This month I’ve got a red and a white from the South of France, which are both serious overachievers! Both of these vinous beauties are great with any Mediterranean-inspired meal, or by themselves while your trying to figure out how to carve that 25-pound pumpkin. 2005 Costières de Nîmes Blanc Château Grande Cassagne ($9.99) Grenache blanc and roussanne are behind this crisp and rich white from the South of France. The very floral nose will set you squarely in the Southern Rhone, at a village market, say, where lavender and white flowers mingle with green olives and citrus. All these, and more, you can taste in this excellent-value wine. A tingle of oak on the finish adds complexity and remains a back note. Open a bottle of the Grande Cassagne Blanc and prepare to be transported to the south of France! NV Chateau de Saint Cosme “Little James’ Basket Press” ($10.99) This tasty little gem is named after Louis and Cherry Barruol’s son James. Louis has coined this irreverant wine his “wine of freedom” as he is unencumbered by France’s strict appellation controlee in it's production. Composed of primarily grenache from select areas in the Southern Rhone and Languedoc-Roussillon, this juicy red boasts bright cherry aromatics, dried thyme and hints of roasted piquillo peppers. Great with anything off the grill! —Mulan Chan
We’ve been importing the wonderful wines from Maison Champy, the oldest negociant in Burgundy, for several vintages now. The 2004s are a wonderful range, as they bring biodynamic practices to more and more of their vineyards. The list below is by no means all of their wines, but drop by the Redwood City Store on October 7 from 1 to 4 p.m., and you may taste them all. The 2004 Chardonnay Signature ($14.99) is a favorite of many of our staff. It is made from grapes from Puligny, Meursault and Rully, and is barrel selection of their best barrels. It’s toasty and bright, with richness and toasty oak notes. The 2004 St. Romain ($20.99) is from a little village in the hills and shows classic minerality and a laser-like precision. The 2004 Pernand Vergelesses Blanc ($21.99) is really a little Corton Charlemagne and a great buy! Finally they hit an amazing home run with the 2004 St. Aubin, Murgers Dent de Chien, 1er Cru ($29.99). This is next to Premier Cru Puligny and is an astoundingly lovely effort. I was so impressed that I talked them out of a second barrel, of the three they made! The 2004 Bourgogne Pinot Signature ($14.99) is all from the Cote d’Or, and is redolent with bright Bing cherry fruit and lots of richness and length. The 2003 Pernand Vergelesses, “Les Fichots,” 1er Cru ($21.99) is from an East facing vineyard on the back of the Hill of Corton, and is flat out stunning, with blackberry spice notes, an elegant character and nice minerality threading through the wine. Don’t miss this one! Á Sante! —Keith Wollenberg
I’m proud to introduce the latest addition to our portfolio of Montalcino producers, Ferrero. Claudia Ferrero’s small property is situated between Argiano and Banfi’s Poggio all’Oro vineyard in Montalcino’s southwestern corner. Claudia married Pablo Hari onetime Banfi winemaker and now for many years the head winemaker at Col d’Orcia. Pablo has his hands full with Col d’Orcia, yet when he gets home on the weekend there’s a “honey do” list for him to attend to. I met Pablo Hari while visiting Col d’Orcia in 2005 and liked him immediately. He is calm, confident with a hidden wry wit. He suggested that the next time I came to Montalcino I taste his wife’s wine; she was looking for an importer. Mike Parres and I visited Montalcino last February. We had so many wines to taste and estates to visit that we convinced each other beforehand that the last thing we needed was to import another Brunello producer no matter how good the deal. We would try to back out gracefully from any offers, stating we just had too many wineries from Montalcino. Pablo spied me from across the hall, sauntered over and asked me if we had tasted his wife’s wines yet. Not yet we told him, next on our agenda. Mike and I looked at each other once again, preparing to say “No” but gently. We met Claudia and tasted the 2004 Ferrero Rosso di Montalcino ($15.99). Mike and I were both initially stunned by the richness, texture and forward fruit in the wine. We both liked it immensely. We then tasted the Brunello. It was truly a stunning crowd-pleasing wine we were sure most anyone in California would like. Carefully preparing questions so that we could issue our no’s even though we both liked the wines, the thought of another inventory meeting with Clyde loomed larger. I asked how much the wines were, and had to ask again, the noise in this hall was considerable, and I couldn’t quite believe what I had heard. I asked Claudia once again, “Quanto?” I turned and looked at Mike and translated the figure. The stunned Mr. Parres looked me in the eyes and gave me the famous “Two Thumbs Up,” meaning you’d better buy this stuff. Well, he knew he wouldn’t have to meet with Clyde! The 2001 Ferrero Brunello di Montalcino ($29.99) comes from a tiny 500-case production. The wine is full of lush, broad strokes of chocolate and black cherry that gently layer your palate with a velvety texture that coaxes warmth and roundness out of the wine and into your mouth. This gorgeous sangiovese is full-bodied, ripe and with structure that shows underneath but in a smooth, sensual way, no pressure or force. Strong, soft shoulders hold up the prodigious weight effortlessly. This wine is sultry. I feel like I’m in a harem when I drink it. It pours across your palate as if you’re sliding around on a bed of satin cushions. Although certainly capable of an extended life, it is remarkably drinkable now and will continue to improve for years to come. Trust me, you’ll love it. —Greg St. Clair
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