Since we started our Direct Import program six years ago I have studiously avoided Chianti Classico. The number of quality producers who produce lots of cases is high, and selling 10,000 cases of Chianti is a daunting task. The smaller wineries I love have long been locked up with other importers, and there never seemed to be much in the way of anything on the horizon. Occasionally things stumble onto your plate. I met Marco Ricasoli Firidolfi a few years ago, and he immediately stuck me as cultured and poised while being a dynamic and confident individual. Marco has sangiovese running through his veins and has become a purist at heart, not wanting to blend international varieties into his Chianti. His wines speak of their soil. His roots go back to Castello di Brolio, where his ancestor the “Iron” Baron Bettino Ricasoli is credited with inventing the modern Chianti blend. Rocca di Montegrossi is Marco’s property. This jewel sits astride a beautiful outcrop of galestro soil in Gaiole (near Monti in Chianti) and is one of Chianti Classico’s top estates! The moon and the stars lined up properly, and voila, we now import these wines. You will be stunned by the quality, and the prices have dropped precipitously from what they were before we took over the pricing! The 2003 Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico ($17.99) is a stunner. While the vintage is definitely a warm one, RdM’s altitude accentuated the positives, and they made a really dynamite wine. Soft, open and round in the mouth, the wine’s luscious fruit is readily apparent yet is layered with spice, rosemary and violet. A luxurious softness on the palate follows onto the finish, which lingers and begs for food. I'm dreaming of Arista, the fantastic pork loin roast you see all over Tuscany gently flavored with rosemary, a perfect match. We also have half bottles for $10.99, a great mid week experience. As good as the “normale” Chianti is, prepare yourself for these! The 1999 Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico Riserva “San Marcellino” 1.5L ($69.99) is perfection for Chianti. This wine is made from 100% sangiovese and is a classic. Sangiovese, when it is right, has unending length, and this wine is really right. Wild cherry-, rosemary- and sauvage-filled intrigue rolls across your palate while minerals crystallize and deposit their structure on your tongue. OHHHHHhhhh my god this is good! However limited. The 2001 Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico Riserva “San Marcellino” 1.5L ($59.99) is everything the 1999 is but one size up! Power, structure, depth, a very similar styled vintage displaying all the best points of sangiovese, it is dynamite and will be long lived. Members of our Signature Red Wine Club will be receiving the 750ml bottle in their monthly packs before long! The 2001 Rocca di Montegrossi “Geremia” ($27.99), a 60% cabernet sauvignon and 40% merlot is is a spicy, intrigue-filled red that just radiates flavor. This Bordeaux blend will only get better as these vineyards age. If you ever get a chance to drink the 1998 Rocca di Montegrossi Vin Santo 375ml ($74.99), you’ve died and can go to heaven, The 1997 got 97 points in Parker. The ’98 is better. —Greg St. Clair
As of this writing (end of May) we have had three weeks of summer and no spring. The vines are confused, the animals are confused, and I am more confused than usual. We are still three weeks behind normal grape development, and unless we begin receiving some acceptable warm weather (which would include the evenings), we are witnessing the potential for one of the latest vintages ever. So, 35 years ago, when I was at the Ernie’s Wine Warehouse of the Ernie’s Wine & Liquor Corporation operations, a customer would regularly show up at either the Redwood City or the South San Francisco warehouse to buy wine with his diaper-clad son in hand. Through the years, his son would always be at his side (not always in diapers) during buying trips. About 11 years ago, his son showed up at K&L to buy some wine, and I asked him for his ID. He was 21 that day and had waited “all his life” for this opportunity to buy his father a very special bottle of wine from me. I was honored! His father was Jim Westby, and his son was Gary, who is now our Champagne buyer and one of the foremost Champagne experts in this country… yes, in this country! He has discovered absolutely wonderful Champagnes on his buying trips from some extremely small winemakers (many producing for just two- and three-star Michelin restaurants). The Ariston Brut Carte Blanche ($28.99), a champagne house Gary discovered in 2001, is one of our best values. A blend of 40 % chardonnay, and 30% pinot noir and meunier each, aged three years on lees, this is a finely etched bubbly showing fine yeasty, nutty, doughy, rich aromas and palate impressions, and a long, refreshing finish. Buy this in quantity, according to Vanilla. Jim Westby: You did a superb job of raising and educating your son… This is our house sparkler forever. Of all red wines, my least favorite is domestic Merlot because of its general angular, simple presentation. Once in awhile a new release will come along that will astound me with its atypical richness, complexity and depth of character, and this is the case with Robert Pellegrini’s (owner of Olivet Lane Vineyards) 2003 Cloverdale Ranch Alexander Valley Merlot ($19.99). This bottling is deeply colored and offers a lovely nose of red fruits and truffles, underscored by toasty oak tones. The palate shows near-term drinking with its soft tannins yet excellent structure and broadness of fruit that continues into its long silky finish. Eight percent cabernet adds depth and dimension. This is one of our house reds for July according to Anderson. The vineyard/winery source for the 2003 Purisima Canyon Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($16.99) has been kept under strict lock and key from me, but regardless; this is a wonderful gem. Deep ruby in color, the nose explodes with cassis and blackberry fruit with just a touch of cedary oak that follows through on the palate. Complex, layered, yet focused with round, fine tannins, drink this now and for the next five to ten years. Anderson has told me this will be our July house red for the cellar. Recently a single vineyard Zin from the Howell Mountain appellation was bottled for us, and it will knock your socks off. The 2003 Kirkham Peak Howell Mountain Zinfandel ($14.99) is deep ruby/garnet in color, exploding with white pepper to plum aromatics. This has a deep, concentrated, fleshy, broad set of varietal flavors with a long, warm, fuzzy finish. Anderson has told me that this will be our Zin for the month or more. If you have any questions about these selections, you can email us at email@example.com. Enjoy this month’s wines! —Jim, Anderson, Eby and Vanilla
The rebirth of the Château de Puligny Montrachet since my visit there in 2002 is astounding. Since Etienne de Montille took over, the yields are down, farming is organic or biodynamic and attention to detail shows from top to bottom. The result has been extremely fine wines, all estate grown. A particularly good bargain is the 2004 Château de Puligny Montrachet Bourgogne Blanc, Clos du Château ($24.99). Made from 100% estate-grown fruit from the walled vineyard around the Château, this is a Puligny Montrachet in all but name, with bright fruit and lovely focus. The 2004 Château de Puligny Montrachet Monthelie Blanc ($29.99) has lovely mid-palate balance, with bright creamy notes and good weight. The pretty floral notes on the nose add to its charm. The 2004 Château de Puligny Montrachet St. Aubin 1er Cru, “En Remilly” ($39.99) is a rich wine with elegant minerality and a lemon-cream note. The finish is long, persistent and balanced. The 2004 Château de Puligny Montrachet Puligny Montrachet ($50.99) shows very pretty pine and mineral notes, with fresh, bright fruit. The wine has a precise focus to it, and is lovely, fine and lingering on the finish. There are also small quantities of the 2004 Château de Puligny Montrachet Meursault 1er Cru, “Poruzots” ($53.99), the 2004 Château de Puligny Montrachet Meursault 1er Cru, “Perrieres” ($68.99) and the 2004 Château de Puligny Montrachet Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru, “Folatieres” ($75.99), as well as tiny quantities of their spectacular Grands Crus, Chevalier, Bâtard and Montrachet (please inquire). Á Santé. —Keith Wollenberg
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