All Saturday tastings are from noon to 3 p.m. in San Francisco and 1 to 4 p.m. in Redwood City. Look for dinners and other events listed in the “local events” section of our website, www.klwines.com. Please note our new format beginning this month. In order to bring you a wider array of choices, the San Francisco and Redwood City stores will have their own unique tastings. Tasting prices TBA. August 5: California Chardonnay in RWC. Martin will pour wines from top producers in Napa and Sonoma. A rare opportunity to sample some of California’s finest Chardonnays. International Pinot Noir in SF. The staff will pick their favorite Pinot Noir from the U.S., France, New Zealand and other countries. August 12: 2001 Brunello di Montalcino in RWC. Greg will be pouring a selection of Brunellos from the spectacular 2001 vintage. Salute to Women Winemakers in SF. A tasting from top women winemaker’s such as Cathy Corison, Kristin Belair, Susana Balbao and others. August 19: 2003 Bordeaux in RWC & SF. Clyde, Steve and Ralph pick one white, eight reds and one Sauternes for our monthly Bordeaux tasting highlighting the 2003 vintage. August 26: Australia Shiraz in RWC. Jim will focus on the great red wines of Australia. Please join us for this first-class sojourn down under. Sparkling Wine in SF. Sparkling wines from around the world including Champagnes, Cava, domestic bubblies and tasty treats from Alsace, Loire and Burgundy.
As you may know, K&L has developed an informed and passionate staff with wine buyers for the separate categories. As the company and world of wine has grown this has become a necessary evolution to be at the top of our game and bring the customer the most interesting wines at the best value possible. The trips that we take around the world allow us to make relationships and deals for direct import and private labels to help realize that vision. This past January, I spent two weeks in South Australia focusing on two of the major regions in this state, the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. Though there are plenty of other regions that offer great character and style and deserve more attention by the press, these regions at present represent the “face” of the majority of Australian wines in the market. Believe me, that’s not a bad thing. Both these areas are home to some of the great vineyards of the world offering incredibly old vine Shiraz (Syrah), Grenache and Mourvdre that produce profound wines from low yielding vines giving great concentration and intensity. Fine Cabernet can be found as well and the Rieslings from Clare Valley and Eden Valley (a sub-region of the Barossa Valley) are absolutely world class. Both regions are unique in style and have their own microclimate within them, and of course the winemakers influence is key. The Barossa Valley typically shows more broad shouldered ripe black fruit and bittersweet chocolate notes with cooler spots in the south end of the valley near Williamstown and the sub-region of Eden Valley driven by the influence of altitude. You can taste the effect of this in some of the wines from Yalumba and Thorn Clarke that even with rich dark fruits will show a lighter feel on the palate and slightly lower alcohol levels. McLaren Vale will tend to show brighter fruit with cassis and blue rather than blackberry fruit and red fruits as well. The chocolate notes here lean to milk instead of dark. The cooler aspect to this region is driven by a maritime influence due to the Gulf of St. Vincent. There is a greater change in the day and night time temperature here and cooler in general. This gives the wines of McLaren Vale a bit more acidity that shows in the juicy, silky mid-palate of these wines. After tasting over 350 wines, I welcomed the cooler vintages of 2004 and 2005. 2003 was a hot vintage that I believe was more consistent in McLaren Vale and a little less focused in Barossa. That being said, we always say…follow the producer, vintage tells you when to drink the wine. The 2004 vintage was a tad cooler than 2005 and the wines are compact, refined and show good definition and balance. 2005 was a very even season with the wines having great purity, varietal character, fine balancing acidity and expressive length. The white wines that are already coming on board have great mid-palate fruit and weight with superb supporting acid. All and all, this looks to be a spectacular vintage that will have wines in the lower priced tier way over delivering and in the upper range have the structure to reward cellaring and evolve into complex wines. Jim Chanteloup K&L Australian Wine Buyer
In my opinion, there are two great liquid ways to beat the heat of summer: beer and Champagne. Since I do not do a beer column (not that I wouldn’t want to!), I’ll stick to Champagne. For August, I have two great, underpriced Champagnes that are great on a hot summer evening. Forget air-conditioning; have a nice, cooling glass of bubbly! At the top of the list is the fresh, zippy and delicate Launois “Cuvee Reserve” Brut Blanc de Blancs ($25.99). Like one of my other favorites, Champagne Krug, Launois gets a lot of its fruit from the Mesnil district of Champagne. A great blend of all Grand Cru chardonnay from Mesnil, Oger, Cramant and Avize. A nose of custard, pine nuts and wet stones. In the mouth, a wonderful cleanliness of character that melds with pear fruit, almonds, vanilla crème and lemon/lime nuances. Rich in style with 90% of the fruit from the 2000 vintage and 10% coming from 1998 reserve stock. I poured this for the staff last month, and even some of my more skeptical co-workers, who don’t really, shall we say, appreciate Champagne, loved this one! Like an old friend, the Ariston Carte Blanche Brut ($22.99) never fails to please. A direct contrast to the Launois, the Ariston is true to its terrior in the small village of Brouillet. The steep, sunny slopes of this district yield riper fruit with a great richness. The final blend is 40% chardonnay, 30% pinot noir and 30% pinot meunier. The nose has elements of pistachios, brioche and red fruits. Like the Launois, the chardonnay in the mouth has lemon curd and custard flavors, while the pinot noir and the pinot meunier add red plum and currant fruit. A nice finish of toasted hazelnuts. Head out to that porch with some Champagne, crusty bread, cheese and fruit! Cheers and have a great month! —Scott Beckerley
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