgundy with a touch of pine nut and minerals. The flavors are broad and rich. This is serious wine, with small bubbles and a refreshing finish.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Aug182015

The Chilean Future at K&L

Our Spanish/South American buyer Joe Manekin gathered us all into the bar this week to introduce us to Bodegas Re: our latest direct import producer from Chile. With properties in the Casablanca Valley and the Maule Valley, Bodegas Re is a family-owned estate that honors a long tradition of traditional farming and viticultural practices, today being run by Pablo Morandé and his sons. What stands out about the wines of Bodegas Re, however, is the unique vinification of red varietals as if they were white, and their subsequent blending of these wines with other white varietals. Imagine picking red pinot noir grapes, but then pressing the juice out of them before the skins have a chance to color the liquid red. Then fermenting that "white" pinot noir juice and combining it with wines from other aromatic white varietals. We were all incredibly intrigued!

Pablo Morandé to the left chatting with Julio Enoso

Take the "Chardonnoir", for example—a pinot noir that's vinified like a white wine, then blended with traditionally-vinified chardonnay. The result is almost like Champagne without the bubbles, with an oxidative style and plenty of tart acidity to balance out the richness. It's somewhere in between still sparkler and cold-climate cider—incredibly refreshing and intriguing. The "Pinotel" was another big winner—again using pinot noir in conjunction with the aromatic moscatel to create a racy, austere wine with plenty of heft. We were all caught off guard by the rather revolutionary style. The flavors were crisp and refreshing, but with richness and depth. It was all quite stunning.

As part of the winemaking, Pablo uses standard 600 liter French oak barrels, as well as larger Italian made "botti" to mature his wines. For fermentation, he uses Chilean "tinajas" made of concrete and clay, traditionally part of the local practice. Joe toured the estate earlier this year before making the deal to bring Bodegas Re in on behalf of K&L.

As far as what's available, you can check out the full list of Bodegas Re wines below:

2012 Bodegas Re "Chardonnoir" Single Vineyard Casablanca Valley $34.99 - Made in an oxidative and austere style, imagine all the crisp flavors and richness of a blanc de noir Champagne, but without the bubbles!

2014 Bodegas Re "Pinotel - Family Vineyard" Rosé Casablanca Valley - Truly the stunner of the bunch, racy acidity and richness from the pinot noir accent the aromatic moscatel fruit.

2014 Bodegas Re "Recoleccion" Maule Valley (500ml) $13.99 - Tart blackberry fruit, mixes with flavors of violets and dried herbs. Chile's version of a bistro wine. Quite enticing (served in 500ml bottles).

2013 Bodegas Re "Syragnan"  Maule Valley $29.99 - The deep, concentrated flavors of syrah combine with the unctuous, full-boded fruit of carignan. Juicy and weighty on the palate. Lovely!

2009 Bodegas Re "Cabergnan"  Maule Valley $39.99 - A marriage of cabernet sauvignon and carignan, the herbaceousness of the cabernet mixes with the sweet carignan fruit to create almost a eucalyptus note, reminiscent of Australian shiraz, but with more depth.

-David Driscoll

Tuesday
Aug182015

Let’s Talk about Riesling, Baby.

“Yo, I don't think we should talk about this.

Come on, why not?

People might misunderstand what we're tryin' to say, you know?” -Salt-N-Pepa

For the past 20 or so years, Riesling has been a bit of a taboo subject for consumers. With comments like, “Ew, no Riesling for me. It’s too sweet,” or “Germany? Don’t they only make sweet wines?” In recent years, there has been an attempt to revive Riesling by sommeliers, retailers, and wine geeks alike through events like the Summer of Riesling campaign. While a valiant effort, these campaigns failed to get one very important message across to the consumer: not all Riesling is sweet.

Don’t get me wrong, sweet Rieslings can be absolutely delightful. In fact, some of the most impressive, most ageable wines are sweet, dessert Rieslings such as Eiswein and Trockenbeerenauslese. However, sweet Rieslings aren’t appropriate in every situation.  Let’s face it, sweet Riesling is not an easy, day-to-day drink for most people. The American palate is moving away from sweet and more towards dry. We want something drier, more high acid, more quaffable. Dry, high acid you say?  Well, look no further than the magnificent Riesling.

Riesling is naturally very high in acid, and when made well can produced some of the most thirst-quenching, mouthwateringly dry wines in the world. Mr. Johannes Leitz, a VDP producer in the Rheingau, told me that most Germans don’t actually drink sweet Riesling. The classic German sweet wines, such as Dragonstone, have gone out of fashion in the country. The new generation drinks only dry Rieslings, while the U.S. import market picks up the sweet wines they no longer desire.

However, more and more dry Rieslings are making their way to the American market. Mr. Leitz says he has been gradually decreasing the residual sugar in many of their sweet wines at the demand of the American consumers. This is a relief for Leitz and other producesrs in the Rheingau, a region that helped pioneer regulations for higher quality dry Rieslings. More recently known for their sweet Auslese due to a climate that encourages noble rot, the Rheingau is now bringing back the complex dry wines that the region used to specialize in. One such way is through the designation Erstes Gewachs (which later became Grosses Gewachs), a designate that can only be used for quality dry wines made from VDP sites.  

Below are some winemakers that are producing great dry Rieslings.

In the Rheingau, Johannes Leitz’s vineyards run along the steep slopes of the Rüdesheim area of the Rhineriver. Johannes’ grandfather acquired the vineyard after it was destroyed during World War II and nursed the vines back to health. The 2013 Leitz "Eins Zwei Dry" Rheingau Riesling Trocken (Dry) $15.99 is his entry-level dry Riesling that is harmoniously dry with a rounder, richer palate and notes of peach and nectarine. It’s perfect for those who don’t want the mouth-cutting high acidity, but still want a dry Riesling. Thier 2013 Leitz Rüdesheimer Riesling Trocken $18.99 is one of my favorite dry Rieslings, with notes of meyer lemon, orange blossom, pith and an underlying salinity that is reminds you of the ocean. The quality of this wine for the price is insane!

In in the Rheinhessen, where Müller-Thurgau reigns supreme, there is a small movement of young winemaker who are challenging the norm. One such young winemaker is Stefan Winter, one the newest elected VDP producers. He has turned around his family estate, making wines that are no longer ordinary, but extraordinary. While his family estate is quite large at 20 hectares, he keeps yields low, only producing 7,000 cases per year. He is pretty hands-off in the cellar and it certainly shines through in his wines, tasting nothing but the grape and the terroir. The 2013 Stefan Winter Dittelsheim Riesling (dry) $21.99 has aromas of honeysuckle, white starfruit and wet stone with very high, crisp acidity and flavors of lemon juice and petrol. This bottle is cellar worthy for under $25.

In the beautiful upper Mittelrhein, an UNESCO world heritage site, Dr. Randolf Kauer (a professor of Organic Viticulture at the Geisenheim University) makes wine at his family estate Weingut Dr. Randolf Kauer.  He farms 3.5 hectares of vines on steep slate slopes which are certified ECOVIN and organic. The 2013 Dr. Randolf Kauer Oberweseler Oelsberg Riesling Spätlese Trocken Alte Reben $26.99 is truly terroir driven with aromas of lemon zest, orange blossom and pear, leading to a palate of tree-fruits, lemon and searing high, juicy acidity.

Lastly, the Mosel, known for its slate-riddled soils and steep, picturesque hills.  While the region may be beautiful, the hills of the Mosel are difficult and costly to maintain. As a result in the 1980’s, many producers abandoned winemaking on these slopes. But Dr. Ulrich Stein loves these steep slate slopes and makes a wine that celebrates the terroir; Blauschiefer or Blue Slate. Blue slate is a perfect descriptor for the 2013 Stein "Blauschiefer" Riesling Trocken (Dry) $18.99. It tastes like licking slate, stones, and minerals.  Extremely dry, insanely mineral driven, full of salinity, and reminiscent of Granny Smith apples.  This wine is crazy complex for the price. It’s sourced from 80-year-old vines on a steep slope which require a lot of labor. I’m not entirely sure how they could be making money on this wine. It’s truly a steal.

Watch out for more Riesling posts to come...

-Olivia Ragni