This estate has quietly built a reputation for pure, age worthy chenin blanc from hillside vineyards of limestone and chalk in the village of Reugny. Today, the estate is in the very capable winemaking hands of Lionel Gauthier. Lionel is a bit of a misfit in the area. With a shocking patch of blond hair, massive build, and in-your-face intensity, he seems more Scandinavian than Loire. That is what his friends thought when they started calling him the “the Viking” years ago. After a while the name stuck, so in 1989, Lionel renamed the property. All grapes here are hand harvested, sorted, de-stemmed, crushed, and fermented in Lionel’s tiny garage cellar, and left to age in 500-liter barrels made from local chestnut. Enjoy! The 1990 Gauthier-Lhomme Domaine du Viking Vouvray Tendre ($22.99) got 93 points from the Wine Spectator: “Great aromas of lemon zest and fresh flowers, this has the mature, burnished feel you’d expect from a 1990, with excellent cut to its candied citrus, chamomile and dried pineapple flavors. Long, stony finish has an alluring smoky hint. Drink now through 2010. 2,000 cases made.” The 1999 Gauthier-Lhomme Domaine du Viking Vouvray Tendre ($16.99) is a bit dryer and firmer than the others. So pure and expressive of the soil, with the right amount of age to start showing hints of smokiness and honeyed aromas. The 2002 Gauthier-Lhomme Domaine du Viking Vouvray Tendre ($16.99) received 92 points from the Wine Spectator: “Off-dry at first impression, with green almond, fig and pear flavors, this gives way to a more cut on the back end, with floral and candied ginger notes. Long, minerally finish. An absolute steal at this price. Drink now through 2020. 2,000 cases made.” —Jeff Vierra
Generally speaking, there are two ways of making inexpensive wine. One way is to collect “left-over” gallons of mediocre wines into big tanks, adds some chemicals then slap on a label (often with some kind of animal on it), and thus, make a killing on murderously bad wine-making. The other, more difficult way to produce low-price wine, is to hit the dirt, so to speak, methodically seeking out quality vineyards, making contacts, and buying smart, all the while making a determined effort by tasting and comparing efforts vs. the competition, until a wine is made that’s actually great and economical at the same time. Esser Vineyards is one such rare producer. In the three vintages during which K&L has carried Esser, this label remains one of our top choices in the under $10 category in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Once again, their new vintages are outstanding values in the ocean of alcoholic mediocrity. The 2005 Esser California Pinot Noir ($11.99) has got to be one of the best under $15 Pinots to hit our store. Lovely, delicate, piercingly aromatic and surprisingly refined, what a bargain stroke of genius! The 2005 Esser California Cabernet Sauvignon ($7.99) is also drinking remarkably well. Yes, it’s 2005. And, no, it’s not too young to drink. In fact, it is spot-on delicious, giving you all that distinct cabernet character without being too ripe or tannic. Finally, the newest addition to the Esser Family is here! The 2004 Esser California Zinfandel ($9.99) is not hot or burdened or too sweet. This Zin displays terrific ripe berry flavors with just enough wiggle in the hips to keep things more than interesting. I don’t know how they manage to make money, but I sure know how they’ll save you some. If you have resisted the under $10 wine category for fear of being disappointed, now’s your chance to knock one home, flinch-free. Enjoy Esser and Happy Holloween! —Martin Reyes
We just received two containers of old and rare wines from Bordeaux-wines for all palates and pocketbooks. From the fabulous wines of Château Talbot (1945-1953) to lesser known wines from Château Rochebelle (1985, 1989, 1990, 1995) there are many cases of delicious mature wines to enjoy in the immediate future. Prices for 2005 Bordeaux too high for you? Then look at the superb values we have from Château Siran (1966-1986), Château Poujeaux 1975, Château Haut Bages Liberal 1986, Château Chasse Spleen (1975-1990) and Château Grand Mayne (1986-1990) all of these wines direct from the château and in perfect condition. Enjoy! —Clyde Beffa Jr
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