I had a small distributor stop by the San Francisco shop in late January to taste us on several wines, and were they fantastic. All of these wines are new to K&L Wine Merchants. Nothing is more fun and satisfying than finding a small production winery with exceptional wines. 2000 Galleron “Aves” Napa Valley Zinfandel ($17.99) Gary Galleron has made wine at places like Whitehall Lane, Grace Family, Hartwell and Vineyard 29. This wine made us all smile. This Zinfandel has six years of aging on it with fantastic fruit and excellent structure. It’s not a wine for you Turley fans, but if you want a hearty red for a nice steak, this is the one. 2002 Martin “Talty Vineyard” Dry Creek Zinfandel ($15.99) Michael Martin, the owner/winemaker, makes four Zinfandels. From the Talty Vineyard, near Martin’s estate, this wine is big and fruity with hints of spice and pepper. The wine finishes long and clean. 2003 Olabisi Knight’s Valley Syrah ($21.99) Olabisi means “joy multiplied.” Ted Osbourne is the owner/winemaker who was last at Storybook Mountain Vineyards and is now the winemaker at the super premium winery Pina Cellars. This one is big and bright with lovely pepper that explodes in the mouth with layers of flavor. It is a wine that is very quiet on the finish. Decant for best drinking. See you in the City… —Mike Jordan
People in the wine industry have a tendency to generalize California Chardonnay. It is perceived by many as over-oaked, heavy and lacking acidity and balance. While this may be true for some it is unfair to say all California Chardonnay is in the same style. There are many that could easily be confused with a great White Burgundy if tasted blind. Two of these wines I believe are the 2003 Varner “Home Vineyard” Santa Cruz Chardonnay ($28.99) and the 2003 Varner “Bee Block” Santa Cruz Chardonnay ($29.99). Both really show what California Chardonnay is capable of. The Home Vineyard is made up of vines that are 23 years old. The Bee Block's vines average about 15 years old. Both wines are made in a truly “hands-off” approach. Owners Jim and Bob Varner both believe the wine is made in the vineyard and not in the cellar. New oak is kept in check, 50% new French on the Bee Block and 40% on the Home. Both wines show great acidity and freshness, along with rich mid-palates and long spicy finishes. I think with a couple more years in the bottle both will gain even more complexity and richness. Another wine in a similar style is the 2003 Hanzell Sonoma Chardonnay ($54.99). Minimal new oak and very little malolactic fermentation makes this a precise and pure Chardonnay worth lying down for a while. This wine shows mineral-driven fruit aroma with flavors of white pear, green apple and citrus notes. Subtle hints of toast and spice notes remain in the background and linger on the finish. For those of you looking for that “typical” California style, I would recommend one of the best. The 2003 Sbragia “Gamble Ranch” Napa Chardonnay ($34.99) is for those of you who are looking for that rich, lush and creamy texture in a white wine. Owner Ed Sbragia, the current head winemaker at Beringer, has created this wine with all his signature techniques. The wine is rich and opulent with a buttery, nutty quality that seems to linger on the palate for several minutes. —Trey Beffa
Monterey County and its sub-appellations hold an increasingly prominent place in California’s wine history. Currently, Monterey is re-affirming itself as a world-class winemaking region for grapes like chardonnay, pinot noir and other warm-climate haters. Santa Lucia, without a doubt, is the premium growing region in Monterey, and one of the best producers there is Morgan Winery. Founded in 1982, Morgan’s quest for shocking Chardonnays and perfect Pinots has produced wines that are heads, shoulders and torso above much of the surrounding wineries. The 2004 Morgan “Metallico” Chardonnay ($16.99) is a laser of a wine, made in stainless steel, no ML, yet clean, bright, crisp fruit with superb minerality and focus. The richly dressed 2004 Morgan “Twelve Clones” Pinot Noir ($24.99) jumps out of the glass with sumptuous aromatics and rounded vanilla and cherry notes. Double L, short for Double Luck, named for the owner’s twin daughters, is an organically grown vineyard that is probably one of the best pinot/chardonnay vineyards in the Central Coast. Each effort, the 2003 Morgan “Double L” Pinot Noir ($46.99) and the 2004 Morgan “Double L” Chardonnay ($27.99), reflects the exquisite purity, power and refinement that come from meticulously cared for, pesticide-free vines planted at the right place with the right grapes. Farther south, we run into Graff Family Vineyards, the family that started it all in Monterey. What, you say? Never heard of them before? The family only co-founded Chalone! Now, the same winemaker whose deft hand makes world-class pinot noir is making wine from the old family estate. The 2003 Graff Family Chalone Pinot Blanc ($15.99) shows the classy, elegant and supple side of this lovely grape while the 2003 Graff Family Chalone Mourvèdre ($15.99) shows the softer, sexier side of this otherwise powerful, husky grape. In fact, it’s one of those rare bottles that appeals to the entire spectrum of wine appreciators, from beginners all the way up to our own store manager! I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Incredible! Take a bow, Monterey. You have superstars in your midst. Enjoy! —Martin Reyes
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