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
It’s time to cover up the BBQ, put the outdoor furniture in the shed and move the party inside. Cooler temperatures, darkness at 5 p.m., costumes and football now prevail, and it’s the opening of red wine season. As all the great chefs move inside and turn up the intensity of their culinary adventures, you can bet the same thing is happening in the cellar, with the selections of fine reds being made to complement the special times and meals. As the relatives arrive, I’m popping corks! If you need any help, here are a few suggestions: 1999 Bordeaux is flat out underrated, a lovely vintage to drink young, and we have three super wines to serve. 1999 Ch. d’Angludet ($36.99), from Margaux, is full of ripe red fruit with a soft/creamy middle texture and hints of cherry and mulberry. Conversely, the 2000 shows you the qualities in d’Angludet that resemble a more St-Julien/Pauillac style wine and should be cellared 5-15 more years. 1999 Ch. Haut Bailly ($44.99), from Pessac-Léognan, is one of the few 1999s featuring very good acidity to go along with a bright and zesty core of crimson and black fruit with hints of earth and minerality. Decant these ’99s 45 minutes to an hour and enjoy. Whatever you do, don’t be popping your top wines from the 2000 Bordeaux vintage. This fine vintage is full of focus and power, and to drink them young will be a big mistake with very few exceptions. 2000 Ch. Cantemerle ($32.99), the fifth growth from the Haut-Médoc, is just minutes south of Margaux where vines have been in the ground here since 1570. The 40% merlot planted in the vineyard at Cantemerle always guarantees a consistent wine of warmth, charm and elegance. The 2000 is a great expression of Cantemerle, and the beauty of this wine is also the outstanding balance, which means it will age very well, but the great taste will be very hard to stay away from. As good as the 2005 vintage may turn out to be, I believe 2003 may turn out to be my favorite vintage ever. The vintage has absolutely everything: ripeness, opulence, richness, balance and great taste. These wines just cannot be ignored now that they have arrived in America and are on the sales floor. From this point on, any red wine I buy for my collection will be 2003 red Bordeaux until they leave the marketplace. Many of the wines are flat out better than their 2005 counterparts and are lower priced as well. These include wines like La Couspaude, Haut Bailly, Langoa-Barton, Poujeaux, Sociando Mallet, Phelan-Segur, Clerc-Milon, Nenin, Haut-Bages-Liberal, Malartic Lagraveliere, Lynch Bages, Pichon Comtesse de la Lalande, and Cos d’Estournel. You could drink Léoville-Las-Cases everyday of your life and never guess if you were tasted blind that 2003 Clos du Marquis ($39.99) was not the first wine! One more thought to convey: If you have any inkling to go shopping for some older Bordeaux from your favorite estates, don’t dally, sprint into action. There are some great deals in our inventory now, and 1996 and 2000 Montrose ($84.99 and $149.00) are prime examples as is 1989 Cos d’Estournel ($169.00). These wines were bought in April, before the crazily priced 2005s were released, and they are priced extremely well. Feel free to contact me anytime with questions or advice on the wines of Bordeaux at ex 2723 or Ralph@klwines.com. Cheers and Go Giants and Niners! —Ralph Sands
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